Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Why Behind Reading

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea that why we read may matter just as much as what we read.

There are so many reasons to pick up a book.

Maybe you want to look intellectual.

Maybe you want to escape for a while.

Maybe someone has you held at gunpoint and they're forcing you to. People are awful like that. Although, really, sometimes I wish that would happen to me. "I'm sorry, honey. You have no clean pants to wear today because yesterday, seriously, all day, babe, this masked man FORCED me to read my novel. He wouldn't even let me put it down to go to eat!"

Maybe you don't want to just look intellectual, but you want to actually be intellectual.

Maybe you're trying to set a good example for your kids.

Maybe your wifi isn't working, and your cable is on the fritz, and housework sounds like a really boring option.

Maybe you want to be armed with a deadlier weapon than your smart phone in case you get attacked by muggers. War and Peace, keep it on your person at all times. But do consider registering it with your local police department.

Alternatively, maybe you want to make sure you have something edible on hand in case you get stranded somewhere without food available. Again, your smart phone won't help you with that.

Maybe your reason for reading one book is not the same as the reason you have for reading another. And maybe the reason you start a book is not the reason you finish it.

Her reason for reading?
It makes her look cool while she hangs out on the stairs.
She likes to live on the edge.

So I've been asking myself why I read. And the answer is legion. Consequently, I thought I'd share with you a few of the books I've been reading lately, and the whys behind them.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle: I'm delving into travel writing these days. Mostly because traveling  past driving distance when you have four kids is neither cheap nor stress free. So, while we've been exploring the mess out of our little corner of California, France, for instance, is a little out of our league. That's okay. I can read about the food and the culture and the people, and while it's not quite the same, it's close enough. Plus, I can have a great time doing so because Peter Mayle is a fantastic writer, funny and descriptive and informative all at the same time.

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God by Timothy Keller: Tim Keller has been on my To Read list for quite some time, mostly because a handful of friends that I really respect keep posting Tim Keller quotes as Facebook statuses. Then, last week the kids and I decided to brave a Bible study for the first time since September (now that the twins have consolidated their nap), and lo and behold, they were studying a Tim Keller book. So now I'm reading it because I want to learn something and because I want the community. And also, possibly, because I want cooler Facebook statuses.

Harold's Fairy Tale by Crockett Johnson: Did you know there were more Harold and the Purple Crayon books? I didn't. I adore Harold. If I had to sell one of my children and replace them with another kid, I'd replace with Harold. But only if I had to. That's not a "why" though; that's a rabbit trail. Why? Because I like my kids to read books I actually enjoy reading out loud to them. And I want my kids to be exposed to books that foster their creativity. And Harold fits the bill.

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner: Ditto the travel writing comment from above, but I've also been really interested in the study of happiness lately (I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin around the time we were moving). It was fun sifting through some very fascinating and different ideas about what happiness is and how it is achieved (and where it makes its home). I wrote down more than a few quotations and roped an unsuspecting Man into several book discussions that he lovingly tolerated. He makes me happy in that way. (You liked that, didn't you?)

The Blood of Olympians by Rick Riordan: First, I finally learned how to pronounce that last name (thanks, Blue Bloods!). Second, I admit this book was January's guilty pleasure. I don't allow myself to read novels too often because I get sucked in and don't resurface until the last page has been read. Somehow this is bad for my parenting and housework and marriage and, you know, other things that might actually matter. But I've diligently read almost every single book Rick Riordan's ever written, and when he comes out with his series on Norse mythology, I'm sure I will continue my downward spiral into oblivion. Yay for keeping in touch with my 13 year old self!

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose: True confession, I have no idea why I put this one on hold at the library (some book list, somewhere, I'm sure), but I loved it. It's always fascinating dipping into other forms of writing (May B. is written in blank verse). It gave me some ideas for stuff of my own and that's always a good thing. Also, the Little House books have made that time period so familiar (when we're talking about children's literature, especially) that it was great to see a different take on the Westward Expansion.

George and Martha by James Marshall: George and Martha's quirky friendship was an instant hit with our kids. I read them the entire collection of stories without a second thought. Why? Because Tiny's giggle is the best. And because anything other than Thomas is a joy to my soul.

A little corner of happiness.

Anyway, the point being (once again) that I love books. I love how they stretch and change us. Once I've read a book, it's part of who I am, which is probably why I'm picky about what I read. So if, at the end of the day, my over arching goal is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself, then I should want to read books that deepen my heart, strengthen my soul, broaden my mind, build up my strength, and help me better understand and love my neighbor.

On the other hand, my neighbor may not be a Greek demigod--although you never know--but my neighbor's potential pre-teen daughter and I can now carry on in-depth conversations about our mutual obsession with anything written by Rick Riordan. Because we all know that fan-girling makes friends.

1 comment:

  1. I've tried, but I'm not a huge Rick Riordan fan. He just doesn't have that Gordon-Korman talent that I'm always looking for, but I'm glad you got to read the book. Wasn't that the one you were reading while I was packing?