Can we read our way out of chaos and the morass of political, cultural and social disarray?
Can we connect soul-to-soul, writer to reader?
Can we change ourselves, our children, even our world through the virtues found in great literature?
Yes to all those questions say the publishers of books on the pure pleasure–and higher purposes–of reading. A quartet of new and upcoming books extol the virtues of delving into great writing, whether aloud with the family or alone to quietly savor the words.
Evangelical author Karen Swallow Prior, in her upcoming book, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos, Sept.) writes that we can love life, literature, and God through reading, and we have never needed that more than now when “solutions are uncertain, and civility is a lost art,” says Bob Hosack, executive editor of Brazos Press.
“Reading can provide the moral language necessary for agreeing upon and cultivating virtue. It can point the way to the flourishing life. The reading life shapes both our knowledge and practice. As readers find the good life presented through great books they discover these agents as allies for cultivating knowledge of and desire for the common good. As such, reading becomes a virtuous act—a resource for opening the treasures of time that can help readers to cope with the dilemmas of our day,” says Hosack.
This beneficial habit can be one of most joyful first lessons of childhood, a lesson the whole family can experience together, says writer, and mother of six, Sarah Mackenzie in her book, The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids (Zondervan, March 27) distilling the wisdom of her podcast, Read-Aloud Revival.
Reading together–even after children can read for themselves–is not only a gift, it’s a weapon for people who are “fighting against our increasing dependency on digital media. It focuses us in a different way, causing us to concentrate and experience one thing at a time,” says Zondervan executive editor, Carolyn McCready.
The benefits are huge–from talking about issues that may never come up otherwise, to connecting your family together in new ways through new language and shared stories. She reminds us that reading can be a communal experience. The stories she tells of her own family–and the studies she shares–are quite convincing of the benefits.
“Sarah is a person of Christian faith and has found reading aloud to her family gives them a natural opportunity to share about what they value and why–love, kindness, compassion, strength, bravery–all qualities that families may want to share and pass on but often find it hard to know how,” says McCready. There are spiritual classics on the extensive book lists, along with current fiction and the author recommends a favorite Bible to read aloud for each age from tots through teen years.
I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life (Baker, Sept.4) is not a specifically religious or spiritual book. It’s by Anne Bogel, whose podcast, What Should I Read Next? and blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, average more than half a million unique visitors each month. And it’s aimed at anyone who wants to revel in books at a time “when we are inundated with information,” says senior acquiring editor Rebekah Guzman.
Even so, says Guzman, Bogel’s book is threaded throughout with her worldview as someone shaped by the believers whose books she read. Bogel writes, “I’m still the twenty-something inhaling spiritual memoirs like her life depends on it, and maybe it does—churning through Madeleine (L’Engle) and (Evelyn) Underhill and (C.S.) Lewis and Kathleen Norris and Dallas Willard and Eugene Peterson and Barbara Brown Taylor like they were oxygen.”
Indeed, C. S. Lewis, author of so many spiritual classics, was himself “a consummate reader,” says Mickey Maudlin, senior v-p and executive editor for HarperOne. In spring 2019 the publishing house will bring out The Reading Life, a collection of reflections and essays by Lewis. It’s the culmination of a trio of Lewis collections including How to Be a Christian (June) and How to Pray (August).
“People know about his classics but there’s a lot of good material—lesser known talks, criticism and essays—that I want to showcase in The Reading Life and give readers a new way in to Lewis," says Maudlin, who added, “Reading is the most intimate soul to soul meeting you an have. There’s no filter. The words pour from one soul to another and no one interferes to tell us what to think about them. That’s why it’s so powerful to read. Books are the way we adjudicate life.”