Recommended Books

Poetry

It’s remarkable what you can create in thirty days. In honor of National Poetry month in April, Tiferet Journal launched their third annual Poem-a-thon. Now, using the writing prompts they were provided, you can rise to the creative challenge, too. It is our hope that this latest offering from Tiferet will: Inspire you to write; Connect you to a global community; and Foster peace in you and in the world. Here are 30 writing prompts that can stimulate your own creative processes.

Poetry. African American Studies. “Sassy and funky, serious and sly, the poems in Allison Joseph’s VOICE travel through a rich and varied landscape. From childhood griefs to adult desires, the classroom to the bar, these poems cut and cajole, tackling the most serious and the most sultry with a graceful eloquence. Like a soloist who rises above the rest of the choir, the voice in these poems peals with clarity and beauty, leading us from a place of familiarity smack dab into the sublime”–Stacey Lynn Brown.

A collection of previously written posts, essays, and articles, A Call from the Beyond, by author Narinder Bhandari, addresses the question of the purpose of life, how to find it, and how to achieve it. He discusses the ongoing question of “Who am I?” Based on his personal experiences, Bhandari explores a host of spiritual questions and topics such as ego, destiny, meditation, self-knowledge, love, consciousness, spiritual energy, and more.

Intensely focused, compressed, and sharp-edged, these prose poems by Adele Kenny take the spiritual journey into heightened awareness of experience, place, and identity. Deliberate fragments, the language of dreams, and an occasional nod to the surreal combine with Kenny’s signature elements of striking imagery, lyrical precision, and compelling immediacy to inform an enhanced vision of the ways in which the interior life intersects with the outside world. These poems startle, surprise, and tell us things about ourselves that we didn’t know.

At the beginning of this century, a young German poet returned from a journey to Russia, where he had immersed himself in the spirituality he discovered there. He “received” a series of poems about which he did not speak for a long time – he considered them sacred, and different from anything else he ever had done and ever would do again. This poet saw the coming darkness of the century, and saw the struggle we would have in our relationship to the divine. The poet was Rainer Maria Rilke, and these love poems to God make up his Book of Hours.

Alfred K. LaMotte is truly the rarest kind of alchemist. With each poem in this exquisite collection, he weaves ordinary words into pure gold, inducting the reader into a direct experience of the sublime ineffability of life itself. Sourced from the depths of his own awakened heart, his words will pierce straight through to your own tender heart, igniting and awakening you. LaMotte stands with Rilke, Rumi, and Hafiz in beckoning our souls to awaken. Let each poem be a mystery that you discover and savor as you would a lover.

“We are accustomed to poems that seek political change by deploying fierce urgency and by speeding up time to get us moving toward progress. But if the poems in Jeffrey Davis’s “Coat Thief” are good evidence, then the most effective, and affective, poems of change may be those poems that slow time down and bless us with moments in which we are able to perceive emotional complexes in instants of time, moments that leave us stupendously awake in the dark: an earthworm churning through the detritus of civilizations; wasting your morning speaking to a blue stone that is just beginning to hear you; a mother and the child kicking inside her with a god’s foot.”

Awake, Dorianne Laux’s first book of poetry, is introduced by Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine for a reason: It’s a near-perfect, emotionally haunting book—one which follows a narrative trajectory that touches upon the speaker’s ability to endure the cruelties of parental abuse, and maturation into womanhood, alongside the joy’s of noticing everyday details and using the imagination and a fearless poetic voice to confront—if not escape—suffering’s violent hand.

Poets notice what other people miss. Nationally-known poet Molly Fisk’s singular perspective on love, death, grammar, lingerie, small towns, and the natural world will get you laughing, crying, and thinking.

For the Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, the poems of Aleksandr Kushner were essential: “Kushner is one of the best Russian lyric poets of the twentieth century, and his name is destined to rank with those close to the heart of everyone whose mother tongue is Russian.”

These poems, written over a period of thirty years, reflect both the experience of growing up and growing old. The poems seek to find a primitive connection to a natural world that is fast disappearing. They look at what is lost and what is still present, though ignored, in twenty-first-century life.

“Though we have encountered our share of grief and troubles on this earth, we can still hold the line of beauty, form, and beat. No small accomplishment in a world as challenging as this one.”

In these lively and often heart-piercing narrative poems, Gail Fishman Gerwin explores her own family history set under the long, dark shadow of the Holocaust. As the poems shift back and forth between now and then, the US and Europe, the living and the dead, we are reminded of what’s been lost and what remains. Skillfully stitched together with a set of related motifs—paintings, photographs, dancing, hats, and beaded purses—this collection poignantly acknowledges that we can never know the whole story of our lives, that some pieces will always be missing. By sharing her personal stories, Gerwin compels us to feel more deeply our shared history.

The centerpiece of Allison Joseph’s sixth full-length poetry collection is a sequence of thirty-four sonnets about losing her father. “Superbly executed, part family history and part homage, Allison Joseph strings the frail human voices across the forceful lines of her verse to summon her absent father back from the dead.” — Maura Stanton

We’re all survivors of one thing or another, and these meticulously crafted poems by Adele Kenny tell us that we’re not alone. Intimate rather than private, the poems in What Matters are characterized by startling imagery, rich metaphor, and a compelling sense of immediacy.

In this playful collection, Lois Marie Harrod explores the trials and tribulations of the life of the “minor” poet.

These poems are freighted with longing and doubt but they are never naïve. Passionate, unflinching family stories and personal loss are here, and yet the will to love breaks all molds.

Writing, Research & Publishing Guides

The Tiferet Talk Interviews is a fascinating collection of twelve interviews transcribed from the Tiferet Talk Radio show, hosted by Melissa Studdard. Some of the world’s most notable writers and spiritual leaders share their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in today. Gain incredible insight into their perspective on ways to tell the truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. The Tiferet Talk Interviews includes a special introduction by Donna Baier Stein and interviews with Julia Cameron, Edward Hirsch, Jude Rittenhouse, Marc Allen, Arielle Ford, Robert Pinksy, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Robin Rice, Jeffrey Davis, Floyd Skloot, Anthony Lawlor, and Lois P. Jones.

How can I become more disciplined? How do I know if I’m talented? Should I self-publish? These are just a few of the perennial and contemporary questions addressed in this delightfully different guide. The authors — from different generations and writing genres — first help the reader assess where they are on their path. They then walk aspiring writers through five universal stages — Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine, and Share. While these stages apply to writers of every stripe, the emphasis is always on the reader navigating his or her own challenges, process, and goals. Insight-producing prompts and the wisdom of diverse artists (from Steinbeck and Thoreau to Spike Lee, Marilyn French, and Tom Clancy) help make every writer’s journey of creation as rewarding as its destination.

“In this resource for poets, Lockward offers practical advice and insights about establishing sound, voice, and syntax in poetry while also providing writing prompts and other poems as inspiration.”

A poetry tutorial to inform and inspire poets. Includes model poems with prompts, writing tips, and interviews with poets. Geared for the experienced poet as well as those just getting started. Guaranteed to break through any writer’s block. Ideal for individual use at home or group use in the classroom or workshop.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century.

The Elements of Style (useful for writing style tips)

“Make [your] characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” —Kurt Vonnegut

Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.

The Poet’s Companion ?presents brief essays on the elements of poetry, technique, and suggested subjects for writing, each followed by distinctive writing exercises. The ups and downs of writing life―including self-doubt and writer’s block―are here, along with tips about getting published and writing in the electronic age. On your own, this book can be your “teacher,” while groups, in or out of the classroom, can profit from sharing weekly assignments.

Bestselling, award-winning novelist Elizabeth Berg knows a thing or two about writing, having graced the world with wonderful works of fiction including Talk Before Sleep, The Year of Pleasures, and the acclaimed Oprah Book Club Selection, Open House. With Escaping Into the Open, she offers an inspiring, eminently entertaining, and delightfully practical handbook on the joys, challenges, and creative possibilities inherent in the writing life.

Ursula K. Le Guin generously shares the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime’s work.

This classic guide, from the renowned novelist and professor, has helped transform generations of aspiring writers into masterful writers—and will continue to do so for many years to come.

With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write.

What I hope to accomplish in this book is to give writing prompts that will help you to get past all the outside influences that keep you from believing in yourself and in your ability to write. In order to write, you need to get rid of notions about language, poetic form, and esoteric subject matter, all the things that the poetry police have told you are essential if you are to write.

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Bill Hodges Trilogy, Revival, and Doctor Sleep. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!” Zest. Gusto. Curiosity. These are the qualities every writer must have, as well as a spirit of adventure. In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing.”

In this entertaining and erudite New York Times bestseller, beloved professor Stanley Fish offers both sentence craft and sentence pleasure. Drawing on a wide range of  great writers, from Philip Roth to Antonin Scalia to Jane Austen, How to Write a Sentence is much more than a writing manual—it is a spirited love letter to the written word, and a key to understanding how great writing works.

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

Thrillers & Suspense

On an early spring night in 1991, Sophie and Crow, flushed with anticipation, slip away from a rowdy high school party and sneak off into the woods. Tonight, for the first time, they will make love. An hour later, Sophie lies unconscious, covered with blood, and Crow is crashing through the underbrush, hurling himself into the river to escape the police. . . .

A haunting, evocative novel about a woman who might have to face the disturbing truth about her own daughter. Hanna and Joe send their awkward daughter Dawn off to college hoping that she will finally “come into her own.” When she brings her new boyfriend, Rud, to her sister’s wedding, her parents try to suppress their troubling impressions of him for Dawn’s sake. Not long after, Hanna and Joe suffer a savage attack at home, resulting in Joe’s death and Hanna’s severe injury and memory loss.

Literature & Fiction

From Publishers Weekly First-timer Sheehan offers an uneven but emotionally and lyrically powerful novelization of the life of Sojourner Truth. Born Isabella at the beginning of the 19th century, the future crusader for equality and justice spends nine years on a New York State farm with her wise mother and kind father before being sold-as a lot, along with sheep, at auction. Whipped for speaking her native Dutch, she begins to talk to God: “God is big to us, and we should speak to him under the biggest sky,” her mother always said. So begin years of masters both kind and cruel, but none able to see her as a human-a blindness Isabella describes as one of the damages slavery inflicts on both slave and master.

Anna O’Shea has failed at marriage, shed her job at a law firm, and she’s trying to re-create herself when she and her recalcitrant nephew are summoned to the past in a manner that nearly destroys them. Her twenty-first-century skills pale as she struggles to find her nephew in nineteenth-century Ireland. For one of them, the past is brutally difficult, filled with hunger and struggle. For the other, the past is filled with privilege, status, and a reprieve from the crushing pain of present-day life. For both Anna and her nephew, the past offers them a chance at love.

Adam Levtov teaches drama at a small college in the tiny town of Hope Falls. He usually gets stuck with directing one of Shakespeare’s “minor tragedies” but this year, he is staging Othello, and the pressure is mounting. Unfortunately for Levtov, his students are rebelling; his teenage son is wearing eyeliner; and a hulking man with a Russian accent is stalking him. All the while, Levtov is struggling with his guilt over a lie he has lived for fifteen years; a household roiled by his demented father-in-law; and a wife who may be flirting with one of Levtov’s colleagues. Is all this why Adam Levtov feels like a ghost walking through life? The Director of Minor Tragedies takes the reader into a world of tragedy and treachery, wrongdoing and redemption, in which low comedy crouches stealthily behind high art.

Janet Laird’s life changed the day she inherited her grandfather’s house in a faraway Indian hill station. Ignoring her son’s arguments to come grow old in their family castle in Scotland, she moves with her chatty parrot, Mr. Ganguly and her loyal housekeeper, Mary, to Hamara Nagar, where local merchants are philosophers, the chief of police is a tyrant, and a bagpipe-playing Gurkha keeps the wild monkeys at bay. Settling in, Jana Bibi (as she comes to be known) meets her colorful local neighbors—Feroze Ali Khan of Royal Tailors, who struggles with his business and family, V.K. Ramachandran, whose Treasure Emporium is bursting at the seams with objects of unknown provenance, and Rambir, editor of the local newspaper, who burns the midnight oil at his printing press. When word gets out that the town is in danger of being drowned by a government dam, Jana is enlisted to help put it on the map. Hoping to attract tourists with promises of good things to come, she stacks her deck of cards, readies her fine-feathered assistant—and Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes is born.

A poignant and unforgettable tale of love, loss, and moving on . . . with the help of one not-so-little dog

Rocky’s husband Bob was just forty-two when she discovered him lying cold and lifeless on the bathroom floor . . . and Rocky’s world changed forever. Quitting her job, chopping off all her hair, she leaves Massachusetts—reinventing her past and taking a job as Animal Control Warden on Peak’s Island, a tiny speck off the coast of Maine and a million miles away from everything she’s lost. She leaves her career as a psychologist behind, only to find friendship with a woman whose brain misfires in the most wonderful way and a young girl who is trying to disappear. Rocky, a quirky and fallible character, discovers the healing process to be agonizingly slow.

In the third installment of the Jana Bibi series, Betsy Woodman takes us back to the Jolly Grant house for the arrival of Jana’s son, Jack, from Scotland, and his Hungarian bride-to-be, Katarina Esterhazy. The whole gang is excited to welcome their international visitors―and Jana is determined to repair the house to Jack’s high standards and those of her grandfather, from whom she inherited the eccentric building. But this puts a strain on Jana, both emotionally and financially, and she risks her most prized and valuable possession―the (surprisingly real!) emeralds she got from the Treasure Emporium―to help her through it.

At night, under the same roof, under the same moon, nothing divides the girls, Evie and Janey Louise. Talking in their beds they discuss their mothers, Agnes and Volusia; their absent fathers, one dead, one on the other side of the country; and their brothers, one fighting polio, the other fighting in the U.S. Army.

In the newest Jana Bibi adventure from Betsy Woodman, Jana, Mr. Ganguly, and the gang are back as their small town in India is rocked by an espionage scandal and a homemade remedy that has love on everyone’s mind

Jacqueline Sheehan made serious waves with her much beloved runaway bestseller, Lost and Found (“The best book I’ve read in a long time” —Susan Elizabeth Phillips). Now she treats readers to a sequel, Picture This—a story of rebirth and personal redemption that is as moving, funny, and heart-soaring as its predecessor. Whip-smart contemporary women’s fiction with heart and soul, in Picture This, Rocky Pelligrino is back on Peaks Island off the coast of Maine, along with Cooper the dog, the beautiful black Labrador retriever who gave her a new “leash” on life. But this time a new wrinkle warps the fabric of her world when a young girl shows up on Rocky’s doorstep claiming to be the long-lost daughter of her late husband.

Religion & Spirituality

Join Robert Moss for an unforgettable journey that will expand your sense of reality and confirm that there is life beyond death and in other dimensions of the multiverse. Moss describes how he lived a whole life in another world when he died at age nine in a Melbourne hospital and how he died and came back again, in another sense, in a crisis of spiritual emergence during midlife.

Working from existing translations, Thomas Merton composed a series of his own versions of the classic sayings of Chuang Tzu, the most spiritual of Chinese philosophers. Chuang Tzu, who wrote in the fourth and third centuries B.C., is the chief authentic historical spokesperson for Taoism and its founder Lao Tzu (a legendary character known largely through Chuang Tzu’s writings).

Way of the Peaceful Warrior is based on the story of Dan Millman, a world champion athlete, who journeys into realms of romance and magic, light and darkness, body, mind, and spirit. Guided by a powerful old warrior named Socrates and tempted by an elusive, playful woman named Joy, Dan is led toward a final confrontation that will deliver or destroy him. Readers join Dan as he learns to live as a peaceful warrior. This international bestseller conveys piercing truths and humorous wisdom, speaking directly to the universal quest for happiness.

This book was written for the religiously unaffiliated, also known as the “Nones,” who are people who believe in God and describe themselves as religious or spiritual, but who think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics. This book addresses the question as to whether Jesus, whose relationship with God was of the “spirit” and who vigorously questioned the hypocrisy of the Temple cult, especially its political connections to the Roman Empire, would view contemporary U.S. Christianity, with its own close relationships to nationalism and private corporate power, much differently today.

A suburban Boston school unwittingly started a firestorm of controversy over a sixth-grade field trip. The class was visiting a mosque to learn about world religions when a handful of boys, unnoticed by their teachers, joined the line of worshippers and acted out the motions of the Muslim call to prayer. A video of the prayer went viral with the title “Wellesley, Massachusetts Public School Students Learn to Pray to Allah.” Charges flew that the school exposed the children to Muslims who intended to convert American schoolchildren. Wellesley school officials defended the course, but also acknowledged the delicate dance teachers must perform when dealing with religion in the classroom. Courts long ago banned public school teachers from preaching of any kind. But the question remains: How much should schools teach about the world’s religions? Answering that question in recent decades has pitted schools against their communities.

Short Stories & Essays

In this finely crafted collection, acclaimed writer Elizabeth Cox examines the lives of common people and how they deal with life when uncommon things happen to them — how they accept their fate, sometimes choosing to move on, sometimes not. The stories, many set in the South, deal with questions of loyalty, betrayal, discovery, sexuality, death, birth, and the inner dynamics that drive the choices we make. The characters struggle with a complex mixture of kindness and violence, and their final choices reveal a flawed but finally compassionate humanity.

As much a rumination on the state of literature as a technical manual for aspiring writers, Burning Down the House has been enjoyed by readers and taught in classrooms for more than a decade. Readers are rewarded with thoughtful analysis, humorous one-liners, and plenty of brushfires that continue burning long after the book is closed.

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Move over, C.S. Lewis; Melissa Studdard is here! Annalise of the Verdant Hills is one of the most delightful protagonists to skip through the pages of literature since Dorothy landed in Oz. Join Annalise and her two walking, talking wondersheep as they travel to ever more outlandish places and meet outrageous and enlightening folk on their journey to discover interconnectedness in a seemingly disconnected world. Discover with them how just one person can be the start of the change we all strive for. A book for all ages, for all time: wonderful, wacky, and bursting with truth!

Dreams

Have you ever said something was only a dream, only a coincidence, or only your imagination? In this book you’ll discover that these “only” things can be keys to finding and living your bigger story. You’ll learn to tap into the nine powers of dreaming, the nine rules of coincidence, and the seven uses of imagination.