Summer reading 2015

Whether sitting on the beach or spending your summer days in balconville, the summer months are a perfect time to catch up on reading and to feed your Tibet obsession at the same time.

Below, you will find a list of Tibet-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, featuring 5 books written by Canadian authors including our very own Board member, Lara Braitstein!  In addition to recent publications, this year’s list repeats popular selections from our 2014 reading list in case you missed them. Happy reading!

FICTION

Treachery in Tibet
John Wilcox, Allison and Busby, 2015

1903. The British Empire has reached its probable apogee: so much of the world map is coloured red and the sun never set on its boundaries. But Lord Curzon, the ambitious Viceroy of India, has different views. Tibet, the mountainous region on the Raj’s borders, irritates him: the Dalai Lama never replies to his letters and border disputes multiply. He decides to invade and recruits Simon Fonthill, veteran of so many of ‘Queen Victoria’s Little Wars,’ to lead 2000 men over the ice-bound Himalayan passes to Lhasa. Fonthill sets out on another expedition with his wife Alice, reporting for the Morning Post, and his old comrade, ‘352’ Jenkins. It is machine guns against muskets as the cruel and brave monks, fighting on their own terrain among the clouds, oppose the invasion. When Alice is captured, treachery is revealed, and Fonthill and Jenkins must gallop to her aid in their most arduous and thrilling adventure yet.

Maya
By C.W. Huntington Jr, Wisdom Publication, 2015

It is 1975 and India is in turmoil. American Stanley Harrington arrives to study Sanskrit philosophy and escape his failing marriage. When he finds himself witness to a violent accident, he begins to question his grip on reality. Maya introduces us to an entertaining cast of hippies, expats, and Indians of all walks of life. From a hermit hiding in the Himalayan jungle since the days of the British Raj, to an accountant at the Bank of India with a passion for Sanskrit poetry, to the last in a line of brahman scholars, Stanley’s path ultimately leads him to a Tibetan yogi, who enlists the American’s help in translating a mysterious ancient text. Maya, literally “illusion,” is an extended meditation on the unraveling of identity. Filled with rich observations and arresting reflections, it mines the porous border between memory and imagination.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver
By Chan Koonchung; translation by Nicky Harman, Doubleday, 2014

Champa, a young Tibetan, is a simple chap. He has a stable job in Lhasa as chauffeur to a successful Chinese art dealer, Plum. Champa doesn't have a gripe against the Chinese. He's not the sort of guy to get caught up in politics either: he just wants to get on in life. For Champa, a sure sign that he's made it would be to move to the Chinese capital and live there like a young Beijinger. But then he begins a romantic affair with Plum and life gets complicated. Shifting balances of power, deliberate manipulations, the force of sexual desire, and the ache of longing are par for the course. And relationships are even more complex when there are vast differences in wealth, culture and power between the man and the woman, between Tibet and China.

NON-FICTION

CanadaFlag The Adamantine Songs by Saraha
Translated by Lara Braitstein PhD, Columbia University Press, 2014

Presented here for the first time is a set of three of Saraha's Adamantine Songs (Vajragiti), poetic works of realization that play a central role in the Mahamudra tantric tradition of both India and Tibet. Saraha was an Indian tantric master and mahasiddha and was among the most notable figures from India's late first millennium, a time of rich religious and literaray activity. His influence on Buddhist practice and poetry extended beyond the Indian subcontinent and into Tibet where it continues to affect every tradition engaging the practice and philosophy of the esoteric Mahamudra. In her eloquent translation of these songs, Braitstein – professor of religion at McGill University - provides a door into Saraha's views on the nature of mind as both evocative poetry and theoretical exegesis. These songs offer a new perspective on the religious life of Buddhist India and the figure of one of its most famous adepts.

CanadaFlag Meltdown in Tibet: China's Reckless Destruction of Ecosystems from the Highlands of Tibet to the Deltas of Asia
By Michael Buckley, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014

In Meltdown in Tibet Canadian writer, Michael Buckley, turns the spotlight on the darkest side of China's emergence as a global super power. Tibetans have experienced waves of genocide since the 1950s. Now they are facing ecocide. The Himalayan snowcaps are in meltdown mode, due to climate change—accelerated by a rain of black soot from massive burning of coal and other fuels in both China and India. The mighty rivers of Tibet are being dammed by Chinese engineering consortiums to feed the mainland’s thirst for power, and the land is being relentlessly mined in search of minerals to feed China’s industrial complex. On the drawing board are plans for a massive engineering project to divert water from Eastern Tibet to water-starved Northern China. Ruthless Chinese repression leaves Tibetans powerless to stop the reckless destruction of their sacred land, but they are not the only victims of this campaign: the nations downstream from Tibet rely heavily on rivers sourced in Tibet for water supply, and for rich silt used in agriculture. This destruction of the region's environment has been happening with little scrutiny until now.

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World
By Daniel Goleman, Penguin, 2015

In A Force for Good, with the help of his longtime friend Daniel Goleman, the New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, the Dalai Lama explains how to turn our compassionate energy outward. This revelatory and inspiring work provides a singular vision for transforming the world in practical and positive ways. . A Force for Good combines the central concepts of the Dalai Lama, empirical evidence that supports them, and true stories of people who are putting his ideas into action—showing how harnessing positive energies and directing them outward has lasting and meaningful effects. Goleman details the science of compassion and how this singular guiding motivation has the power to break destructive social forces, heal the planet, and replace violence with compassion.

CanadaFlag A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives
By Thupten Jinpa PhD, Hudson Street Press, 2015

Montrealer, Thupten Jinpa looks at how the Buddhist practice of mindfulness caught on in the west when we began to understand the everyday, personal benefits it brought us. Now, in this extraordinary book, the highly acclaimed thought leader and longtime English translator of His Holiness the Dalai Lama shows us that compassion can bring us even more. Based on the landmark course in compassion training Jinpa helped create at Stanford Medical School, A Fearless Heart uses science and insights from both classical Buddhist and western psychology to train our compassion muscle to relieve stress, fight depression, improve our health, achieve our goals, and change our world.

The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong
By Gyalo Thondup and Anne Thurston, PublicAffairs; 2015

The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong tells the extraordinary story of the Dalai Lama’s family from the perspective of his older brother Gyalo Thondup. It offers insights into events around the exile of the Tibetan leader and the enduring political crisis that has seen remote and bleakly beautiful Tibet all but disappear as an independent nation-state. For the last sixty years, Gyalo Thondup has been at the at the heart of the epic struggle to protect and advance Tibet in the face of unreliable allies, overwhelming odds, and devious rivals, playing an utterly determined and unique role in a Cold War high-altitude superpower rivalry. Here, for the first time, he reveals how he found himself whisked between Chiang Kai-shek, Zhou Enlai, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the CIA, as he tried to secure, on behalf of his brother, the future of Tibet.

Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies Hardcover
By Gordon Corera, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015

Intercept is the previously untold - and previously highly classified - story of the melding of technology and espionage. Gordon Corera's compelling narrative, rich with historical details and characters, takes us from the Second World War to the internet age, with astonishing revelations about espionage carried out today. Computers transformed espionage from the spy hunting of the Cold War years to the data-driven pursuit of terrorists and the industrial-scale cyber-espionage against corporations in the twenty-first century. Intercept draws upon interesting examples from Tibetan experience, including interviews with Canada Tibet Committee’s founder Thubten Samdup, combined with on the ground reporting from China and insights into the most powerful technology companies. Corera has gathered compelling stories in a ground-breaking exploration of the new space in which the worlds of espionage, geopolitics, diplomacy, international business, science and technology collide.

A Hundred Thousand White Stones
By Kunsang Dolma, Wisdom Publications, 2013

A Hundred Thousand White Stones is one young Tibetan woman's fearlessly told story of longing and change. Kunsang Dolma writes with unvarnished candor of the hardships she experienced as a girl in Tibet, violations as a refugee nun in India, and struggles as an immigrant and new mother in America. Yet even in tribulation, she finds levity and never descends to self-pity. We watch in wonder as her unlikely choices and remarkable persistence bring her into ever-widening circles, finding love and a family in the process, and finally bringing her back to her childhood home. A Hundred Thousand White Stones offers an honest assessment of what is gained in pursuing life in the developed world and what is lost.

CanadaFlag With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple
By Susie Carson Rijnhart, Foreign Christian Missionary Society, 1904

Often cited as the first Canadian in Tibet, Susie Carson Rijnhart (1868 - 1908) offers her personal account of the years she spent in Tibet as a missionary with her husband, Petrus Rijnhart, in the late 1800s. In the book, Susie Rijnhart documents their experiences with Tibetan officials, lamas and lay people as they attempted to travel overland from China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Often providing medical services to the locals, the Rijnhart’s experiences ended in tragedy when Petrus was killed by bandits and the Rijnhart’s small baby died of illness. Still, the account provides an interesting insight to the Tibetan culture and polity in the years before China’s occupation.

CanadaFlag Tongues of Earth (Poems)
By Mark Abley, Coteau Books, 2015

Award-winning Canadian journalist Mark Abley’s latest book of poetry includes three new poems about Tibet along with the finest pieces from his three previous books. Known as a writer of place, in The Tongues of Earth Abley extends his range over time and history. His poems are distinguished by their combination of clarity and grace, high intelligence and deep feeling. The Tibet poems offer a moving observation of Tibet’s loss of freedom even as they celebrate the beauty of Tibetan culture. Poems such as "Mother and Son", "Labrador" and "Glasburyon" are the work of a literary artist with few peers in Canada. To those who have known Abley only as a prose writer, this book will come as a revelation.

CHILDREN:

Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero
By Dominique Townsend and Tenzin Norbu

Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero is the retelling of Shantideva’s teachings before a surprised audience, who had thought he was useless and could only eat, sleep, and poop. Leading his listeners into a superhero training of different kind, he reveals the secret to perfect bravery and unbounded compassion and shows how anyone can develop them. You don’t need super-strength or magical powers, he says. You just need practice. Over a dozen illustrations painted in traditional Tibetan style draw in readers to this work that will be treasured not only by Buddhist families but by anyone who aspires to become more kind and wise.

Escape from Tibet (Young Adult - revised edition)
Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press, 2014

A true story first told in an acclaimed documentary, Escape from Tibet, this is a riveting tale of courage, adventure, and triumph. It tells the story of two young brothers who escape an oppressive existence by fleeing to India alone and on foot over the Himalayas. On the forbidden journey they face challenges, including unimaginable cruelty of border police, and the unforgiving severity of Mother Nature. In this updated edition, the Dalai Lama provides a forward and the authors tell how the brothers fared in exile and what they are doing now.

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