My August Reading


The Reading Challenge

I love to read and love writing, as a blogger that goes without saying. But much of my reading is taken up by professional reading needs and so recreational reading is something that generally happens only on vacation. While I had come up with a plan for improving my reading capacity, there is nothing like a good challenge. So when I was invited to participate in this challenge, I jumped at the chance.

You can find an original post about the reading challenge here:

That said, I only completed two whole books this month, but once again, I am happy that I had completed reading two whole books, that spoke into my life and held my interest. In addition to the two books that I am writing to share about, I am 70% through an auto-biography on Audible, and have started reading a book for Advent, that is professional, but also spiritual and enlightening.

Photo by Oziel Gómez from Pexels

Women Rowing North

I bought the book several months ago and moved it from my bookshelf to prop it up against the wall next to my bed. Fortunately, my bedroom floor is not littered with books, it would not be safe. But this book lived, leaning against the wall on my side of the bed, for a long time, like a daily reminder to pick it up and read it. The book? Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as we Age, by Mary Pipher (Bloomsbury Publishing 2019).

When I finally picked it up, having started it once before, it became a frequent companion. It may sound as though it could be depressing, but that is not the case. Pipher skillfully and creatively weaves the stories of several women in a variety of circumstances, with the emphasis on the specific challenges they faced and how they overcome them. In addition, she offers many practical suggestions.

Several years ago, I participated in a two year certificate program. I was 58 when I started. One of our group leaders, a retired pastor, often spoke about accepting her “diminishments.” I did not quite understand; I was still in the fullness of my life and work. Today, in 2021, I am probably the age she was when she was leading our group. I understand a little better today, and wish I had been more compassionate then.

When I am working with couples who are preparing for marriage, (okay, they probably prepare more for the wedding than the marriage), I ask them, “What is the most difficult thing you have experienced together?” In retrospect, I would be inclined to still ask that question, but also send them scurrying to interview their grandparents, or another older couple they know, to have them ask that question to the older couple. Hopefully, it would not scare them off, but generate some deeper conversation.

I think this book would be a good read for the sandwich generation, as well as for those of us approaching our own “diminishments” or those of our spouse or significant other. Perhaps it would offer insight to the struggles their parents face as we attempt to flourish in the face of unexpected changes. Having said that, I do not think I would give it to the couples about to be newlyweds to read.

In many ways this book struck very close to home, as I try to carefully discern next steps in what I call my partly retired life. I am glad that I finally picked the book up and read it.

Can a Book Choose You? As I was getting to the end of “Rowing” I was not sure what my next read would be. There are lots of choices right in my office and on my Kindle, but nothing was popping. I read on somebody’s blog about a “book choosing you.” I think I did anyway. I was skeptical, but it happened to me. At least I walked past a display of books, and a book by Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller (Atria Books, 2013) caught my attention. When I read the inside cover, I knew that my next book had indeed found me.

I love her writing and am always impressed with the amount of research she puts into her novels. I have been working very intentionally on baking bread and trying to move from novice bread baker to a capable baker. It was a small thing, and yet the bread in this novel is almost, but not quite a character. It is of some importance.

There are also morsels of writing process, placed on the mouths of some of the characters. While there is not enough dialogue about writing process to qualify it as a quasi character in the novel, I think this is a “must read” for bloggers and other writers.

One caveat I should share about something that comes up early in the novel. I mentioned Jodi Picoult’s research that she clearly does. One of the characters is a funeral director. Although it must have seemed essential to the plot, I could have gone the rest of my life without feeling the need to know that many details about preparing a body for viewing. Really.

The book was hard to put down. Trying to do it justice without trite superlatives is not easy. And since I do not do “book reviews” all I can do at this point is tell you the ways each of these books intersected my life and begged me follow.

I am sure that I will not end 2021 with a long list of books read, but I am off to a good start of having read and not just listened to, some worthwhile, and meaningful books. I like fiction, and yet many of my reading choices are non-fiction.

If you have read either of these books, I wonder what your impression was, what you found relevant, meaningful or intriguing? Or off-putting?

My next read? In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Not holding back the tide,


Copyright 2020-2024 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

9 thoughts on “My August Reading

  1. This is a lovely post Michele, many thanks for joining us for our monthly What’s on Your Bookshelf challenge. It’s always intertesting to see what others are reading and why. I love the idea of a book choosing you instead of the other way round! I like the sound of Women Rowing North and will keep an eye out for it. Your reasoning and review were gentle and insightful, so many thanks for that.

    I’ve added your post into mine now and am happy to see you managed to get the badge! Thanks again 🙂


  2. Michelle, the first book you recommended is timely for me and I will be downloading it today. It will likely provide some much-needed clarity regarding my current reality. I like your honesty about not being as compassionate as you might have been at a later age to the speaker. Sometimes we don’t fully understand what we have not experienced.

    Good for you for joining #whatsonyourbookshelf this week. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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