In the summer, many libraries have read-a-thons for kids. Beaches and airplanes host millions nose-in easy reads. I wasn’t able to stick to just one novel at a time this go ’round, too much chaos, not only in the country, but in my heart, my head, the space around me. This is a season of change, a season of plenty in my life, and my nightstand chock full of teachers’ and inspirers’ words, as well as my own sleepily written in a journal atop them, reflects that.
As a toddler, my father reports that I preferred to sleep with books than stuffed animals. I will note that I, too, loved the fluffy cuddly inanimate creatures and still have my beloved Blueberry Bear stashed away for safe keeping. My living stuffed animal, my dog Porter, is ne’er far from my side when I read from the current stack at my bedside.
I collect them. I could spend a full day in a library or bookstore reading backs and inside covers, absorbed in awe of all the stories and knowledge out there. Books for me, words for me, are like friendships, are like people. I love nothing more than growing deep in knowledge of another being, listening, feeling, smiling, taking in what they offer, giving what they’ll receive. My brother once pointed out, as he hugged in shoulders, not surprised when I told him excitedly of a new friend I’d made on a plane ride, that everyone I meet becomes a friend. I’m not so sure that’s entirely accurate, though I do greatly value my connections with people, with story, with the life we share when we connect. They have benefitted me more than any amount of money or knowledge. And yet, I yearn for quiet– to hear a one-sided tale now and again.
Finding my way into quiet, with or without the company of a good book, has been the most healing journey of my life thus far. Much like Shauna Niequist describes hers,
“My life is marked now by quiet, connection, simplicity…I fail and try again more often than I’d prefer. but there is a peace that defines my days, a settledness, a roundedness. I’ve been searching for this in a million places, all outside myself, and it astounds me to realize that the roundedness is within me, and that maybe it was there all along.” (Present Over Perfect, p. 27)
That said, what I glean from a good read, is similar to a good friendship:
- A reflection of truth, often the authors, but one in which I see my own humanity reflected, and therefore have compassion for the story teller
- A meaningful challenge, a reflection of the writer that sparks me to see a different perspective, or yearn to
- An affirmation of goodness, the value of life, the connection we have to all of life, and the inspiration to care
- An inspiration to write, to record, to document, to process, to play creatively with words, oh I do love words.
It wasn’t until after my college years of studying social movements, inequality, and the unjust education and criminal justice systems, plunging my nose into beloved tellings, like I’ve Got The Light of Freedom, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and The Skin That We Speak, that I got the novel fix. I plowed through historical fiction, All the Light We Cannot See, and the trendy dystopia, The Hunger Games. I found my way, eventually, back to true stories, real lives, steeped in hopeful, heart-breaking, spiritual and transformational goodness.
This season of change, I keep clearing my nightstand with a weekly room sweep, but the stack grows within the week to these below that I seem to need to keep open all at once:
The last two, novels, beckon me like a dream, but it’s only a few reads before I yearn again for reality, grit, tangible tangy truth that reminds that I, too, am real.
So, what are you reading?
It’s time again to reconnect with what inspires you;)