Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Meet Judy Tart, Eclectic Reader & Wise Woman of the 21st C. Village

Judy and I have known each other since the early 1990s when I became a student of Sogyal Rinpoche's and started meeting her at the Rigpa Shrine Room in Berkeley, California. The shrine room moved to San Francisco, so the Berkeley Shrine Room is no more...except vividly in my memory. However, my friendship with the calm and wise Judy Tart continues, despite several moves in the last 17 years. Here's Judy to tell us how she feeds her capacious mind! --JGR

Judy Tart in Valley of Fire, Nevada (On Vacation)< Janet, You asked me what I've been reading lately. That's not a simple question. My reading tastes are extremely eclectic, and almost always have been. The first books I remember reading, when I was about six years old, were The Rubyiat of Omar Khayyam (the edition with the creepy Art Nouveau illustrations) and Bulfinch's Mythology. I think this started me down my eclectic path, while giving me a lot to ponder over, since I could hardly have understood very much of what I was reading.

But what have I been reading lately?


I just finished the latest science fiction book by S.M. Stirling, in his alternate history series that started with Dies the Fire - the premise of the series is that suddenly all modern technology stops working and people have to deal with it in various ways. Hint: the Renaissance reenactors, urban gangs, and modern craftspeople come out on top).


In general, I enjoy alternate history such as Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, is a classic; Orson Scott Card had a good series, Alvin the Maker. John Brunner wrote mostly in the 60s and 70s. He must have had some kind of real vision of the future, because his two books I have recently re-read, The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar, could have been taken from a dark look at today's headlines and trends--- quite frightening, really.


I've also recently read The Seven Daughters of Eve, by an English geneticist who claims to have isolated 7 maternal lineages (based on mitochrondrial DNA, which is only passed along by mothers to their offspring). I found this fascinating. In fact, I have sent off my own DNA (cheek scrapings) to find out more about my own lineage. My sister and I suspect some Indian blood on our mother's side.

Along this line, I also read Nicolas Wade's Before the Dawn, about the evolution of humanity and the exodus from Africa. There is good genetic-based evidence to back up his theories (and a great documentary, available from Netflix, on the same subject).

Peripheral to this, I guess, but pretty relevant, is Frans De Waal, Our Inner Ape, about how we behave in ways sometimes like chimpanzees (political intrigue and male aggression) and sometimes like bonobos (matriarchal, "free love").


I also read some political stuff, but not much because it is such a downer and usually only makes me feel angry and helpless. For instance, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone is a fascinating, head-spinning account of the awful mistakes we made after "liberating" Iraq. On similar lines: Robert Pelton, Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror takes you on the scene with a number of mercernary organizations (a growth industry), here in the US and abroad. It gives a good, and chilling, insight into the almost unmentioned changes in the way this country now wages war.


This may be way more than you ever wanted to know about my reading habits...But I mustn't leave out the latest Harry Potter book, indeed, the whole series. Although I do find it a little bit juvenile, I've enjoyed both the books and the movies.

But there are better books written for children and teens, I think: for instance, Phillip Pullman's books, The Golden Compass, His Dark Materials. I wish he'd write more, and I'm also looking forward to the film... Same with Susan Cooper's series, set in England (as so many are, I wonder why?), The Dark is Rising andThe Gray King. Mustn't leave out the much-read Tolkien, which I read to my kids and have re-read to myself so many times.

I like the fantasy worlds constructed for children, with their adventure and clear sense of right and wrong. I am tired of adult fantasy, though, even though some is well-written. The characters often get lost in the action. Well, except for Charles de Lint, a Canadian author whose world is modern-day Canada---except for the fact that magic is alive and well and the world of spirits exists side by side with the grit and grime.


I read a lot aloud to Charley [Judy's husband, Charlie Tart, who's written more than a few classic books of his own]. We do more reading aloud than watching TV and going to movies. Often we read comedy. We love the Wodehouse Jeeves and Bertie series and have read them over and over. We also read Dave Barry, especially his Complete Guide to Guys. In addition to comedy, we read a lot of history, the founding of this country especially, biographies, various factual books too numerous to mention, including "The Pope's Ceiling" about the Sistine Chapel.


Mustn't forget the spiritual, mostly Buddhist books. Right now I'm reading Rob Preece, The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra; Robert Thurman, Infinite Life, Dzogchen Ponlop, Mind Beyond Death.


And I read a lot of thrillers, a lot of mysteries, if they are fast-paced and well-written and not too gory. I don't like horror at all.

I do read some "literature" - not as much as I think I should by any means, so I feel rather embarrassed to confess it. When I was recovering from knee surgery, a friend, a former English lit professor, brought over a stack of books she thought I'd enjoy---grim modern stuff I couldn't get through at all.

A while ago I read the complete novels of Jane Austen and really enjoyed them. I like her wit and sharp insight. I like everything I've ever read of Margaret Atwood's. Sheri Tepper is another favorite. She's classified as a science fiction writer, but all her books have an incisive ecofeminist slant. She has an amazing output for someone who didn't start to write until she was in her 50s.

I'd better stop, I think. The longer I write, the more "must-read" books I remember. I don't know what I would have done without books in my life. They have gotten me through some hard times, given me great enjoyment, widened my horizons, taught me valuable lessons, made me laugh and cry.

These days, I most often hear of books through interview with authors on NPR or elsewhere. I jot them down, sometimes in the middle of the night when I'm having trouble sleeping. then I go to my library's on-line catalog, request them, and pick them up when they're delivered to my branch library. I'm trying very hard not to buy so many books these days, but my shelves are still filled to overflowing, in spite of giving them to friends and taking them to the library for their book sales and putting them in bags for Good Will.

Well - What have YOU been reading lately?



Well, Gentle Readers, what HAVE you been reading lately? Tell us in the comments section.--JGR

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2 Responses »

  1. Judy,
    Right now I'm mostly reading books for review. That takes me longer because it's more than a quick skim through. I just got a couple of books in the mail yesterday that will be coming up on Riehlife later on. I usually read a book I review at least twice. And, I take notes. Yes, still the recovering English Major!

  2. Gosh, I'm dizzy. I can't even count all the books Judy mentions here. What diverse tastes she has, and gone into so deeply.

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