The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

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This is a historically accurate novel about the nine-man rowing team from the University of Washington, and their spectacular win of the gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, during Hitler’s Nazi regime. These were all young men from working class families, and they took the world by storm with their dedication, perseverance and determination, as they rowed to victory over more prestigious schools. This was truly a heart-warming and inspirational story of nine outstanding athletes, all of whom went on to lead productive lives, and some of whom lived to see the 21st century.

Evaluation: 5 out of 5

“After You” by Jojo Moyes

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This is the sequel to the novel (and movie) Me Before You and is best appreciated after the reading the first book or watching the movie. Caregiver Louisa Clark struggles to move forward with her life after the death of the man she was hired to assist. This is a story of learning to cope with profound grief and the impact of a loved one’s death. It is a bit over the top at times, but does an excellent job of allowing the reader to share in the emotional healing process.

Evaluation: 4 out of 5

“Small Great Things” by Judi Picoult

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An African American nurse is put on trial for murder of a baby of a white supremacist couple who dies in the hospital a few days after birth. Although this book is technically about a baby’s death, it’s real focus is the racism that still exists in our country, both overt and insidious. The story is told from the different points of view of the main characters. It is emotionally charged and well written. I had a hard time putting it down.

Evaluation: 5 out of 5

Five Houses of Zen by Thomas Cleary

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For all its emphasis on the direct experience of insight without reliance on the products of the intellect, the Zen tradition has created a huge body of writings. Of this cast literature, the writings associated with the so-called Five Houses of Zen are widely considered to be preeminent. These Five Houses—which arose in China during the ninth and tenth centuries, often referred to as the Golden Age of Zen—were not schools or sects but styles of Zen teaching represented by some of the most outstanding masters in Zen history. The writings of these great Zen teachers are presented here, many translated for the first time. These include:

  • The sayings of Pai-chang, famous for his Zen dictum “A day without work, a day without food”
  • Selections from Kuei-shan’s collection of Zen admonitions, considered essential reading by numerous Buddhist teachers
  • Sun-chi’s unique discussion of the inner meaning of the circular symbol in Zen teaching
  • Sayings of Huang-po from The Essential Method of Transmission of Mind 
  • Excerpts from The Record of Lin-chi, a great classical text of Zen literature
  • Ts’ao-shan’s presentation of the famous teaching device known as the Five Ranks
  • Selections of poetry from the Cascade Collection by Hsueh-tou, renowned for his poetic commentaries on the classic Blue Cliff Record 
  • Yung-ming’s teachings on how to balance the two basic aspects of meditation: concentration and insight