There’s an article circulating in the social media these days that speculates about how many classic books most people have read. Apparently, or so goes the text, the BBC believes the average English speaking person (I wonder if I qualify?) will only have read 6 of the 100 books on the list. Aside from the fact that a number of the books could hardly be called mainstream or classic, it’s an interesting exercise.
Do you read? What kind of book do you pick up when (and if) you do read? I find myself intrigued by the question and its ramifications. My friends are a diverse lot, so when we talk about their reading habits, the answers run the gamut, from science fiction to Christian fiction, from the classics (Melville, Kipling, etc.) to romance novels, and even from self-help books to Christian non-fiction. I have been astonished to learn what books some people read and I have nodded my head and said, “I thought so,” when I discovered what others peruse. I can honestly tell you that ,contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, I have been able to draw no conclusion whatsoever about one’s maturity level or spiritual journey from the books they read.
Personally, I love to read. I’ve been castigated by some friends for the lack of spiritual depth of reading material, and by others for my disinterest in the so called “Best Sellers List”. At one time, our store sold Christian books, and I was amazed at how easily people were sucked into fads and crazes. In the 90’s, the self-help books were all about “codependency” and our customers bought them by the scores and even used them as discussion guides for small groups. Why was codependency such a problem then, but of no concern now? Was is a real problem which was written (and read) out of existence? Or, has it just morphed into a different form and now is being repackaged into new self-help books about, say….love addiction? The problem with most best sellers is that they have no durability or staying power. That’s why they’re called best sellers and that’s the reason I shun them.
I even tend to sneer at the latest Christian non-fiction, although I’m not uninterested in becoming the man God intends me to be or having my church be everything that the functioning Body of Christ should be. I just know that the “best seller” that matters here has been the best seller for the better part of the last 400 years in the English language, in the book we call the “Holy Bible”. That one, I own. That one, I read. I’m baffled that somehow believers are willing to get more excited about what a man or woman can write and have edited for them and put into a slick cover before being sold with slick marketing campaigns, than they do about what they claim to believe is Absolute Truth straight from God.
When I want to read something a little lighter, these days, I pull down one of my old favorites. I’ve read and reread Tolkien’s “Lord Of The Rings” and “The Hobbit” countless times as an adult, with new lessons learned about human nature and courage each time. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams is one of my favorites too, with the same type of lessons to be learned, this time from the perspective of …talking rabbits? Yeah, I know. Kind of strange, but if you’ve read the book, you’ll understand. “Pilgrim’s Progress” offers great wisdom for the journey. Of course, many of my choices are simply for entertainment: “The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn”, as well as “The Jungle Book” (the one by Kipling, not the Disney version) are old friends, too. Oh, and if you get jaded by life, there’s no substitute for “Winnie The Pooh” and “The House At Pooh Corner” by A.A. Milne for simple lessons on how to get along with others and a wonderful pun or two thrown in along the way.
I love to read and I thank my parents for giving me that chance as a young boy. No television in my home growing up! “If I want trash in my living room,” my Dad would say, “I’ll bring in the trashcans and upend them myself.” We had hours to enjoy books and the great outdoors. Many days saw me up an orange tree with a book in one hand and a ripe orange in the other, happy as any young boy ever was with expensive toys and raucous entertainment.
If you’ve got children still in your care, give them the gift of reading! Television and computer games are addictions which they will have every chance to develop later in life. Read aloud to your children and let them see you enjoying books. Get them their own good books and encourage them to spend time developing a love for the art of reading. It’s an amazing gift that will last all of their life. And, I promise you, they will thank you for it. I have yet to hear anyone gripe that their parents “made” them read when they were young (unlike taking piano lessons!).
Oh, and it wasn’t 6 for me…I’ve read 23 on the list. I’m not sure that there are many others there which I would choose to read, but maybe I’ll make the effort and hopefully, find some new friends along the way. There are worse ways to spend a cold winter evening.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”