All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to Amazon.com through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Breakfast with Buddha, by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha is the story of Otto Ringling (no relation to the circus brothers) and his physical and spiritual journey from New Jersey to North Dakota. Ringling, a happily married father of two, is a successful editor. His sweet but "flaky" sister, Cecelia, has managed to give away or lose most of her material wealth, and currently earns a living performing past life regressions and tarot card readings. When their parents are suddenly killed in a car accident, Otto and Cecelia are faced with disposing of their parents' assets, which includes their family home and a large farm in North Dakota.

Since Cecelia is afraid to fly, Otto decides to drive with Cecelia to North Dakota from her home in New Jersey to sort through the family heirlooms. He didn't know he would be taking the trip with Cecelia's guru, the monk Volya Rinpoche. Rinpoche is from Russia, near the border with Tibet, and Cecelia has decided he should have part of the family farm for a spiritual retreat.

Otto's journey is the story of what he learns from the trip. He describes a "feeling of emptiness" before taking the trip that was "more than bereavement. It was a kind of sawing dissatisfaction that cut back and forth against the fibers of who I believed myself to be. Sometimes even in the sunniest moods I'd be aware of it. Turn your eyes away from the good life for just a second and there it was: not depression as much as an ugly little doubt about everything you had every done . . ." Rinpoche, with his enigmatic smiles and odd questions or comments, gradually leads Otto on a path to, if not enlightenment, at least a less judgmental view of his own life and the lives of others.

The book's author, Roland Merullo, cites numerous sources for the Rinpoche's spiritual theories, giving the reader the feeling of having met a reincarnation of the Buddha in modern times. The book does have a "self-help" flavor, though, as many "how to be a better X" books do. Fortunately, Breakfast with Buddha seeks a different result: a greater spiritual understanding, with love as its centerpiece. Breakfast with Buddha was published in 2007 by Algonquin Books. He is the author of many books including Golfing with God and Leaving Losapas.

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