Why do we read?
Author Lynne Griffin suggests,
“No matter the narrative, we read to explore human behaviour and the intricacies of social and emotional life.”
I like the idea of reading being an exploration. It is a journey into the unknown and the unknowable. It is a search for the pearl of great price. It asks that we lay aside every unnecessary piece of baggage.
Reading isn’t escapism. It is engagement. It is coming face to face with who we are. It is looking into a mirror darkly. It is staring at the reality that is our life.
Wendy Lesser says,
“Nothing takes you out of yourself the way a good book does, but at the same time nothing makes you more aware of yourself as a solitary creature, possessing your own particular tastes, memories, associations, beliefs.”
Reading is a singular pursuit. Our approach to reading is personal, a reflection of our passions and desires. We read like no one else. Sometimes our reading is frantic, sometimes leisurely, sometimes intense, sometimes considered.
Petrarch, the Italian scholar and poet in Renaissance Italy penned these words,
“Books give delight to the very marrow of one’s bones. They speak to us, consult with us and join with us in a living and intense intimacy.”
Reading is not something to be approached carelessly. It is something to be valued, something to be prioritised. There is power in the word to alter our perceptions and to change our beliefs.
Nicholas Carr says,
“The words of the writer act as a catalyst in the mind of the reader, inspiriting new insights, associations, and perceptions, sometimes even epiphanies.”
There is also power in the word to bring healing and wholeness.
Harold Bloom says that we should read slowly, with love, openness, and with our inner ear cocked. He explains we should read to increase our wit and imagination, our sense of intimacy–in short, our entire consciousness–and also to heal our pain.
There is one proviso. We need to avoid reading books that make us feel hopeless, books that are unnecessarily sceptical and cynical, that undermine our commitment to life.
I would like to share with you a quote from each of my top ten books for 2017, books I would gladly recommend.
The Birdman’s Wife – Melissa Ashley
Though grief was an emotion I knew well, it became a too familiar garment that I resisted taking off – walking in it, sleeping in it, washing it once a week.
The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben
Every tree is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way around, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance.
The Broken Way – Ann Voskamp
Maybe our hearts are made to be broken. Maybe the deepest wounds birth deepest wisdom.
The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova
People seem to believe that despair is the same as anguish, but it is not. It’s true that despair is surrounded by anguish, but at its core, despair is silent, a blank page.
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
Belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.
Benediction – Kent Haruf
People in their houses at night. These ordinary lives. Passing without their knowing it. I’d hoped to recapture something… The precious ordinary.
When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went.
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.
The Choice – Dr Edith Eger
Healing isn’t about recovery, it’s about discovery. Discovering hope in hopelessness, discovering an answer where there doesn’t seem to be one, discovering that it is not what happens that matters – it’s what you do with it.