Local Author Reading List: Spike Gillespie

It’s hard enough for us parents to find time to read, let alone to decide what to read. Head to the library and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stacks upon stacks of interesting-sounding titles (who can blame us for judging a book by its cover?). Just keeping up with book lists can seem like a chore. That’s why we here at LiveMom are introducing you to local authors, who will be giving you the skinny on what’s on their reading lists…because who better than a writer to turn you on to new and interesting books?!

Spike Gillespie is the critically acclaimed author of eight books including her just-released: Sit. Stay. Heal.: How Meditation Changed My Mind, Grew My Heart, and Saved My Ass, which grew out of her blog www.MeditationKicksAss.com.

She also writes the blog www.KeepingAustinAustin.com. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Real Simple, GQ, Esquire, Elle, Smithsonian, National Geographic Traveler, and many other places. She writes regularly for Elephant Journal. She is also a full time wedding officiant and funeral celebrant, and President of the Office of Good Deeds, an informal group of Austinites who enjoy performing good deeds for those in need. She raised her son, Henry Mowgli, in Austin, where she still lives and he often visits from his adopted new home in Brooklyn.

Spike Gillespie’s Top Five Favorite Books

1. The Feeling Buddha: A Buddhist Psychology of Character, Adversity and Passion by David Brazier
My friend Tom turned me onto this book shortly before I took a trip to London. I have a million amazing memories of that journey, not the least of which is riding the Underground and alternating people-watching with hurling myself full force into this amazing account of Buddha’s life. Brazier, a British psychotherapist, gives a fresh perspective to ancient stories and along the way offers some really great, reasonably applicable advice on how to navigate modern day pitfalls via Buddhist tenets. It’s terribly accessible, you needn’t be an aspiring Buddhist to enjoy it, and there is so much comfort to be found here.

2. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics) by Pema Chödrön
I am a huge fan of audiobooks, which I used to think was kind of like cheat reading, but converts make the greatest zealots. Now I hardly read actual books at all, which in theory feels like a bummer to me, but the reality is, I LOVE being read to. Even if you are a hardcore only-read-from-actual-paper-books type, I’m telling you, you should really consider checking out the audio version of this book or really any PC book. The woman could be reading the manual that comes in your minivan and you’d be transfixed by her calming voice, trust me. Don’t let her status as a Buddhist nun scare you off or make you think she’s all holy and shit. The woman has LIVED. She’s loved, she’s been married, she’s had kids, she’s been divorced. She is amazing and smart and loving and she will gently coax you into knowing that you can ditch mountains (and molehills) of shit in your life, let go of suffering, and just dig being alive.

3. Revolution by Russell Brand
As with the above two recommendations, this book was penned by a meditator. Yes, it’s true—I’m heavy on the meditation books because, as noted in the title of my new book, meditation saved my ass. It really did. It saved Brand’s ass, too. To the point that he does come across at points as pretty heavy on the proselytizing. And I remember thinking, many times as I listened to this book (again with the audiobooks) that a) he’s not peddling anything new here, just packaging up old ideas in a hip wrapper and b) sometimes he sounds a bit bullshitty but c) he buys his own bullshit so much that d) you start to buy it, too and e) he’s really really really REALLY smart so f) actually it’s not all that bullshitty. But the thing is, Brand (who reads this book himself) is very much dedicated to making the world a better place. But he tempers the earnestness with plenty of funny bits (he is a comedian after all). And so I found his plans to revolutionize the planet quite palatable. In the end, I’m not sure I’ll be on the frontlines, but I have actually made a few little lifestyle changes that I hope are helping the planet.

4. Started Early, Took My Dog: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
So this list of mine includes four Brits. I admit it. I am a hardcore (HARDCORE) anglophile. Can’t help myself. Yes, there are some American writers who are masters of the language, but I find that there is just something so very… well very British about the British. Dry, clever, witty, a bit pompous at times, but in certain cases, the pomposity is well- earned. Not that I think Atkinson comes across as pompous in her writing so much, but word on the street is that she’s a bit tetchy at book readings. But then, maybe like so many writers, she’s just an introvert who’d rather dispense with fawning fans and just re-chain herself to her desk. I DEVOUR Atkinson books. I sort of hate how incredible they are because as I’m wolfing them down in huge chunks, I’m already regretting my gluttony, knowing I can read them faster than she can write them and I’m going to have to wait for the next one. Which I hope is coming out soon.

5. Solar by Ian McEwan
Michael Beard is a physicist studying photovoltaics—solar energy. Despite his academic credentials, he’s a bumbling idiot in many areas of life, namely the social graces. As with Kate Atkinson, I swallow McEwan novels whole, also the audio version (because in addition to loving audiobooks, as an anglophile I just love hearing all the accents). I didn’t know jack about physics when I started this book and I came away thinking I knew a couple of things, which might not be true, but the point is that McEwan totally masters any subject he’s covering and makes even the most clueless layperson reader feel a sense of comprehension.

Way more importantly, this book is FUCKING HILARIOUS. I mean it is SO funny. I read it right around the same time I read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which for the record, I only read to confirm what I already knew: Franzen is a condescending, self-congratulatory ass as far as I can tell. He is a show-off and I found his characters terribly unsympathetic. There were parallels to Solar, though, namely a protagonist with some interest in global warming. At least I think that was the case with Franzen’s book, but I’ve worked so hard to shake it from the Etch-a-Sketch of my memory I can’t be sure. The bigger point is that McEwan accomplishes far better with humor true pressing issues than Franzen does with his… oh let’s stop talking about Franzen. What makes Beard’s arrogance so bearable is that there’s a comeuppance around every corner, just waiting to knock him down a peg or ten. Oh how I adore this book. Pure Brilliance!

Interested in taking a weekly meditation class with Spike? You can email her at SpikeGillespie(at)gmail(dot)com. She also offers Memoir Writing Workshops this spring. You can find out more details at: http://www.writewithspike.blogspot.com/

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Catherine Prystup
About Catherine Prystup 2157 Articles
Catherine Prystup founded LiveMom.com out of a desire to build a better community for Austin-area moms. She has three children, ages seventeen, eight and three years old.