It’s not easy living in questions. We’re wired to favor facts and certitude. If you’ve stoked your creative wits at all in the past ten, twenty, thirty years, you know though that living comfortably with uncertainty is where we find depth and meaning that gives rise to our best creations. Those best creations might be stories for books, brands, advertisements, designs, or programs. Or they might be the stories of how we shape our remaining days.
But how do you live in questions? And especially how do you face the hard questions – the ones you most avoid or the ones you never thought to ask? The 100 questions you might ask your lover before you say “I do”? The questions to ask your aging parents?
Susan Piver is a question sage. Author of seven books including the New York Times best-selling book The Hard Questions and The Wisdom of a Broken Heart, Susan is a warm intelligent, grounded guide who can lead you to the hard questions and help you live them until you live the answers. Think Rilke-meets-Pema Chodron for creatives, professionals, and seekers of all stripes. She lights up people’s intelligent hearts around the world as she speaks on communication, creativity, and relationships.
I wanted to know what books have shaped the spirit and heart of this beloved teacher, captivating speaker, and wise guide. In this Books That Matter feature, Susan shares titles that have imbued her daily life with magic, confesses the one title she’s most embarrassed she has not read (out of a little envy), and gives authors a smart piece of wisdom regarding publishing’s future.
Jeffrey: What one book most took off the top of your head (Dickinson on poetry) or was “the axe for the frozen sea within” you (Kafka) or otherwise just changed something profound within you? What did it do for you? Maybe a book that lit you up as a child or that turned you on as a young adult or last week that salved some pain or turned your thinking upside-down.
Susan: On Becoming an Alchemist by Catherine MacCoun As a student of Buddhism who has taken everyday life as the path, this book provided a longed-for missing link in connecting the sacred and the so-called mundane. I treasure it.
What one detail do you still recall from that book?
Her anecdote about the unnamed “greatest alchemist I ever met” who began weeping uncontrollably while being served at a banquet. No one spoke or moved. This went on for at least five minutes. “I am so lonely,” he said finally.
The book you imagine living inside of is what?
The Phantom Tollbooth. I’m still waiting for mine to arrive. Perhaps today.
The one book I have most often re-read is what?
Shambahala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior because it is the only handbook for living I have ever found that actually makes sense.
You will read anything written by whom?
Survey: Roughly what % of books do you read digitally versus in paper? (What’s your preferred reader?)
Probably 50/50 at this point. My preferred reader is whichever screen I’m in front of.
In a sentence or two, what’s your forecast for the future of publishing?
Platform is king. The quicker you can dissolve the wall that divides art from business, the better. One caveat: Preserve the sanctity of both…but only by 100%.
If you had five days off to read books next week, which books would you at last read?
Meditations on Tarot by Anonymous. I have been trying to complete it for over a year. It is the most dense and profitable read, at once impenetrable and illuminating. Not sure how the author managed that but there is magic in those pages.
The book you are most embarrassed/proud [both] to say you’ve never read is what?
Eat, Pray, Love. There was a time when I would receive at least 5 emails per day asking me if I’d read it. I’m sure it’s wonderful but I was too consumed by jealousy to even open it.
If you had the time, talent, grit, and support, the book you would write is what?
An avant-garde memoir.
What I hope most readers of The Wisdom of a Broken Heart come away with is what?
That heartbreak is love unbound from an object.
Learn more about Susan at SusanPiver.com