A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'EngleLast night, I utterly forgot a get-together I had with a friend – didn’t even remember that I had asked her to meet until hours after we had agreed to do so.  I was mortified.  But I’m taking that mortification and trying to make good by realizing that what I said yesterday is absolutely true – I need more quiet and thinking time and fewer tasks to accomplish.

Thus, I’m thinking back over the books that have helped me find those quiet spaces.  Here’s my top five:

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  I am not even half-way into this book, and I find myself changed by it.  I’m learning to honor my need for space and solitude not just as something that makes me happy but as something that makes me better – healthier, yes, but also better at what I do.  An absolute must read for any introvert or anyone who loves us.

2. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. Merton’s wisdom on solitude and silence and the need for time to contemplate – well, it gave me a new way to think of prayer and God, a way that stretched beyond supplication and intercession to a place where my life could be a prayer. Merton says, “Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny.”

3. An Unknown Woman by Alice Koller. This book was recommended to me by someone who understood – better than I did myself at the time – that I was trying to find out who I was and how I wanted to shape my life.  Koller’s journey is the same in these pages, and it involves an isolated beach cabin in winter, a companionable dog, and a small town – three of my favorite things.

4. A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle. I still imagine L’Engle’s writing space when I think of an ideal – a second-floor room with a window out on the farmyard of an old farmhouse.  (I’m getting pretty close, right?)  The way L’Engle describes this place – their summer home – showed me that I, too, need a buffer away to be my best self.

5. Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach. Another woman on another beach alone.  (I’m sensing perhaps I need a winter beach retreat.)  Like Koller’s work, this book helped me understand what silence is and what it is not and to know, then, how to cultivate it.

I’d love to know your recommendations for books that take solitude or silence or contemplation as necessary. What books to you recommend that bring the quiet close?