Are you a reader? An avid one? Or someone who likes looking at the pictures instead? I’ve spent time in both camps, but I prefer to see myself as a reader, first and foremost.
I was talking to my wife about reading in general, and it occurred to me that reading has left indelible marks on my life, and my soul. I have always loved reading – my mother told me that I was reading the newspaper when I was four years old. I read constantly and almost obsessively.
That changed somewhat as I got out of high school – I still read a lot, but it was mostly magazines and newspapers. I can’t exactly explain why, but I didn’t read much in the way of books after I got married – I had the time, but not the inclination. After a moment of introspection I still can’t put my finger on why I put my beloved reading aside for a while. I’ve recently, in the last couple of years, begun to read again. With three kids, I spend as much time reading with them and to them, and not exactly the kind of stuff I enjoy, but I’ll gladly give up my own reading time to read for and with them – these days won’t last long, and I’m certain I will look back fondly at having read to my kids every night and will wish for these days to return.
I’ve always loved real books. For me, there is something about holding a book, and smelling the paper, and imagining the work that went into it – planning it out, writing it, editing it, printing it and finally, me holding it and soaking it up, feeling the paper as you turn each page. With that said, I’m not a militant book supporter – I’m a militant reading advocate. E-books are very likely the future, and I even took the plunge and bought a series of e-books for my iPad. I will get to these e-books eventually, but I still have scores of unread books waiting to be held, to be cracked open and to be enjoyed, for better or for worse.
I’d like to share three books that have affected me. This isn’t a definitive list and I’ve read many, many books that have left an impression on me – good or bad. I just thought of these ones for very different reasons and that’s why they make up MY list.
Here are mine:
The Bible – having been raised in a Christian household, I’ve spent my whole life reading (or trying) to read the Bible – when I was young, I was more or less reading it because it was a chore or a task assigned to me, but I still got a lot out of it. Unfortunately, I put the good book aside for many years, often casting a cursory glance at it, but choosing to read something else instead. I’ve recently become more acquainted with it, and I do feel strongly that everyone should read it or at least become familiar with parts of it. You can, of course, choose to ignore the religious aspect of it, and you can take from it what you want or what you choose. But to ignore an entire book of volumes that is the most read, most widely translated, and most referenced book in the history of our world; to ignore a book that is arguably the most influential and also historically significant book on the face of the Earth; and to ignore a book that, regardless of your interpretation, doles out an incredible amount of wisdom as well as insight into humanity’s history – good and bad….. to ignore this book would be to miss out on something, regardless of what you take away from it. I can’t imagine someone reading the Bible and coming away a lesser person.
When Eight Bells Toll by Alistair MacLean – I first read this book at some point in early junior high. I was on a camping trip in Radium with my big brother, and I don’t even know if I brought a book with me on that trip. We ended up going to the water slides just outside of Radium, and we were enjoying the hot summer sun, sitting on the side of the pool and talking. I noticed my brother had this book, and I asked if I could read it. Alistair MacLean has a very particular writing style and it’s not for everyone. But I have read almost all his books, and I consider them excellent escape fiction. The first twenty pages of that book grabbed me as no other book had. I can explain – it’s not that it’s such amazing fiction or writing, it’s just that I’d never read a more adult-oriented book before then. I think I was still making my way through the Hardy Boys’ adventures, and the fact that Franklin W. Dixon wasn’t really an epic writer but rather a collective of students using the pen name hadn’t been revealed to me yet. And so, this book had an impact on me, in that it exposed me to the grittier, harsher, more painful side of fiction and I experienced more depth in my reading than I had to date. I’ve read better books, of course, but at the time, I found it to be a tremendous crime thriller, and the dry humor often took me a re-read or two of a sentence to get. It was an amazing book to me, and I immediately picked up a whole box of MacLean novels when we got back to Edmonton and didn’t stop reading them for years. I’ve never turned back to the Hardy Boys since.
God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau – this is one of the most recent books I’ve read. It is a first-hand account of one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, taking the reader back into the ’80s and ’90s, where a combination of religious and political division took a major toll on the residents of Southern Sudan, and resulted in a horrifying humanitarian crisis in terms of health, families, food, shelter and emotional scarring. There is a movie by the same name, about three “Lost Boys”, one of them being the author of this book. I’ve always tried to be thankful for what I have, and not to take things for granted as I firmly believe that all the great things in our lives can one day be taken from us. But reading a story like this, and realizing that every moment in it, surreal as it may seem, actually happened, is truly a wake-up call and a reminder of how good we have it here. We’ve never really known true strife, and this book hammered that point home, again and again. It left me shaken at people’s ability to treat other human beings and their lives with utter disrespect, but more so, it reminded me of how amazingly resilient we are and how incredibly flexible our hearts and souls are.
As I mentioned, this list is comprised of but three books that have meant something to me, at some point in my life. No singular human relationship, no one single thought, and certainly no single book will ever make a man what he is, and that wasn’t my point here. This is only a fraction of my story.
I am hoping to hear from you to see which books you’ve read that have made a difference, whatever that might mean, in your life. Take the time to make your way to the comments section of this post to share a few things with me (and other readers) – a couple of books that have affected you, how and why they affected you, and why it might be a book that someone else should read.
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