How a Stuffed Bear Can Give You Tranquility

Stuffed bears and other beloved toys certainly gave us tranquility when we were children, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about philosophy. I’m talking about Taoism. I’m talking, of course, about Winnie-the-Pooh.

Jacket.aspxNow what, I can hear you asking, does Winnie-the-Pooh have to do with tranquility, philosophy, and Taoism? The answers are revealed in Benjamin Hoff‘s The Tao of Pooh, a book of 158 pages that deftly explains the principles of Taoism and applies them to modern life using the seemingly-odd, but, ultimately, not-so-odd example of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Using excerpts from the Pooh books by A.A. Milne, Hoff makes Taoism approachable and easy to understand. It’s not just a deep Eastern philosophy for hermits and mystics!  The tenets of Taoism can be incorporated into everyday life as Hoff illustrates via Pooh, a bear who exists very much in the now.

Using Pooh as his Taoist master, Hoff explores  “the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain” along with “the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work”.  He uses the examples of Rabbit (Knowledge for the Sake of Being Clever), Owl (Knowledge for the Sake of Appearing Wise), and Eeyore (Knowledge for the Sake of Complaining About Something) to illustrate non-Taoist aspects of life, things that get in the way of happiness.

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret…: Life is Fun.”

And what are the lessons of Taoism?

Things Are As They Are.
Everything has its own Inner Nature.
Enjoy the Process.
Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them.

And so much more. This is a perfect  read when you need some tranquility, perfect for Jacket.aspx2those desiring some calmness, slowness, some quiet. And the book is fun. It reads easily, quickly, with humor, wit, and quotes from Milne’s beloved stories. It can’t miss and it doesn’t miss.

By the way, Pooh Day is January 18th (also the birthday of A.A. Milne). What better way to celebrate than by reading the Tao of Pooh and it’s companion book, The Te Of Piglet.

Keep Yourself Reading

I’ve always been an avid reader, but sometimes I stall out for weeks at a time. It could be that a book just isn’t clicking with me, and so I never make the time to finish it. Or maybe I finish a particularly challenging or emotional book, and I’m hesitant to jump into a new story right away. Or maybe I’m just busy. Or maybe I’m watching too much Netflix!

If this sounds like you, I can help. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep myself always reading.

  1. Keep track of the books you want to read so you never have to wonder “What’s Next?” I love for keep tracking of what I’ve read and what I plan to read.
  2. Don’t waste time on a book that isn’t for you. If you’re not enjoying something, allow yourself to read another book instead. Reading for pleasure should never be a chore! You can always come back to that other book later.
  3. If life seems to get in the way of making time for reading, grab something that you can’t put down. It’s OK to indulge in fluffier stories if that’s what keeps your momentum going. You’ll be surprised by the time you suddenly “find” when a book is too good to ignore.
  4. Make reading a part of your routine. Whether it’s with your morning coffee, on your lunch break, or before you go to sleep, try to make a set time to read every single day.
  5. And my favorite tip: When you finish a book, immediately start reading another one, if only just the first page. This remedies the problem of letting a book “sink in” for a day, or two days, before picking up another.

I recently stalled after reading The Nightingale. It was such an emotionally intense book that I couldn’t bring myself to open another after I’d finished it, and soon a week, and then two went by. Luckily, a friend let me borrow a real page-turner, The Headmaster’s Wife, and I got my momentum back. If you like ivy-covered boarding schools, mystery, and intrigue, check it out!

The Nightingale        The Headmaster's Wife

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene


Find the Good

rosesI’m the first to admit that I am a skeptic. I’m always the one saying, “Yeah, but…” in any conversation. However, I have discovered skepticism is not synonymous with pessimism.

This was brought home to me when an acquaintance recently toured my gardens and did nothing but point out the weeds.

“Oh, look,” she exclaimed, her finger quivering as she pointed. “There’s a weed underneath that bush.”

I squinted. Sure enough, a weed was sprawling at the feet of a beautiful pink Knock-Out Rose.

She did this three more time during the tour. She never once mentioned the flowers.

After she left, I wondered what her life must be like since she seemed incapable of seeing anything but weeds. Skeptic though I am, I go through life looking at the roses.

Jacket.aspxIf you like the philosophy of looking at the flowers and not the weeds, I highly recommend the book Find the Good by Heather Lende. The book description says it all:

As the obituary writer in a spectacularly beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska, Heather Lende knows something about last words and lives well lived. Now she’s distilled what she’s learned about how to live a more exhilarating and meaningful life into three words: find the good. It’s that simple–and that hard.

Top Picks: Outdoor Literature


“I now walk into the wild.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

It’s summer, and everyone is busy enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. Nice weather brings swimming, hiking, camping, and picnics, and a greater appreciation for nature. With so much time outside, you may feel inspired to read some Outdoor Literature. The Cheshire Public Library has you covered!

Outdoor Literature encompasses several different subgenres of literature, including exploration literature, adventure literature, mountain literature, and nature writing. Here’s a small sample of the books we carry to get you started.

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Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Originally published in 1854, Walden, or Life in the Woods, is a vivid account of the time that Henry D. Thoreau lived alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond. It is one of the most influential and compelling books in American literature.

Roughing It by Mark Twain

Roughing It follows the travels of a young Mark Twain through the Wild West during the years 1861–1867. U.S. astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell read Roughing It aloud to pass the time aboard NASA’s Gemini VII in 1965.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.


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Epic: stories of survival from the world’s highest peaks edited by Clint Willis

Epic is a collection of fifteen memorable accounts of legend-making expeditions to the world’s most famous peaks, often in the world’s worst possible conditions. Editor Clint Willis has gathered the most exciting climbing literature of the modern age into one cliff-hanging volume.

American Earth: environmental writing since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben; foreword by Al Gore

American Earth is an anthology of seminal American environmental writing from the past two centuries. It considers the influence on the ways in which people view the natural world and includes pieces by such figures as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John James Audubon.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest, inspiring memoir: the story of a 1,100 mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe–and built her back up again.

If you care to delve deeper into the subject of Outdoor Literature, check out National Geographic’s list, Extreme Classics: The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time.


Two (More) Reasons to Read Poetry Today

While reading and writing poetry is a fantastic pursuit on any given day, today we have two extra reasons to partake! Not only is April National Poetry Month, but April 28th is also Great Poetry Reading Day. So poetryvoiceI gathered up some poetry books that could be the perfect choice to enjoy on this literary day. Do not feel limited by this tiny look at our poetry collection either! Come and take a look at our poetry display or the 811’s in our nonfiction collection.

1. The Voice That is Great Within Us: American Poetry of the Twentieth Century edited by Hayden Carruth

2. The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems or Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collinspoetryrevolution

3. Everyman’s Poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; edited by Colin Graham

4. The Spoken Word Revolution: Slam, Hip-Hop & the Poetry of a New Generation edited by Mark Eleveld

poetryjackie5. The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy

6. Sunken Garden Poetry, 1992-2011 edited by Brad Davis

7. The Poetry of Robert Frost: the Collected Poems edited by Edward Connery Lathem

poetrynash8. Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry Translated & compiled by Edith Marcombe Shiffert & Yūki Sawa

9. Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash: 650 Rhymes, Verses, Lyrics, and Poems

10. The Enlightened Heart: an Anthology of Sacred Poetry edited by Stephen Mitchell

If you are looking for poetry books to interest kids, or adults that simply enjoy reading children’s literature (like myself), then check out this older post; Great Poetry Books to Share with Children.

Or perhaps you would rather an audiobook so you can listen to the poetry? try The Poets Corner: the One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family compiled by John Lithgow, The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music by Pete Seeger, The Voice of the Poet by E. E. Cummings, The Iliad by Homer, The Odyssey by Homer, William Carlos Williams, The Essential Edgar Allan Poe or,  A Patriot’s Handbook: Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy.