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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Books, Books, Books!


I'm thinkin' that more than one of you can relate to this sentiment. After all, you're here -- reading this blog.

The books that we choose to read are most often carefully selected as being ones that we will either find enjoyable or beneficial (if not hopefully both!) given whatever period of time we have to read. My guess is that you don't want to waste time reading worthless books. (And yes, I do believe in such a thing as a worthless book.)

A few months back I read Tuck Everlasting (linked to my review) and at the end of this particular edition, there was an interview by author Natalie Babbitt in which she expressed a desire that the publishing industry wouldn't publish quite so many books because there were plenty of older titles just waiting to be read. (I'm paraphrasing her remarks.) However, she said, authors (like herself) keep spitting books out and so they keep on coming and we readers are given more and more reading options.

I do consider reading time to be very valuable and I do guard it rather ferociously. I do so in a few ways. For one thing, I have always staked out my children's nap times as my own private time. If I am going to be able to read at all, it usually happens between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. That time is for me and the books (and whatever housework or meal prep work is waiting for me.) Occasionally I do like having a visitor during that time frame, where I can engage in some sweet and uninterrupted fellowship with a friend. Every so often that's a lovely thing and I look forward to it because it's a treat! The majority of the time though, that's my time to engage with stories and spiritual instruction.

I also have become even more choosy about the books I select to read. I used to accept a great many more review copies, for example, than I do now. But as Babbitt said, there are so many older titles that are very much worth a read that I don't want to spend a lot of my time reading what is (more often than not) modern fluff. I'm very happy - and personally entertained - by a good middle grade adventure story and my reading time there serves the additional purpose of my building a good home library for our children to make use of when they are appropriate ages.

Ultimately, if I had to boil my selections down to a specific reason, I would have to say that I want to be choosing books that cause me to do the following:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I don't want to be filling my mind with explicit scenes or foul language. I do not want to immerse myself in false doctrine in such a way that might persuade me that it is true. I want to read things that excite the imagination, engage the senses and thrill me to think noble and courageous thoughts. I want to be very purposeful to engage with things that are pure in purpose - where the message of the book is not so garbled that you cannot make heads or tails of it and its virtue is speculative. If reading time is short - I don't want to waste it. I would like it to be as profitable and satisfying as it can possibly be.

When reading time is so very limited - how do you go about selecting your books? Do you put conscious thought and effort in to it, or are you more of a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of reader? Do you read anything that is recommended to you, or are you a person who investigates their reads before agreeing to spend time with them?


“The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.” Theodore Parker (1810 - 1860)

“The reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in which they reveal to us none but the best of their thoughts.” Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650)

“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 - 1762)

11 comments:

Annette W. said...

I've been trying to be more careful with my book selections...text and audio. Audio is a bit more difficult since I do not purchase (or review) but borrow from the library. Like you, I try to avoid explicit scenes and language...and have stopped more than a few audio books that had a very good story bc of it.

I don't have a set reading time though...sometimes while the kids nap...sometimes before bed...when I can't sleep during the night...

I think you are wise in your choices, and it is obvious that you enjoy the books you choose!

Barbara H. said...

I empathize -- I have the same feeling of "so many books, so little time." And because of that, and more importantly, because of the verse you mentioned, I am selective in what I read and have pretty close to the same standards as you, I think. A lot of what I read these days I have seen recommended on other people's blogs, most often, of course, people whose recommendations I can fairly well trust. With Amazon and CBD reviews, too, though they're not fair-safe, they can give some indication. I'm not one to just pick up a book off the shelf and start reading it without looking into it a little.

Barbara H. said...

I meant "fail-safe" in regard to online reviews.

Carrie said...

Sigh. I've already changed my reading time since I wrote up this post! =D Constantly learning and readjusting. Right now my reading time is in teh morning. I'm still hopeful that I'll have some time between 2 and 4 to read, but now I'm just focused on morning time.

mary bailey said...

Carrie, you're doing great to have any kind of reading time with 3 little ones!

I have the verse from Philippians on a plaque near my desk to remind me about what I should be reading and writing. I also use it to measure movies and TV, which is why I hardly ever watch any TV!

As I like to escape into fiction, I often feel like I spend more time *searching* for good books to read than actually reading them. There's a lot of junk to weed through.

Carol in Oregon said...

I seem to toggle between reading to clear my shelves and reading for edification.

I suppose the best thing I could do for my reading life would be to stop reading blogs (gasp!). Because I am enticed to read more and more titles.

Sometime I read what I imagine is a B-level or C-level book just to check that off the list and put it in my pile of books to go. They are usually decent books, but perhaps not the best writing or best content.

Other times I select from my A-level collection. I like to space these out; I feel rich when I know I have two or three highly excellent books at my beck and call. For instance, I've had Unbroken since February but I'm happy having it on my shelf until the perfect reading occasion. It might wait until hunting season when I have long stretches of time alone.

I have a mental list of authors whom I hold in high enough respect to want to read all they've written: Shakespeare, Trollope, McCullough, Barbara Tuchman, Dickens, Wendell Berry, Wodehouse, Lucy Maud Montgomery, George Eliot, Spurgeon.

Getting into fantasy land, there are some hefty works I'd like to read which will require discipline and perseverance...but which I believe will reward the work: Calvin's Institutes, Matthew Henry's commentary (I missed my opportunity last year), for example.

I've never been interested in pursuing review copies of books. I'd rather someone else did the work of triage and let me know which ones are truly worthy of my attention.

I'm sorry for going on and on...

bekahcubed said...

I am absolutely arbitrary in my reading, grabbing whatever catches my eye (so long as I fill my little quotas at the library--2 Christian fiction, 2 secular, 1 literary, x nonfiction, x juvenile fiction, so on and so forth.)

Then again, I have the luxury of time, being a single woman with only myself to keep clothed and fed!

With my library reading goal, I give myself a lot of liberty with reading huge varieties--but I'm much more selective about books I get that aren't at the branch library. If a book isn't at the branch library, I want to know that I'm going to want to underline and annotate it, that I'm going to read and re-read it, and that it's going to build up my faith. My personally purchased library is QUITE selective!

Bluerose said...

I tend to be a fly by the seat of my pants type reader....mostly. I try to have in mind what I want to read next, but my mood changes so much! I have a few bloggers that I really trust with their reading suggestions(and you are one of them). If I see a book suggestion from someone I don't know and/or trust, I try to do a little research without finding out TOO much about the book. I like my surprises. :)
Since my reading time is so much more valuable now, though, if I don't like a book I'm reading, I don't MAKE myself finish it. I used to make myself finish a book once I started it. :P

Shonya said...

1) reading time here is also 2-4 pm and about once a week 10-12midnight or so. . .
2) I like to research most things I read (one reason I like your blog! smile), but I also read things spontaneously--sometimes that goes well, other times not. . .
3) I agree there are worthless books
4) love the quotes
5) I really liked this post! :)

Alice@Supratentorial said...

I've gone though phases of planning out my reading (making lists for the year) and just being completely sly by the seat of my pants.

Currently, I'm in a stage of being a bit more intentional combined with being a bit of fly by the seat of my pants. I'm reading through a list of classics from The Well Educated Mind and I have a long to be read list that guides me in my next choices but I'm not immune to the charm of picking up what catches my eye at the library.

As for time, I read whenever I can. I read fast so I don't worry too much about investing time in a book but I am becoming more choosy as I get older and have less time. I read in all the empty spaces of the day (brushing teeth, at stoplights, while cooking---isn't that what cookbook holders are really for?, etc.)

BerlinerinPoet said...

You know, I was just in my room the other day looking at the ridiculous amount of books that I'd like to get to, and got a little frustrated thinking I might not even LIVE that long! haha!

I may be a bit cavalier about my selections, although, I (like you) often just close up a book if it surpasses my "smut level." I've learned that this level is almost zero tolerance after a joined a book club with mainly unbelievers.

I have this cool thing that I didn't make up, sadly (I wish I could take credit for it). I read 50 pages of a book and if I'm not gripped I put it back on the shelf. Then, a little later, I try again. If I'm still not gripped in 50 pages, I give it away. This is for older books, mind you...the ones I feel like I probably "ought" to read. Recommendations I usually TRY to get to, especially ones by close friends or people who I just know I share tastes with.

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