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Sister Beverly reads what?
Our very special guest this month is Sister Beverly Raway.
Sister Beverly, who was elected Prioress of the St. Scholastica Monastery in June, served 22 years as a faculty member in the College's nursing program. As we approach the holidays, she offers her comments and reflections from a lifetime of reading.
Most influential book.
I think my most influential book was The Giant Goldenbook Encyclopedia. This was a childhood Christmas gift from my godmother. I read and reread it especially delighting in the illustrations of wild animals and undersea and microscopic creatures. I first learned what a Paramecium was from this book and it stimulated my interest in a wide range of topics. The sections on nature and peoples of the world were my favorite and probably influenced my first career as a high school biology teacher. I looked for it online to be sure this was the correct title and found vintage copies for sale on eBay. The author of the first edition published in 1946 was Dorothy A. Bennett and the illustrator was Cornelius De Witt.
Books about castaways and of people abandoned on Islands.
My favorites are Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson and Island of the Blue Dolphins. The ingenuity of people who survive on an island intrigued me as a child. I remember especially how children in the Barn Program were captivated as I read Island of the Blue Dolphins to them at the end of rainy days up in the cozy corner of what was once the hay loft. This Newbery Medal book was inspired by the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicolẽno Native American left alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island in the 19th Century.
I enjoy reading mysteries of all types and cultures. I especially enjoyed the Brother Cadfael series (The first book is A Morbid Taste for Bones), the Number 1 Ladies Detectives Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith (I have the first five books in a boxed set) and the Navaho series by Tony Hillerman (The Blessing Way is the first in the series). Mma Ramotswe is the main character in the Ladies Detective series who cleverly solves all kinds of mysteries in her home town, Gabarone, Botswana.
Books on social issues.
In this category I would recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, niece of our Sister Mary Richard Boo, past president and professor of literature at CSS. This is a book of narrative non-fiction following the lives of people in the Annawadi slum of Mumbai, India. Another book of great interest to me was Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks read and studied by our Dignitas classes a few years ago. This book chronicles the story of how cancerous tumor cells from an African- American woman produced the first human immortal cell line used for medical research. Each of these books was especially interesting to me, because I attended interviews of these authors and learned the story behind the story for each book.
Books on spirituality.
There are so many authors and books I could name in this category; Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Kathleen Norris and Ronald Rolheiser are the first that come to mind. I would start by recommending The Seven Storey Mountain and Seeds of Contemplation by Merton; Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society and In Memorium (reflection on the death of his mother) by Nouwen, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Norris and The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Rolheiser.
On the lighter side.
A few years ago, inspired by a course on the image of nursing offered by Mary Tanner, I read the Cherry Ames nurse series. I had fun looking back to that historical period and image of nursing and comparing it to what a professional nurse is like today. I loved Cherry’s spunk and determination to do the right thing, against all rules (The first book in the series is Cherry Ames: Student Nurse, 1943). I am also a fan of the Harry Potter series, have read all seven books and saw all the movies with other avid friends of Harry’s (first in the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
Books I am currently reading.
I am reading books on leadership and prayer as I adapt to my new role as Prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery. Wisdom Leadership by Ruth Fox relates practical aspects of leadership in a women’s community while Margaret Wheatley’s book, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World draws inferences on organizational management from recent discoveries in biology, chaos theory and quantum physics. For meditation starters, I turn to Prayer: Our Deepest Longing, by Ronald Rolheiser and a little gift book I received of sayings of the desert abbas and ammas entitled By Way of the Desert: 365 Daily Readings by Bernard Bangley.
For the desert island.
If trapped on an island I would want the Bible for daily lectio to keep me "grounded" and hopeful and my books in "Books about castaways and of people abandoned on Islands" to spark ingenuity while in survival mode.