Monday, 21 December 2015

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic
Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Hardcover, 288 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books

Big Magic. I knew going in that it would be a motivational-type book. Designed to kick your lazy, scared butt in gear to do that thing you always wanted to do. Or things. Or go back to them. Reinvest yourself or reinvent yourself.

Rah Rah books tend to put a bit of a cringe on my face and in my heart, especially if  they venture towards New-Age-y-ness.

But I did enjoy Eat, Pray, Love and was interested to see what she had to say. And, you know, I really do need that kick in the butt.

Divided into sections:

* Courage * Enchantment * Permission *
* Persistence * Trust * Divinity *

Big Magic covers all the bases. By the end you will simply have no argument left. You will just get up and get busy. Creating. 
Creativity is sacred,
and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously,
and it doesn't matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are
accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and
a wonderful privilege.
The work wants to be made, and
it wants to be made through you.
From the Back Flap:

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. Gilbert began her career writing for Harper's Bazaar, Spin, The New York Times Magazine and GQ, and was a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award. Her story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The follow-up memoir Committed became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a Best Book of 2013 by The New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The New Yorker. Gilbert’s short fiction has appeared in Esquire, Story, One Story, and the Paris Review.

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook

The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook
200 Recipes for Health, Wellness, and Balance
by Lois A. Leonhardi
Trade Paperback,  248 pages

Global. That is what we are as a society today. We are able to glean health and lifestyle secrets from anywhere in the world, pretty much from any time-period. And now, thanks to a global marketing system, we can find the ingredients in our own communities.

Ayurvedic cooking and lifestyle centres on food as medicine. Grandma may have told you that "you are what you eat". She was right.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a holistic lifestyle from ancient India that promotes longevity. It views each individual as having a unique constitution and states that there are certain foods and activities that are balancing (and imbalancing). Focusing on food and activities that bring balance will maintain health (and vice versa). In the event that disease arises, ayurvedic doctors will determine the root cause (physical and/or emotional) and treat naturally with herbs, dietary modifications, meditation, etc.
This book gives the average home cook the tools to understand ayurveda, stock an ayurvedic kitchen, and cook a wide assortment of healthy meals for optimum balance, energy, and health.

From the Back Flap:

Enjoy optimal wellness with these delicious Ayurvedic-inspired recipes.
Would you like to be healthier? Better able to cope with the daily stresses of life? Happier? More balanced? The solution may be as simple as modifying your food choices to be in sync with your constitution.

Not just for vegetarians or yogis, The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbookis designed to meet the needs of mainstream western society. It moves beyond curries and includes recipes designed for a discriminating palate while addressing dietary needs for: non-vegetarian, vegetarian, gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free individuals.

Written for individuals with busy lifestyles, the approach is flexible, fun and easy. With time-saving make-ahead suggestions, organized charts, and ingredient lists you can find at your local grocer, you’ll be whipping up delicious, healthy meals on a regular basis.

Recipes are designed to be for everyone, so knowledge of ayurveda (or your “dosha”) is not required. Using an intuitive approach, you are taught to understand the essential principles of Ayurveda, which makes implementing a healthy lifestyle effortless

Kelp Noodles with Almond Sauce

This dish is balancing for pitta and kapha; vata should use the almond sauce liberally to balance out the dryness of the kelp noodles. The suitability of the suggested toppings for the doshas is indicated by the abbreviations in parentheses.

Makes 3 servings
Gluten-Free F Vegan

1⁄2 tsp    minced seeded jalapeño pepper    2 mL
1⁄8 tsp    chili powder    0.5 mL
1⁄2 cup    water    125 mL
3 tbsp    almond butter    45 mL
1 tbsp    pure maple syrup or coconut sugar    15 mL
2 tsp    tamari    10 mL
1 tsp    apple cider vinegar    5 mL
12 oz    kelp noodles, rinsed    375 g

Suggested Toppings
    Chopped fresh cilantro (VPK)
    Finely chopped raw fennel (VPK)
    Steamed finely chopped cabbage (PK)
    Steamed julienned carrots (VPK)
    Finely chopped green onions (VK)
    Sesame seeds (V)
    Green pumpkin seeds (VPK)

1.    In a large skillet, combine jalapeño, chili powder, water, almond butter, maple syrup, tamari and vinegar. Cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened. (Do not let boil.)
2.    Stir in kelp noodles and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until noodles are softened and infused with flavors.
3.    Serve with any of the suggested toppings, as desired.

Although soy sauce contains wheat, tamari is wheat-free; however, if you are allergic or sensitive to gluten, always read labels to make sure the manufacturer did not add wheat. Also check to make sure traditional brewing methods were used, as this ensures the highest quality.

Kelp Noodles
Kelp noodles are low in fat and are a good source of iron, calcium, iodine and other trace minerals. They are gluten-free, low in calories and low in carbohydrates, with a neutral taste. The drying process and removal of the outer skin make them suitable for kapha and pitta, even though they are salty. While they can be eaten raw (they are dry and crunchy), I recommend lightly sautéing them to moisten them and aid digestion. For vata, kelp noodles must be cooked and served with a moist, heavy, grounding sauce or in a soup, and should be eaten in moderation.

Courtesy of The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook by Lois Leonhardi © 2015 Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Pomegranate Orange Chip Bars

The merger of chocolaty, chewy goodness with heart-healthy oats and pomegranate created this divine bar — a taste of bliss in every bite. All doshas should eat it in moderation.

Gluten-Free F Soy-Free F Vegetarian

* Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
* 8-inch (20 cm) square metal baking pan, lined with parchment paper

1⁄2 cup    coconut sugar    125 mL
1⁄2 tsp    ground cinnamon    2 mL
1 tsp    grated orange zest    5 mL
1⁄4 tsp    Himalayan salt    1 mL
3⁄4 cup    almond butter    175 mL
1⁄4 cup    unsalted butter    60 mL
1 tbsp    pomegranate syrup (see Tips)     15 mL
1    large egg, beaten    1
3⁄4 tsp    baking soda    3 mL
11⁄2 cups    quick-cooking rolled oats    375 mL
1⁄4 cup    gluten-free dark chocolate    60 mL
    chunks (70% to 85% cacao)

1.    In a large bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, salt, almond butter, butter and pomegranate syrup. Stir in egg. The batter will be very thick and oily. Stir in baking soda. Stir in oats and chocolate chunks until well incorporated. Spoon into prepared baking pan.
2.    Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. (If the entire top is brown, the bars are overcooked and will be very dry. The dough should be soft coming out of the oven.) Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cut into bars and transfer bars to the rack to cool completely.

Store the squares in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
The batter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Pomegranate syrup (also known as pomegranate molasses) can be purchased at international grocery stores or in the international aisle of major grocery stores.

Courtesy of The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook by Lois Leonhardi © 2015 Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Lois Leonhardi is a certified ayurveda wellness practitioner, educator and author.
She trained under Dr. Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico and in Pune, India. She has over 15 years of experience in holistic studies including ayurveda, yoga and Buddhism through which she has honed her intuitive grasp of the energetics of foods, individuals and the mind-body connection. By following the ancient practice of integrating yoga with ayurveda, she will help you achieve balance in your modern life.
Lois resides on Los Angeles, CA.
Visit her at:

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford

Lost Ocean
An Inky Adventure and Coloring Book
by Johanna Basford

Trade Paperback, 80 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books

An absolutely lovely Christmas present for anyone from 10 - 110.

Intricate but not too intricate, lovely and meditative without being too much, you know?

Just what we need.

A step up from colouring, for us souls that love and need the detail work, the slow down work. Thinking without over thinking. Get out the really good pencil crayons. The expensive markers. Make yourself a tea.

This is meditation for us non meditators, or even the believers. It's good. It is so good. I love this book so much.

Get the other ones while you are at it. Get them for everyone. Just do it.

From the Back Flap:

From the creator of the worldwide bestsellers Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, a beautiful new coloring book that takes you on a magical journey beneath the waves

With Lost Ocean, Johanna Basford invites color-inners of all ages to discover an enchanting underwater world hidden in the depths of the sea. Through intricate pen and ink illustrations to complete, color, and embellish, readers will meet shoals of exotic fish, curious octopuses, and delicately penned seahorses. Visit coral reefs and barnacle-studded shipwrecks, discover intricate shells and pirate treasure. Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest fans and newcomers alike will welcome this creative journey into an inky new world.

For Lost Ocean, Johanna picked a crisp ivory paper that accentuates and compliments your chosen color palette. The smooth, untextured pages allow for beautiful blending or gradient techniques with colored pencils or are perfect for pens, allowing the nib to glide evenly over the surface without feathering.

About the Author: About Forbidden Jungle

Follow ink evangelist Johanna Basford down an inky trail through the Forbidden Jungle and discover a forgotten world of flora and fauna just waiting to be colored in. Through intricate pen and ink illustrations, color-inners of all ages are invited to explore an exotic rainforest teeming with creatures large and small. Encounter speckled tree frogs and dainty hummingbirds, prowling tigers and playful monkeys. Let your imagination run wild in the leafy treetop canopy or find yourself drawn to the delicate world of sensational blossoms and tropical plants below. There are ancient relics to be found along the way, each one leading toward the mystical treasure hidden at the heart of the Forbidden Jungle. Only the bravest, most inquisitive colorers will discover what lies hidden at the end of this inky quest.

“The colorists have a queen, and her name is Johanna Basford.” —New York Magazine

“Consider trading in your yoga mat for a set of markers and peruse the gorgeous gardens of Basford’s imagination.” —The Huffington Post

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last
A Novel
by Margaret Atwood

Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

This almost seemed like two books to me. The dystopian project that Stan and Charmaine join - for better or for worse, and the frenetic farcical ejaculation thereof.

I have to admit I wished the book would slow down and enjoy the ride, or maybe I just wanted to get away from normal life and stay in the made up world.

What we know for sure, from any and all stories we have read - one cannot leave well enough alone. We have to try the door that we are not allowed to open, the box, the envelope, whatever. It is in our nature to break free and ultimately fuck up the quietude.

And as much as I protest that Margaret Atwood's novels hold the reader at an emotional arm's length, I felt a little closer this time. A little.

Interesting read.

From the Back Flap

Imagining a world where citizens take turns as prisoners and jailers, the prophetic Margaret Atwood delivers a hilarious yet harrowing tale about liberty, power, and the irrepressibility of the human appetite.
     Several years after the world's brutal economic collapse, Stan and Charmaine, a married couple struggling to stay afloat, hear about the Positron Project in the town of Consilience, an experiment in cooperative living that appears to be the answer to their problems - to living in their car, to the lousy jobs, to the vandalism and the gangs, to their piled-up debt. There's just one drawback: once inside Consilience, you don't get out. After weighing their limited options, Stan and Charmaine sign up, and soon they find themselves involved in the town's strategy for economic stability: a pervasive prison system, whereby each citizen lives a double life, as a prisoner one month, and a guard or town functionary the next. At first, Stan and Charmaine enjoy their newfound prosperity. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who shares her civilian house, her actions set off an unexpected chain of events that leave Stan running for his life. Brilliant, dark, and provocative, The Heart Goes Last is a compelling futuristic vision that will drive readers to the edge of their seats.

About the Author

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Beatlebone: A Novel by Kevin Barry

a Novel
by Kevin Barry

Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf Canada

Ah, the trippy books of yore. I remember reading fragmented, jarring, Beat-type novels at my father's place way up in the Canadian North.

Beatlebone, winner of the 2-15 Goldsminths Prize, has that tone - set to John Lennon's stream of consciousness melt-down towards the end of his life.

I am either too young or too old for this style of book, I guess. But I did find it helpful to listen to the dialogue (in my head) in the style of the old Beatles cartoon movies. Minus the Blue Meanies.

From the Back Flap:

A searing novel that blends truth and fiction--and Beatles fandom--from one of literature's most striking contemporary voices, author of the international sensation City of Bohane.

     It is 1978, and John Lennon has escaped New York City to try to find the island off the west coast of Ireland he bought nine years prior. Leaving behind domesticity, his approaching forties, his inability to create, and his memories of his parents, he sets off to find calm in the comfortable silence of isolation. But when he puts himself in the hands of a shape-shifting driver full of Irish charm and dark whimsy, what ensues can only be termed a magical mystery tour.
     Based on fact--Lennon really did own an island in Ireland; and he truly did spend time there in the months just before his untimely death--this is a story such as only an extraordinary Irish writer could tell.

KEVIN BARRY is the author of the highly acclaimed novel, City of Bohane, and two short-story collections, Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. He was awarded the Rooney Prize in 2007 and won the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize in 2012. For City of Bohane, he was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Irish Book Award, and won the Author's Club First Novel Prize, The European Prize for Literature and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. He lives in County Sligo in Ireland, but has spent significant time in Canada, both in Toronto and Montreal (where his wife has family). Last year, he was one of the instructors at the joint Humber-IFOA writing workshops.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Gratitude: by Oliver Sacks

by Oliver Sacks
Hardcover, 64 pages
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Also available as an eBook 

I was fifteen years old when I read my first Oliver Sacks book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
I was instantly a fan. Sacks has the ability to make his readers interested and intrigued with his parables of medicine and neuropathy. He was a scientist and a storyteller. And one of the few people in history to combine the two in a way that made the lay person feel a part of his world.

I have read many of his books, most recently his autobiography, and was saddened by his death a couple of months ago. He was a special man.

Gratitude is a slim book of reflection from this incredible human being. A gift from him to us. In the end few words are needed.

A lovely parting gift from him to us.

From the Back Flap:

A deeply moving testimony and celebration of how to embrace life.

In January 2015, Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and he shared this news in a New York Times essay that inspired readers all over the world: "I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.... Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."
Gratitude consists of four essays that originally appeared in The New York Times, accompanied by a foreword that describes the occasion of each chapter. The foreword is written by Billy Hayes, Oliver Sacks's partner, and Kate Edgar, his long time collaborator.

Photo by: Elena Seibert
Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was a physician, writer, and professor of neurology. Born in London in 1933, he moved to New York City in 1965, where he launched his medical career and began writing case studies of his patients. Called the “poet laureate of medicine” by The New York Times, Sacks is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Awakenings, which inspired an Oscar-nominated film and a play by Harold Pinter. He was the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2008 for services to medicine. He died in 2015.