Book Report: Browsing My Bookshelves

One book leads to another. And another.

One of my favorite projects each week is preparing for the writing group I facilitate at my church. Along with creating a writing prompt, I offer short quotations to support the subject of the prompt. Finding appropriate quotes becomes a rabbit hole of pleasure and memory. Sometimes, I confess, browsing my bookshelves becomes a diversion, a distraction from the task in front of me. Oh well.

An example: My morning meditation these days includes reading the prayers for Lent in Jan Richardson’s Circle of Grace, A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. (2015). One of those blessings led me to this week’s writing prompt –a prompt about telling our own stories. Great–I had both the content for the prompt and one illustrative quote.

Let the browsing begin.

I remembered a workshop on storytelling as a spiritual practice that I took from Diane Millis a couple years ago, so found her book, Re-Creating a Life, Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Story (2019) on one of my shelves. As I paged through the book, I remembered an exercise Millis led at the workshop and wrote a note to myself to consider adapting that for a future writing group. I also noticed a reference to one of my favorite books, Composing A Life (1990) by Mary Catherine Bateson.

Here’s where the rabbit hole gets deeper. I pulled that book, autographed by Bateson, off my shelf, and as I noted what I had underlined and where I had written comments, I remember the evening I heard Bateson speak at a private girls’ school in Cleveland. Her book, Peripheral Visions, Learning Along the Way (1994), had recently been published, and, of course, I bought that book, too, and had her sign it.

We had moved to Cleveland from Minnesota just months before, and I still felt quite lost and unsure of what my next steps in composing my own life would be. I remember having a lovely conversation with Bateson and being surprised by the time she took to share her wisdom and perspective with me. I don’t remember her words, but am sure I wrote about it in my journal. I resist digging out that journal, for I might never climb out of that rabbit hole! An aside: Many years later I learned that a woman who became a friend had also attended that lecture.

Also on my shelf is Composing A Further Life, The Age of Active Wisdom (2010), and I am so tempted to begin re-reading this book right this very minute. The chapter titles, “Thinking About Longevity,” “A Time for Wholeness,” and “Knowledge Old and New” beckon me and I suspect are even more relevant for me now, but I set it aside. For the moment. And then I remember another of her books that I found at a Little Free Library, Willing to Learn, Passages of Personal Discovery (2004), but have yet to read. It awaits on a different shelf, where I keep TBR nonfiction books.

I slap my hands, reshelve the Bateson books, and turn to the shelves with my writing books. There are lots of temptations on those shelves. I start with two books: The Story of Your Life, Writing a Spiritual Autobiography (1990) by Dan Wakefield and Your Life as Story, Writing the New Autobiography (1997) by Tristine Tainer. The Wakefield book introduced me to the term and the idea of “spiritual autobiography,” which is now more commonly thought of as “spiritual memoir,” and the Rainer book reminds me of her earlier book The New Diary, How to Use A Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity (1978), which I used as a text when I taught a series of journal writing classes way back when! All three books are full of notes to myself.

I have found what I need for the writing group and force myself to re-shelve the pile of books on my desk, but that leads to another round of browsing.

The Diane Millis book is right next to a collection of Thomas Merton books and close by are Thomas Moore books. The Bateson books are near books by a current favorite, Diana Butler Bass, including her latest Freeing Jesus, Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence (2021). I notice I have starred the last two chapters, “Way” and “Presence,” and I am tempted to re-read those chapter right now. Plus, I notice a Dan Wakefield book I have not yet read, Releasing the Creative Spirit, Unleash the Creativity in Your Life (2001), and I am certain just what I need could be found on those pages.

Behave yourself, Nancy, and focus. Finish the task at hand.

An Invitation:

What books are waiting for you on your bookshelves? I would love to know.

2 thoughts on “Book Report: Browsing My Bookshelves

  1. I could have way too many books going at one time, too! I totally understand about falling down that rabbit hole. I have hundreds of books waiting for me on my shelves, but my current reading pile consists of four non-fiction books: Heart Steps by Julia Cameron; The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd; The Five Elements by Dondi Kahlin; and Unfunc Your Gut by Dr Peter Kozlowski.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great pile! I often refer to those “little: books of affirmation by Julia Cameron. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter was an extremely important book on my spiritual journey. I don’t know the others you mention, but I will check them out.

      Liked by 1 person

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