On our Shelves—Non-Fiction
Summer Books 2011 / Path to Enlightenment
You don’t need to have an addiction to alcohol or drugs to relate to Tom Catton’s first novel, The Mindful Addict. Part memoir, part self-help guide, Catton’s story is the stuff that Oprah’s Book Club books are made of, recounting the tale of his 40-plus year journey from addiction to recovery.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 60s, Catton was a product of his times, giving in to the temptations of surfing, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, which eventually took over his life. By the time he was a teenager he had progressed into a full-blown addict, dropping out of high school and moving to Hawaii, where his addiction only got worse. That is, until he met Flobird, a mystical ex-addict who became his friend and mentor as he struggled down the path of recovery through the next phase of his life.
Written in the first-person, the memoir follows Catton as he travels around the world–from the shores of Hawaii and Virginia Beach to the streets of London and Calcutta–seeking truth, attending Alcoholic Annoymous (AA) meetings and, ultimately, leading discussions on his own.
But don’t let Catton’s dedication to AA fool you into thinking that this was his only path to recovery: meditation, yoga and even celibacy were, and continue to be, key tools in his healing process. Now clean for almost four decades, Catton shares with us the wisdom and insight that he gleaned through the crazy and eventful voyage that has been his life.
We all need help with our writing, even more so when it comes to the mystery of poetry. Here to spread some knowledge on the subject is Oahu resident Rod Martin with his book Future Poets: Help for Aspiring Writers, a guide to teaching poetry.
A teacher with over 30 years of experience, Martin takes prospective students through exercises, introducing them to the world of words arranged with rhythm, rhyme and style. Martin himself says that the book is for “students as poets. It’s not about studying the famous poets who have gone before. It’s about finding a love for expressing yourself that can last a lifetime.”
The assignments, or “challenges” as Martins refers to them, range from haiku, prose poetry and even rap. Basic devices like alliteration, onomatopoeia, meter and metaphors are also covered. Essentially, it’s just what the prospective child or adult needs to express themselves.
Here is a parting haiku, written after using the guide as a model:
It is the book issue.
Mean deadlines approach quickly.
We are very tired.
To call Paul Theroux’s The Tao of Travel–one of the most delightful books this critic has read in years–a “travel book” is rather like calling Hamlet a play about fencing. Given Theroux’s half-century of wandering the globe, over 40 years of writing travel books (The Happy Isles of Oceania et al.) and fiction, a certain good-natured authority prevails. What this long-time resident of Hawaii gives us is a collection almost without precedent: Original writing (introductions to 27 chapters in this 285-page book), applicable excerpts from his previous travel books, practical and “philosophical” lists (“Rules of Travel”), commentary on other travel writers and books, excerpts from other (mostly) travel books–a miscellany, indeed.
The subtitle of this book is “Enlightenments from Lives on the Road”–which gives us something of a clue. Each deeply committed travel expedition changes one’s life, gives one more than one life, becomes a philosophical inquiry in which the unexpected teaches us much about ourselves. Some chapter titles hint but cannot explain their contents: “Fears and Neuroses…(of wellknown writers)”, “Everything is Edible Somewhere,” “Travel Wisdom (of eight writers),” “Evocative name, Disappointing Place,” and so forth–fascinating and helpful in making choices.
All this, Theroux writes, “…is also intended as a guidebook, a how-to, a miscellany…a reading list, a reminiscence.” And he offers, “Travel holds the magical possibility of reinvention: that you might find a place you love, to begin a new life, and never go home.” A lover of traveling alone, of walking, of railways (but not air “travel”), reading while traveling, and rules of reportage beyond the ordinary, Theroux is candid, specific, and almost alarmingly knowledgeable. The attentive reader comes away from this book with affection and gratitude, seeing into a life deeply felt and deeply lived.
This book will make a special gift for the right people in your life, and their responses will tell you a good deal about them and yourself.