I love books. Ever since I learned to read, I would never leave the house without a book (or three). I was a very shy child, and whenever I found myself in a strange place or in strange company, I was comforted by the fact that I had my literary friends with me, and could escape into other worlds where my shyness was no hindrance.
Nothing has changed since then. When life seems overwhelming, when I am stretched thin by schoolwork or the responsibilities of being a wife and mother, I turn to novels, again and again. I sink into a comfortable chair and gently open a book, sniff the faint scent of glue from the brand-new binding, and within moments, my cares fall away as I am whisked away on adventures with new and old friends.
Chapters later, I resurface, rested and refreshed. Having climbed Mount Doom with Frodo and Sam (The Lord of the Rings), faced down cyclops (Odyssey), or chased down a variety of criminals and tricksters (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), I am more than ready to take on a pile of dishes or another five-page essay.
Through books I have been able to meet people from all walks of life and across time. I grew up in the Big Woods watching Laura’s family make cheese and cure ham (Little House in the Big Woods). I watched with bated breath as a group of merry Englishmen rescued French aristocrats during the Reign of Terror (The Scarlet Pimpernel). I discovered the insanity of war, as well as the deep humanity that remains (Catch-22). Through books, I have come to understand people from varied backgrounds and with different outlooks on life. I believe that reading has helped me develop a strong sense of empathy, which allows me to better interact with the people God has put in my life.
Above all else, I love to read because I believe that good literature inevitably points us to God, or at least our need for God. Authors, whether Christian or not, set out to capture human nature in their stories. In the messy, chaotic world that we live in, there are some writers who catch a glimpse of something good and beautiful, and present it to us in tales about the struggles of fellow human beings and how they overcome their trials with strength and determination.
British novelist and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis once said that stories were the “unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination”. How true! Some stories encourage and inspire me, capturing the good that is in this world and reminding me that God is at work. Other stories, while a little more distressing, gently recall the brokenness of humanity.
By reading them and by sharing the lives of people so different from me, I am better able to love those around me, and to see God’s work in our world ever more clearly.