I see by the bookmark that I began the book in September of 2012. I read through Lincoln’s death, then sidelined it for some reason. I think I just had to sit with what I had read, the truth of it, the impact of the country losing such a man at such a time. How much could have been different,- I truly believe would have been different, if the Almighty had allowed him to live.
This blog is about books though, not Abraham Lincoln, or Bill O’Reilly. Having finished a book last night, I had two tasks before me: first, to file away the bookmark (more about this later), and second, to find another book to read. I need to qualify that the book I was looking for was to fill my bedtime reading spot. I have several books going at once; they each have their space to fill, depending on when I have time to read. Early evening is history and bio. Bedtime is fiction, mysteries, or “bestsellers”. I take my reading very seriously. Seriously. Ask my kids.
The book I was shelving? Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup. If you saw the movie, you don’t know the story. The book is a must-read; if my kids call from the library (as they often do) and ask for a recommendation (they usually get a dozen), this will be at the top of the list.
I am finding that I am starting way more books than I finish! When a book that is on hold at the library comes in, of course the book I own gets bumped in order to have the time to fit in the library book. That really just keeps things interesting; I never know when the library book is coming for sure. Suddenly I find I need to put my Reagan bio down to read Leandra deLisle’s book on Tudor queens-so interesting to read more than one book at a time! I get amazed and excited about how they fit together, informing, complementing, challenging, without any plan that I have made. F. Scott Berg’s Wilson is my early evening read, and I’m so glad for Northup’s book on the other side, or I may have accepted Wilson’s thoughts on slavery and the South:
“The whole course of the South had been described as systematic iniquity;…the southern people had been held up to the world as those who deliberately despised the most righteous command of religion. They knew that they did not deserve such reprobation. They knew that their lives were honorable, their relations with their slaves humane, their responsibility for the existence of slavery among them remote.”;from Division and Reunion,by Woodrow Wilson, p. 212)
Northrup’s book tells a different story, revealing the true conditions of slavery in the South before the War. We need both sides of the story, and we need honest storytellers. We also need a generation willing to read books. Social constructs have changed, which is obvious to everyone, but no less important and troubling are the changes in the way we spend our leisure time. Even with the advent of Kindle and Nook and books on CD,–there has never been a more convenient age in which to read books, but who really does? Beyond the trending books, is anyone reading the classics? Is anyone reading literature? Everyone is an author these days, as is obvious by the fact that even I am writing in a blog, but are we reading for true knowledge and enrichment, or is it just no end of words, and words, and more words… Of course, it is easier to get the stories we want and need through an easier and more entertaining medium, but sadly, Hollywood has not told an honest story in so long that I take it for granted that I will need to read the book to get the truth. Everything from Cool Runnings to Secretariat to Monuments Men to Twelve Years A Slave contains numerous fabrications and omits the truth.
Image and Imagination, a collection of writings by C.S. Lewis that was recently released, is another book I am trying to muddle through. Honestly, I only understand about ten percent of what I am reading, but I keep moving through it, not just to be stubborn, but I am truly and totally enjoying the book! Lewis’ knowledge and understanding of such a huge scope of topics blows me away, but he is able to take huge ideas and do something in his mind to convey ideas that the reader can understand (as I could if I had a doctorate in literature from Oxford…). His wit alone is worth the time to read. As with most books, I am coming away with a book list. Sources cited, bibliographies, other authors who commend the work, all are sources of new books. The out-of-the-way books? Not on the bestseller lists? Often the best.
This should be a summary of what I have been trying to say through what I’ve written, but I will leave you to figure that all out. I have, by accident, found a good system for keeping track of my reading history, if you are interested in such a thing. My husband graciously donated a business card holder he no longer used; it holds several dozen cards. You can find these at any office supply, or probably even WalMart. I purchased a box of printable business cards (which I got to tear apart), and whenever I get a new book, I write the name of the book, author, date, and type of book on the card. It then becomes my bookmark. When I’m finished with the book, whether I read the whole thing or not, I make any notes about the book on the card and then store it in the holder. At the end of the year, the holder gets cleaned out, a rubber band around the cards, and then they are stored away. So when my kids ask, as they will, for the name of a good book, I have plenty of ideas!
Someday in the future I will blog about my all-time favorite books. For now, here are some that I have read this year and would recommend. I can’t say that I loved them all, but I enjoy any book that makes me think.
The Light that Failed by Rudyard Kipling
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup
Dutch by Edmund Morris
Death By Living by N.D. Wilson
Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton
High Call, High Privilege by Gail MacDonald
Of course, no list would be complete without Helen MacInnes, and I most recently read Prelude to Terror . I have been reading her books in order, and sadly, am coming to the end of the them.
I recently read some lines of a poem by Charles Williams, an English poet/writer and contemporary of Lewis:
“How curves of golden life define
The straightness of a perfect line.”
(Taleissen through Logres)
I cannot yet tell you in words what ideas I have when I think on those lines, but they pull my brain along, forward, beyond. We all need that pull, we all need ideas and the artistry of literature and the honesty of good and thorough research. Tony Reinkin asks in his book, Lit!, what competes for reading time? what is less important than reading?, and challenges us to make the list. On paper. It is too easy not to read. We have a call, even from God I believe, to model reading for our children and grandchildren. “Curves of golden life.”