Reading Club: The Hidden Life of Trees, The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness

11 May 2017

Can’t decide what to read next? In this series, The Mindful Company Team shares books, articles and magazines that we’ve loved in the past month, complete with mini summaries and our favourite quotes.

1. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben

What it’s about
A fascinating non-fiction read about how trees live, their astonishing language and how they communicate.

Why we like it
We’ve always loved trees ever since reading Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as kids, but this book takes it to a whole new level. We often think of trees as merely unconscious living beings, but there may be more to them than we think. An anecdote we particularly like is about how trees will do all they can to ensure the survival of a dying tree—to the extent of sharing their sugar and water. Trees also take hundreds of years to mature and there is a lot of wisdom about patience found in that.

Favourite quote
…but together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age.

2. When Things Go Missing by Kathryn Schulz (New Yorker article, February 13 & 20, 2017 issue)

What it’s about
“…by the time we turn sixty, we will have lost up to two hundred thousand things,” the author writes. This is a beautiful and poignant read about the redeeming hope and power found in loss, death and grief.

Why we like it
Reading this made us rethink how we feel about loss. Instead of letting the thought of it cripple us, we can use it to inspire us to cherish what we have, and in doing so, live fully.

Favourite quotes
Regardless of what goes missing, loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence.

Disappearance reminds us to notice, transience to cherish, fragility to defend. Loss is a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days. We are here to keep watch, not to keep.

3. Love Makes Us Whole by Aletha Jane Lindstrom (short story from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs)

What it’s about
A classic tale of friendship between a boy and his dog.

Why we like it
We found it ironic that it is the boy who teaches his mother the meaning of unconditional love. Too often, like Tim’s mother, we don’t see the importance of a person until something bad happens to them. Even then, we question their value. The learning point here is to be more like Tim, to have empathy and embrace the shortcomings of others.

Favourite quotes
It's alright," he said. "Just so Inky comes home."

Life's pretty precious...especially where there's love.

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

What it’s about
In this dystopian novel, it is year 2044 and humans have exhausted Earth’s resources. Their only way to survive is through a virtual utopian world known as OASIS, created by a man called James Halliday. Before he dies, he leaves an Easter egg inside OASIS—whoever finds it will inherit his wealth and company. When a poverty-stricken boy named Wade manages to decipher the first clue, he is thrust into the spotlight and threats on his life begin.

Why we like it
Cline’s wonderfully vivid imagery is a treat for anyone who likes creating whole new worlds in their minds. We also like how this book reminds us not to squander what we have and to treasure the only home we have.

Favourite quote
That was when I realised, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.

5. The art of raising kind kids (article from Goop)

What it’s about
This is a very short article that summarises some excellent and practical ways to teach kindness. According to the author, kindness isn’t something we’re born with—it’s something we are taught.

Why we like it
It provides practical examples for parents and reminds us that to raise kind children, we must first teach with kindness.

Favourite quote
The power of mindful words can’t be overstated. Words can inflame or inspire. If, for example, you want to teach your child not to interrupt, you can say, “Wait for the pause. There will be a pause in the conversation.” This is obviously more effective than barking: “Don’t interrupt,” “Be quiet”, or, worse, “Shut up.” Both teach manners, but one approach is more heart-centred and loving. The diplomacy you teach will allow your kids to be heard in the future. It also feeds a gentler narrative in their head.

6. Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

What it’s about
In response to funding being cut for public libraries in the UK, Smith wrote stories based on people's memories of their public libraries to celebrate their place in culture and history. Libraries, according to Smith, are places of safety, freedom, community and discovery.

Why we like it
The stories are bizarre but very beautiful. If you’re not a book lover, this may not resonate. After we finished reading it, one thought lingered: Libraries must stay.

Favourite quote
Elsewhere there are no mobile phones. Elsewhere sleep is deep and the mornings are wonderful. Elsewhere art is endless, exhibitions are free and galleries are open twenty-four hours a day. Elsewhere alcohol is a joke that everybody finds funny. Elsewhere everybody is as welcoming as they’d be if you’d come home after a very long time away and they’d really missed you. Elsewhere nobody stops you in the street and says, are you a Catholic or a Protestant, and when you say neither, I’m a Muslim, then says yeah but are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim? Elsewhere there are no religions. Elsewhere there are no borders. Elsewhere nobody is a refugee or an asylum seeker whose worth can be decided about by a government. Elsewhere nobody is something to be decided about by anybody. Elsewhere there are no preconceptions.

7. The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris

What it’s about
Laden with irony and laugh-out-loud humour, this one’s for both the sceptics and believers.

Why we like it
Gifted by a friend who thinks mindfulness is hocus pocus, this book is great for laughs whether or not you like the concept of mindfulness. It’s also a good reminder that we don’t have to take life too seriously all the time.

Favourite quotes
Valentine became a Buddhist because he was interested in dharma. Dharma is a word for cosmic law and order. Valentine is sad. He thought dharma was a type of curry.

Alison has been staring at this beautiful tree for five hours. She was meant to be in the office. Tomorrow she will be fired. In this way, mindfulness will have solved her work-related stress.

What books should we check out or review? Let us know at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team