Me: What are you reading?
Friend: Uh. . . well. . .
Me: Life is too busy to read for fun these days, eh?
Friend: Uh. No. It’s just that . . .
Me (my Spidy-senses tingling): What? Oh-my-gosh you’re not reading smut and are ashamed to tell me, are you? (I said this jokingly. I’m married to her pastor, and while I often forget that the world views me as “The Pastor’s Wife”, oddly, the world does not.)
Friend: No. Not smut! It’s just that what I read probably isn’t up to your standards.
My standards? Do I have standards? Should I get me some? How exactly does a person go about acquiring standards of reading?
A quick peruse of the books piled beside my bed (this is not staged, I’ve just gone to my room and listed the books I see on my bedside table):
- The Harbrace Anthology of Poetry
- Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into History
- Small Wonder, essays by Barbara Kingsolver
- No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green, by Melody Green
- The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, edited by R.V. Cassill
- Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: the private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk.
- Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning
- Inhabiting the Cruciform God, Kenosis, justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, by Michael J. Gorman
- How to Write a Sentence, and how to read one, by Stanley Fish
- My personal writing journal by me (filled with bits of odd gibberish)
- Good Poems, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor
- The Norton Introduction to Literature, (fourth edition)
- The Forgotten Waltz, by Anne Enright (library book—Please, Lord, help me remember to take it back. Fines piling up.)
- Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein
- Comeback Churches, by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson
- A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L’Engle
- Roget’s college Thesaurus (huh?)
- The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English, Selected by Margaret Atwood & Robert Weaver
- The Man in the Shed, by Lloyd Jones (library book—must keep track)
- The Gathering, by Anne Enright (library book—should attach beeper similar to the locator function on my cordless phone)
- A magazine called Leadership (this issues is entitled: Dark Nights of the Soul)
- The Harbrace Anthology of Drama
- The Norton Anthology of Poetry
Two things are clear: I have too many books burdening my bedside table. And secondly, my books aren’t about a personal “standard” of reading, but are a refection of who I am.
Reading is so personal.
I’m a student of writing (anthologies of literature, poetry, drama, books on writing), a pastor’s wife who has more than a passing interest in what her husband does for a living (explains the theology books, and magazine), a soul out searching in the world (Manning, Mother Teresa), a student of psychology (hence the leaning toward dark, introspective, Irish writers), and am pressed for time (short stories galore), and a kid at heart (Uncle John’s, Madeleine “L’Engle).
Oh, and they have books for sale at Value Village for, like, practically free.
So, here’s the thing about my friend’s impression that I have a ‘standard’ of reading that is somehow higher than hers—it’s just not true. Different, sure. Higher? I don’t even know what that means.
We live in a critical culture. Micro-managing backseat drivers abound. We’re conditioned to compare every facet of our lives with every facet of other people’s lives. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Reading is so joyful.
That feeling that comes over you when you crack the spine of a novel you’ve been looking forward to reading. Bliss.
That shock of recognition when you read the opening lines of a new-to-you author and realize you’ve found a friend.
Even if you’re the only one of your friends who is reading that novel you’re enjoying, I hope you read it anyway. If no one else likes what you like, I hope you like it anyway.
Your bookcase (or bedside table) is more than a collection of books. It’s a collection of the pieces of you.