“I was amazed that some words on a page could change your life.” –Testimony of a woman in rehab last Monday night. She had been in and out of jail more times than she could count, and in prison three times. These days, she is a solid Christian woman with a strong testimony and a peace that passes understanding.
“I felt I had jewels in my mouth.” –Frank McCourt, writing about his youth in Belfast. When a teacher introduced the teenager to Shakespeare, a new world opened for him. The movie “Angela’s Ashes,” based on McCourt’s book of the same name, showed him lying in the bathtub reading Shakespeare out loud.
In the last week, I have read five books. Hey, I’m retired and some weeks the calendar is blessedly empty. Those are great days for grabbing a book and disappearing into another world.
What’s funny about reading all those books last week–my wife thinks it’s more than a little bizarre–is that I read them all at the same time. Which is to say, I would read one for an hour, then switch to another. Some nights my bedtime reading was two of the books. Friends ask if I mix up the story lines. The answer is that about two sentences into the reading and I’m back in the world created by that author.
The world created by an author. Every reader knows what that means. It’s the wonder of reading. You enter a different world.
I read Western novels for pure escape. For a few hours, I’m back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend….
I read World War II histories and novels because I was born in that time and lived through it and have a ton of memories from those years. Being something of a history student (majored in it during college), I have a small library of books on Churchill and other players in that greatest story of the 20th Century.
I read anything that has a great plot, that was recommended highly by someone I trust, that drew me in by the cover. Yep, I buy a book because I love the cover. That’s how I bought the entire “Miss Dimple” series of World War II novels written by Mignon Ballard, who became a friend on the internet.
Okay. A few observations on the subject of reading…
–Read widely. You never know when a story/illustration/lesson will jump off the page and grab you by the throat and never let you go.
–The best way to “read widely” is to browse at your public library as well as the large bookstores in the city.
–Look around for a great used bookstore in your area. Ask friends in nearby cities. You can save a lot of money and make great discoveries that way.
–Set yourself a limit as to how many pages of a book you will read before deciding to give it up. Whatever you do, deliver yourself from the perfectionism that says not to finish a book is to fail. It is not! It’s making good use of your time.
–If you have bought a book and found that it is unworthy (aka, trash), rather than keeping it on your shelf or donating it to the book drive at the library, do what I do: throw it in the recycling bin. That’s one book no one else is going to waste time reading!
–Even if you paid good money for a book, it’s not necessary for you to have finished reading all of it in order to keep it on your shelf. I have lots of C. S. Lewis books I’ve not finished. But when I have a spare half-hour, it’s great fun to pull one down and read just one chapter. Some writers are pure gold no matter where you start in their book.
–When you read a book and enjoyed it, but have no further use for it, give it away. My friend Bruce Fields, staff minister at First Baptist Gainesville, Georgia, reads a book, then sends it to a friend. I was the recipient of one on one occasion, and love the idea.
–If you are passing along the book you’ve just read to a family member, mark it up. Write your thoughts in the margin. One of my sons says it’s like a visit with Dad.
–My wife says she reads differently from the way most people do. “With me, a book is like a delicious meal I want to savor. So, I enjoy reading a little each day. It takes forever to finish the book, but it becomes a part of me forever.”
I’d like to write more here, but the books beside my laptop are beckoning.