#67 – Summer Reading

I’m drawn to novels and memoirs which are set in locations I have visited, or that flesh out stories I already enjoy. And for “summer reading,” they don’t need to be masterpieces!

Thus I’ve spent enjoyable time in June/July with these five:

1.  Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller (William Morrow, 2017). This historical novel purports to tell part of the Laura Ingalls Wilder story from Ma’s perspective – the trip by covered wagon from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Kansas Indian Territory, and the family’s ill-fated settlement there. I’ve often wondered “But what about Caroline?!” in the Little House books, so it’s fun to read someone’s imaginings about her perspective.

2.  In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir  by Paul Quenon (Ave Maria Press, 2018).  I’ve visited Thomas Merton’s monastery at Trappist, Kentucky on several occasions, including a Kentucky Holy Land Pilgrimage in 2011. So when I saw this title for sale at the convent, I was eager to read it.

From Ave Maria Press

Br. Quenon has spent his whole adult life at The Abbey of Gethsemani. He weaves together glimpses of Merton (“Fr. Louis” or even “Uncle Louie”) with glimpses of the monastic life. I remember some of the beautiful Kentucky countryside he describes. And among other gems, he speaks of prayer as “a breathing that purifies the air, like leaves on the tree.” As a “community breathing together,” he suggests, “we raise the effect to an exponential level.” (p. 136)

3.  The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster, 2011). On a trip to Israel/Palestine 11 years ago, we endured a very hot half day at the archaeological site of Masada near the Dead Sea.  We approached Masada, at the top of a very steep “table mountain,” by cable car. We saw Roman tiles, storage rooms, and piles of rocks of the sort thrown down the mountainside at the Roman legions by 1st-century Jewish Sacarii (extremist Zealots) during the siege of Masada in 73-74 CE.Masada
The historian Josephus and legend have it that when the Romans finally breached the walls of Masada they found 960 persons (the Jewish patriots and their families)  already dead, apparently  choosing death at each other’s hands rather than slavery or death at Roman hands. Legend also has it that two women and three children survived the massacre by hiding in a cistern.

Alice Hoffman writes the fictional story of four women who find each other at Masada, including the eventual survivors.  It’s a 21st century feminist tale with more than enough violence and sex, but still a good “summer read.” Sam liked it too.

Published by Penguin Books

4. The Lost Chapters: Reclaiming my Life, One Book at a Time by Leslie Schwartz (Penguin, 2018). I’m a sucker for any author who writes about her experience inside a prison.  So I naturally gravitated towards this one.  A writer of literary fiction and a teacher of writing, Schwartz speaks in graphic language of her six weeks inside the Los Angeles County Jail on charges on DUI and battery during a relapse into addiction.

She chronicles her reading of 22 books which helped her reclaim her life while incarcerated. She also speaks of unexpected kindnesses from inmates named Duckie and Wyell, and of her amazement at meeting Qaneak the day  before her release. A Maundy Thursday service in the jail’s chapel with footwashing completely undoes her….

5. The Way of Kindness: Readings for a Graceful Life, ed. by Michael Leach et. al. (Orbis Books, 2018). I don’t usually read anthologies, but I picked this one up at the convent along with Br. Quenon. It was a head-spinning experience to read Ann Lamont, Pope Francis, Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, Joyce Ropp and others on kindness at the same time as imbibing the culture of abuse of the Los Angeles County Jail!

Questions for Reflection:

1. Which books have helped you reclaim parts of yourself?

2. How do you select books for summer reading?

Next Week: Grey County Vacation

7 thoughts on “#67 – Summer Reading

  1. Another delightful post on Nourished Spirit. I too enjoy novels and memoirs and other non-fiction re places that i visit on travels. I am especially drawn to the booksThe Lost Chapters: Reclaiming My life one Book at a TimeandThe Way of Kindness: Readings for a Graceful Life. Alas, our public library doesn’t have either one in stock. I thought they would have the first one. I am surrounded here by such wondrous books, either from the Public Library or a few that I just knew i needed to see: Why Indigenous Literatures Matter, Daniel eath Justice, WLU Press, 2018. Books and Islands in Ouibwe County, Louise Erdrich, 2003 (referenced in the title above) Unbinding: The Grace Beyond Self. Kathleen Dowling Singh. 2017. (I suggest you check her out if you’re not familiar with her earlier books, particularly her first, Grace in Dying – maybe 2000 – i read this when my dad died, – i could be wrong about this – and her 2rd, Grace in Aging. This is her 4th.) Participating in God’s Mission: A Theolgical Missiology for the Church in America, Craig Van Gelder and Dwight J. Zscheile. 2018.  Referenced on Wednesday in a Ministry based group for an Anglican priest pursuing her DMin at TST. Essential Swahili Dictionary  Always love hearing from you Sue. Prayers surround you on this daily journey. Pauline

    From: A Nourished Spirit by Sue Steiner To: pschlegelshank@rogers.com Sent: Friday, July 27, 2018 7:37 AM Subject: [New post] #67 – Summer Reading #yiv1169219651 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1169219651 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1169219651 a.yiv1169219651primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1169219651 a.yiv1169219651primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1169219651 a.yiv1169219651primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1169219651 a.yiv1169219651primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1169219651 WordPress.com | suecsteiner posted: “I’m drawn to novels and memoirs which are set in locations I have visited, or that flesh out stories I already enjoy. And for “summer reading,” they don’t need to be masterpieces!Thus I’ve spent enjoyable time in June/July with these five:1.  Caroline” | |


  2. I’m reading non-fiction but have one or two novels close at hand. I just finished Rich Preheim’s history of the Indiana Michigan Mennonite Conference and now want to read Sam’s book on Ontario Mennonites to compare. My mother’s relatives were in Nappanee and Goshen, specifically North Main STreet and Yellow Creek … as well as from Amish around Nappanee (sic). But I’m interested in how we in Ontario were different … and how that spells difference in today’s world not just 1920’s, 1960’s, etc. I was General Conference rBriceather than Mennonite Church … but certainly knew many of the people in Preheim’s history because of my grandfather and then my experiences at Bluffton and Camp Friedenswald as well as MCC VS …

    Interesting to see how one goes back into history to understand some of the trends today!



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