I've been thinking about the pleasures of reading. In part this is simply because I have occasionally found myself curled up with a good book, the world receding from active thought. I don't have a boat or a pond or a lazy glade in which to read, but this painting by sergeant perfectly captures the mental escape provided by a good book. (photo taken at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art)
Which reminds me that I have been remiss in maintaining book lists, partly because keeping the list is not as fun as time spent reading, but also because I still struggle with the idea of even keeping a list, even though there is some aspect of my nature that can't relax into the next novel until I've caught up with my accounting. The fact is that keeping a list has proven useful, serving to remind me of when I read a book, perhaps even that I have read a book, at least before I get through it a second time wondering why it seems so familiar (see Rules of Civility).
Of course there are good reasons not to keep a list as well, especially when one does so in order to claim bragging rights. The point is never about what you've read, except inasmuch as what you have read, if you have read it well, becomes a part of who you are. I see already that the above statement is misleading as I've just said that what you read doesn't matter and in the same sentence stated that you become what you read. That may give me pause. There are many things I've read which I sincerely hope do not define me. Lucky this is not the case with the books I read in June.
Perhaps there is a purpose in writing a book post as well in that it forces me to think about the books I've read after the fact, when they are no longer forefront in my memory and my emotions are apt to be swayed. It also allows me to make a pretty collage. Well, at least the previous months' reading materials yielded pretty collages; June's collage is mostly brown. Did the colors of the book covers affect my thoughts on the reading? No, but it is interesting that my favorite book, Lincoln in the Bardo is blue.
Both of the two theology texts are required reading for EFM year 4. Since I will be taking EFM mentor training, and these book are on the schedule for the next cycle, I shall keep them. Of the two, Timothy Sedgewick's The Christian Moral Life is my favorite as it made me question my beliefs and think about the way I live my life in retrospect to the principles I profess to believe. My Neighbor's Faith is fairly light reading, and I did not find it either deeply theological or thought provoking, consisting as it did of brief personal stories. However, since one of the themes of year four, besides theology, is about deepening one's faith through interfaith dialogue, the book can be enlightening and perhaps even upsetting for those who do not have friends of different faiths or have not been inclined to engage others on matters of belief. Unfortunately I will have to buy a new copy of My Neighbor's Faith as Moisés peed on it as a very pointed protest at having been forced to move, and rather than dry it out and live with the urine-scented pages, I discarded the book. I know at least one person who does not believe that there is any valid reason for interfaith dialogue and who would applaud Moisés's actions. I however disagree.
As I look at this collage, it strikes me that three of the books, Lincoln in the Bardo, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor, and Unbroken, all deal, at least in part, with how people come to terms with change and stress and trauma in their lives, with grief and strength and fortitude, with creativity and passivity and their benefits and consequences. To some extent my reading of each was informed and influenced by my readings of the others. But only Lincoln in the Bardo remains on the list of books I will read again.
And David Foster Wallace? I'm glad I read the book; the essays were brilliant riffs, often entertaining, often far too personal, making them at times uncomfortable to read. It is not my favorite volume of his essays, yet my perspective on the author will never be the same.