About reading: A few words about the reasons for this blog
If you read this blog, here is something I should tell you up front: reading is a spiritual practice for me. I really believe there is a guiding force that puts before my eyes the precise books I need to read at each particular moment in my life. It’s actually difficult for me to read anything that has no perceptible connection to that spiritual dimension. Required reading such as instructions for a computer or a car repair is infinitely more difficult that voluntary reading of say, Plato or Victor Hugo or the Bible. If I am required to read something for work, say an instruction manual for software, my mind bangs itself against the walls searching for spiritual value to grasp only in a sterile room. And it’s pretty good at finding it.
But when I am reading great literature there is no need to grasp at dust mites. In great literature I find that spirit surrounds, floods, and permeates my mind, abundant as trees in the forest, each with hundreds of living leaves, nuts, fruits and seeds. It’s like walking through a garden with more flowers than you can admire. Most great books are like that.
Some works of modern literature express what happens when the generous spirit is absent. Examples of these kinds of books are The Trial by Franz Kafka or 1984 by George Orwell. The value of these books is that they bring to life the horror of the absence of things like human decency and kindness. They are really cautionary tales. You end up feeling relief that you do not live in that world, like waking up from a nightmare. And just maybe you will act in ways to try to prevent our world from becoming anything resembling those worlds.
For many years I have been nourishing my spirit with the lush waters of classic literature. At some point in my adult life in the midst of career and raising my kids, although it was a gradual realization, I realized that even though I had a degree in English, I had not achieved the kind of education I wanted and needed. Reading itself helped me realize this, and reading Memoirs of a Superfluous Man by Albert Jay Nock made me realize it even more deeply. That was one of those books that really penetrated to the core of my being and turned on a few lights in the dark basement.
I write this blog because books make such an impact on me that I need to share. I know other readers are different life journeys, so obviously not everyone will relate to the books I share the same way I do. About a year ago I started Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and could get no purchase on the text. It was doing nothing for me so I put it aside. Several months later I tried it again. I had come to a different phase of my life and this time I thought it one of the best things I had ever read. Some books I read multiple times, and each time have a different experience. Orthodoxy by G.K Chesterton is one of these. I have read that one at least seven times. Also most of C.S. Lewis’s books. I have read his planetary trilogy, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, and Miracles several times each.
I don’t read only classics. I also make an effort to read lots of contemporary literature. Just a few of the wonderful recent authors I have enjoyed in the last couple of years include Elizabeth Strout, Jennifer Egan, Matthew Thomas, Gabrielle Zevin, Anthony Doerr, Muriel Barbery, and Anne Fortier. I have also been discovering some more recent classics from the 1950s and 1960s, books such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, Stoner by John Williams, and the incredible A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Reading books that are 40 to 60 years old is an entirely different experience that reading books from the Victorian era and post-War 1920s literature – Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf – is yet another experience. Putting books from all these eras into your repertoire opens up vast vistas of insight and understanding of the world we live in.
In the past couple of months I have been on a sort of a self-help inspirational book rampage: reading books to remind myself of what’s important and help me redefine my life goals. I cannot afford a psychologist or even a life coach, so books are the best and most affordable way I can get a little counseling from wise people. I have just finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and absolutely loved it. Other books that have helped me with some priceless advice include The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondu, The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I guess the overriding theme here is freeing up that creative energy and disciplining myself to do something with it. I may share some articles about some of these books.
The reason I like to write about most books I read is that writing helps me sort of process the huge impact that a good book has on me, impacts on the way I see the world, other people, even events in the media. Where does this new experience and new understanding fit into my evolving picture of reality and my place in it? I cannot even begin to process that until I write about it.
Also, when you have a significant experience you tend to want to share it. And so I do in hopes that someone might benefit from my reading experience. If you want to share your reactions or thoughts about a book, I always welcome your comments. I love the idea of blogging for profit, and maybe someday I will do that – on another blog. I have no problem at all with making money; however this blog has nothing to do with profit. You will never be asked to buy anything here. Well maybe I will have a few affiliate links to Amazon, but so far I have not done that.
This blog is the outgrowth of my original blog Carol’s Notes, which I started a little over five years ago. I am in the process of discontinuing that blog and moving a lot of my articles to this one into sort of a resource library that you will find soon in the menu, mostly organized by author. My current special love is Leo Tolstoy, especially his later writings. I will be doing a continuing study of these works. I also love art so I illustrate many of my posts with my own modest artwork which I am constantly trying to improve. (If you are interested in my evolving art story I have another blog for that called Jots and Doodles.)
Posted on October 3, 2015, in Reading Life and tagged carols book blog, life of a reader, reading as spiritual practice, reading classics from different eras, secret of of a reader, value of reading. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.