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Little Luxuries?

There is something that annoys me no end. It occurs when I or another book-lover start to talk about books and the person we are conversing with makes some high-handed comment that goes something like this: “I wish I had the luxury of time to read!” This seems to me to be an insult-in-disguise, as if I must be wasting my time if I’m caught reading a book, especially a novel of all things.

If you dig further, you’ll probably find the comment is made out of insecurity. Perhaps I came off sounding too intellectual and they felt inferior.  I hope not, but it could be the case.  Or maybe they used to love to read, but seriously haven’t the time or (more likely) the priority to read and so they feel guilty.

Whatever the case, I am trying to learn to not take it personally. But I started thinking about the whole thing of books and luxuries.  In the area of the world that I live in, we (me included) take books for granted.  We have access to libraries, bookstores, used book sales, interlibrary loan systems, and book selling websites.  School, college, kindles…  Books are even pitched by the hundreds by thrift stores that do not know what to do with all of the ones they receive as donations.  However, in other parts of the world, to own just one book is a pleasure that many people don’t have.  Even being able to read is a luxury and could change a whole family’s life forever if just one child could learn.

Time to read is a luxury as well. I am realizing this as my life changes.  When I was a homeschooled teenager, I read all day for school and then read some more afterwards for ‘fun’.  I’m finding I can’t read as many books in a year as I used to.  Other basic things like cleaning, working, grocery shopping, sleeping, taking time for spiritual growth, etc. take precedence.  However, I have learned to rearrange some things and that has been helping lately.  I’ve found that when I set parameters around certain time-wasters [ie, pinterest!], I can then set reading as a higher priority.

Although I wouldn’t consider reading as essential to life as meal-preparing for example, it vies as a close level category. Why?  Because reading affects quality of life.  When we read, we are open to learning.  When we can learn and grow, we can stretch beyond what was previously possible.  I don’t mean that a person will ‘get rich quick’ if they are able to read.  But the quality of one’s mind and decisions stemming from that will be greatly different than someone who chooses to remain un-self-schooled.  Reading and learning go hand in hand.

I notice this effect in the community in which I live. I don’t abide in a particularly affluent neighborhood.  Along with living here comes stereotypical opinions from others.  It is true, a lot of my neighbors are generally unread, unskilled, and spend their time choosing to engage in unrefined activities.  However, there are a few folks here I’ve come to know who are different in that they are principled, learned (by choice), and their lives have more order and structure.  They may not have a lot of money, yet their quality of life is elevated because of their values (usually honoring God falls into place here), and their determination to be open to learning in the world around them.  Perhaps what is the most mind-blowing is that both of these sets of people have access to a perfectly good library within possible walking distance!

The luxury of time to read? Time may be a luxury depending on what season of life you are in but if one has available access to books, reading should not be a luxury, rather it should be an appreciated necessity!

PS- Many utilize the more trending medium of audiobooks to get more ‘reading’ into their busy schedule.  This is perfectly acceptable, as it still incorporates the power of story and learning into one’s life.  I use the term ‘reading’ in this article to include ‘listening’ as well.

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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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How Biblical is the Fantasy Genre?

Someone recently approached my mom and asked her if she liked fantasy.  Sure, she said; some of it.

What constitutes fantasy that is good as opposed to fantasy that is bad?  Is there a difference?  Is there something about it that should make one hesitant from a Christian perspective, or are they all just good fiction stories?  As Christians, we may sometimes be reserved when approaching the fantasy genre because different reasons.  Too much unreality may not be beneficial, or maybe the magical elements are of a corrupting influence.  Then, I have known other Christians who seem to practice no discernment, and devour anything because none of it is true so what’s the problem?

I first discovered author Gene Edward Veith while helping out in the church library.  I still have yet to read his books, but a growing number of his titles are on my TBR list.  I stumbled upon this article written by him, entitled Good Fantasy & Bad Fantasy.  I thought it was an excellent piece that approached the subject in an well-rounded way.  Though perhaps written a few years ago, it’s content is still classic for today’s audience as well.

What are your thoughts on the fantasy genre?

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Reading Fiction

I loved this article by Caryn Rivadeneira I found on Think Christian. I hope you get a chance to read it (it’s not very long), but basically, it is about the importance for Christians to read fiction as well as non-fiction books.

I confess that I am deeply concerned when I hear Christians say they ‘could care less’ about reading, or that they only read non-fiction. I have made two observations about these sorts of people.  If they don’t read at all, they are usually a person I have a hard time connecting with because I find them narrow minded.  The observation about the people who only read factual books is that they are usually men.  As if ‘real men don’t read fiction’ the way they also don’t eat quiche.  Or quinoa.  (And if they don’t read at all, they probably don’t know how to pronounce them either.)

I don’t care if the Christian reader or care-less non-reader is male or female. There is an important spot in their intellectual, emotional, mental diet for fiction.  They are probably not generally against watching movies, but the difference is that fiction requires more application and imagination.  Yes, it is something to be developed.  It is not a passive activity.  There are different reading levels and one will probably start at the bottom and work their way up if their mind is not used to reading.  But I have known deeply well-read people (even men) who have well-developed minds and emotions.  This must be evidence that not all fiction is fluff.

I don’t believe any book is better than God’s holy Word, the Bible, and I am currently reading a marvelous non-fiction book on the spiritual life by Brennan Manning. But even so I often find that God can use fiction to speak to me in different ways.  Not all books all the time, but recently there have been a few good reads that I believe God has used to draw some things to my attention, that have bothered me until I was forced to think about why.  These books weren’t necessarily Christian or literary.  But when I read fiction, I am put into the place of the characters and their feelings and I experience their lives in a way.  And it reminds me of things in my life past or present, and it brings things to the surface.  Is this scary?  It can be sometimes.  But God is there with me, holding my hand through it.  What a friend we have in Jesus!  He’s even my reading buddy.  🙂

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Dr. Rosalie de Rosset on Popular Fiction

b1893aa5519046e7963ad36493183ecfI discovered this article on Christianity Today that was published a few years back, in which Dr. Rosalie De Rosset was interviewed on the subject of popular fiction.  Despite the piece’s title “Women Are Being ‘Cheated’ By Fifty Shades”, the article is not particularly the same old harangue against E. L. James’ novel.  I found it to sum up Dr. De Rosset’s views on modern fiction and the Christian reader.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Q: How Much Do You Read at a Time?

d8f0759d4e55f98655a9919f46a67346I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!

I have a question: How much do you read at a time?

Some people will sit down and devour a whole novel in one sitting because they are so absorbed in it. But, most of us do not have this luxury even if we wished hard for it.  After all, we are busy living our own stories as well!  So just how does a person go about deciding how much to read at a given time?

There really is no right or wrong way to answer this. Even the above example of reading a book in a day is not ‘wrong’, although there are some studies that show a person will not retain as much of what they read if they do not take some breaks or time away from it.  I find this true for me, yet at the same time can also struggle to remember what happened when I take too much time away from break to break.

A lot usually depends on the free time a person has. Actually, I really shouldn’t write ‘free time’, as what time in this world is really free?  Time is more like an investment.  How much time can you afford to invest in reading a particular book?  As some books are light entertainment and others are more like brain exercise, the answer to this question might vary from book to book.

My goal this year had been to read four books a month, whether fiction or non-fiction. As it turns out, I had way too much on my plate for this to become a reality.  I have been lucky if I’ve accomplished reading 2 pages a night!  (I will have to analyze this dilemma further and figure out how to remedy it in the coming year, but more on that later.)  My goal is at least a couple of pages every day if I can’t make it more.  But the point is to not quit reading, no matter how slow it is taking me!

Sometimes when I am reading, I will decide on how much to read at one sitting by how long the chapters are, or the length of sections within a chapter. Sometimes I will be reading in the middle of a dialogue among characters, knowing I have to soon break off to go do something else or go to bed, but not wanting to end it in the middle of the verbal action.  I hate breaking things off like that, and it’s also hard to pick it back up and get in the swing of things later on.  So I usually read to the end of the conversation and break off at a scene change or during lots of narration.

Obviously, the more one can read at a time, the quicker the book will be finished and one can anticipate the next story. People are different in how they like to read, whether they love to slowly savor an interesting book, or prefer to quickly find out what happens next.  How do you like to read?

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in Reading Habits

 

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Book Review: “Sanctuary,” by Beverly and David Lewis

1139765Genre: Amish; Christian Inspirational; suspense

Plot Summary: Ryan and Melissa James have been happily married for three years living in a dreamworld on Lord’s Point on the Atlantic Ocean. But all is not as it seems. Suddenly Melissa goes missing, leaving a vague note behind for her perplexed husband. When Melissa ends up in Lancaster County after having temporarily escaped the Russian mafia, she is welcomed by a Mennonite woman into the Plain community. Will Melissa ever see her husband again, and how will she escape when the murderer who killed her father shows up again?

My Book Review: To be honest, I’m a bit biased as I very much dislike Amish fiction. I’ve never really seen that particular genre with the rose colored glasses many others seem to and don’t like fluffy Christian fiction. However, I’ve always thought of author Beverly Lewis as being the mother of the modern Amish fiction movement and a cut above the rest of the genre out there. My mom had this book and I remember her telling me bits about it when she read it nearly 15 years ago. It sounded like it had an interesting plot and the main character wasn’t Amish, so I decided to give a try.

I guess you can’t really consider this book as ‘Amish fiction’ since the character of Lela Denlinger (who welcomes Melissa into her home) is actually Mennonite. But she lives in the Amish county and has an Amish sister, and the Amish and Mennonites are closely related.

This book made quick reading. Lewis’ writing style is very light and sweet– a bit too sugary sweet for me. I thought the characters felt a little too stereotypical and the details were dated as well. At the beginning of the story, Ryan and Melissa are nonbelievers but become saved during the course of the story. The instruments of grace God uses are their friends Denny and Lela. I usually have a high pain tolerance when it comes to preachiness, but Denny in particular felt quite heavy handed with the preaching. So if you don’t like preachy Christian fiction, this book probably won’t be for you.

Lela is given a love interest, but it doesn’t really tie into the main plot very well and it just seems to be page-filler. I didn’t much care for the character of Paul Martin, who ditched her for someone else years earlier and now is lonely with a forlorn son and bascially wants her to feel sorry for him and take him back.

On the positive side, there were several plot twists that really surprised me toward the second half of the book that picked up the pace of suspense. I liked that not everything was completely sorted out at the end of the last paragraph, but left you sort of completing the story in your mind’s eye.

I don’t think I’ll wish to read any more Beverly Lewis books, but I have enjoyed some of her stories translated to movie. I’ve decided I enjoy them much better that way. If you’d like to dip your toe into Amish fiction, this book may be a good place to start. Beverly Lewis is a well known best selling author, and I’m sure her books have probably gotten better over the years. But once again, this genre just isn’t for me…

Here is a thoroughly written article about both sides of the ‘Amish fiction debate’…

 

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Character Reflections Series: Heroines Who Explore

372c66a171300933e6dd929f738cb84eIt’s been a while since I’ve written a Character Reflections Post (mainly centering on heroines, rather than heroes), so I think it’s high time I added another article to this subject!

I enjoy many different genres, and yet just about any of the books I read have a common theme connecting them together.  The books I love appeal to my sense of adventure.  Which might seem sort of strange if you knew me in person because I don’t really strike anyone as a LIVE OUT LOUD kind of girl.  What is adventure exactly?  We know it contains an element of risk, but why risk?  Because it’s the exploring of the unknown.  We don’t really know what will happen, and it will either take courage or foolishness (depending on the endeavor) to follow through with the adventure.

Today I want to focus on the exploration aspect of adventure.  There are many kinds of exploration, not necessarily the kinds that will take a character through the secret passageways of ancient pyramid in Egypt.  Are you an explorer?  Every human starts out life as an explorer.  As babies, we first discover our fingers, then our toes.  Once we can focus on objects and distinguish mommy and daddy, we move on to crawling, then walking and getting into all sorts of trouble!  As we grow older, some of us lose that childlike sense of wonder and awe of the world.  That’s when grown-ups get old and stuffy and why I never wanted to grow up when I was a kid.  But I’ve since learned that adulthood doesn’t have to be that way.  We can still be mindful to look at God’s world with new eyes every day, and that is the essence of childhood.  I love this quote by J . R. Tolkien:

“Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans. Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey…”

39fc26dbc95d073b4e5c2b6133c9bf51Some of us will admit we still love to read childrens’ stories.  The best childrens’ literature speak to adults just as much, if not more so, than to children.  They include timeless truths that weedle their way into our hearts better than most non fiction does.  Think of some of your favorite childrens’ stories; I’ll bet they include exploration of some sort.  The Giver, by Lois Lowry is a dystopian/sci-fi novel about children who explore the world they never knew surrounded them—a world of color and emotion.  Edith Nesbits’ stories are about children who explore their own world with the added element of magic.  And who doesn’t love exploring the magical world of Narnia with the Pevensies?  It all starts with the youngest of the siblings: a little heroine named Lucy who explores a wardrobe and then a new world because she has a childlike heart of faith and adventure.  Then there is Susan.  Susan is always the kill-joy of the group.  It’s understandable.  She’s the oldest sister with a mother-hen personality.  She experiences human fear, but don’t we all?  It takes courage to embark on adventure, coupled with a healthy dose of discernment and wisdom.  But in Prince Caspian, Susan worries to the point that it hinders her capacity for doing what needs to be done.  She wants to abandon the adventure in lieu of safety back home.  It’s easier to be that kind of character.  But it is Lucy who is remembered as the series’ heroine.

It doesn’t take magic to explore.  Another great children’s novel is the 1957 classic, “Gone-Away Lake,” by Elizabeth Enright.  In this book, Portia and her cousin Julian explore the local woods surrounding her aunt and uncle’s house.  They observe butterflies, birds, mineral rocks, moss, and other natural specimens.  But then they discover their biggest find of all: an abandoned vacation lake town and the elderly couple who lives there.  What have you discovered while stepping out your comfort zone?  Exploring adds mystery and color to life and keeps us young.

6f1bdc5a752501c5cc6ff2a9f52b65c7It can also humble us.  Sometimes I think some of the hardest people to get along with are the people who “know it all already” and never grow, change, or learn.  They stay in the same spiritual, emotional, mental rut that they were in 20 years ago and refuse to consider that someone else’s viewpoint could be valid.  I’m sure we all know someone like that, and maybe we act like that a time or two!  A heroine who discovers that perhaps she doesn’t hold all the answers to the world’s problems is Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Her world is turned upside down when her family moves to a place she never wanted to go to and she now has to adjust to new culture and ideas.  As she learns from those around her, she realizes that there isn’t just one perfect way to do life.  And she grows as a person because she has explored other ways of thinking instead of being comfortable with her own opinions.

“…to search out a matter is the glory of kings,” the Bible says (Provebs. 25:2).  It also tells us in Psalm 4:4, “search your hearts and be silent.”  A quality of character growth includes exploring our own lives to see if something needs dealt with, confessed, or healed.  This might take the biggest courage of all.  Some people explore the world and all it has to offer just to avoid this vital kind of exploration.  But their personal problems sooner or later catch up with them.  Hayley finds this out in The Trophy Wives Club, by Kristin Billerbeck.  Divorced at 28, she has to do some deep soul-searching so she can move on with her life and not repeat the same mistakes she made in the past.  How did she get to where she was in the present?  What was her personal responsibility and what wasn’t?  Who is she now?  What does she want to be and where does she want to go?  These questions aren’t answered at just one time in our lives, but over and over throughout our lifelong journey.

Heroines are capable of exploration and adventure.  Let’s not forget real-life heroines, like Sacajawea who played an important part of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Or Mary Kingsley, the 1800’s British explorer of Africa.  Amelia Earhart: pioneer of aeronautics.  And Marie Curie, physicist, chemist, and researcher of radioactivity.  We can read about these inspiring females and the roles they played in history and explore the world from an armchair!

What are some of your favorite heroines who explore, whether famous, fictional, family member or friend?

 

 
 

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