(picture courtesy of google.com)
I suppose others might think it odd that I find few things more beautiful than the well-written word. Honestly, there are not many things in this world that do more for me. That has not changed through the course of my life. My mother told me stories about how I would toddle over to the book shelf, grab a stack of books, and get the nearest adult to read all of them to me… and then I would go get more, and more, and more until no one would read to me anymore. Some stories I knew so well that I would turn the pages and enjoy the books on my own if no one was available to indulge my need for words. When I learned to read for myself a whole realm of new possibilities opened up, and as my parents and teachers can attest, I was rarely seen without my nose in a book from that time forward.
I do not recall meeting another child who reads as prolifically as I did at a young age. Most kids seem to get bored with just one or two pages, and the ones who do make it to the end of a story usually do not have the patience for another. Granted, most people who do love the written word develop a love of reading later in life than I did, but it seems like fewer and fewer people garner enjoyment from this simple pursuit. Most people I have met read out of necessity for work or school, but other than that not at all.
I have difficulty comprehending dislike or apathy of reading. I think if anyone tried to separate me from my books I would shrivel up and die. Okay, so that is an exaggeration, but you get the idea. I have learned so many things about a variety of subjects. I have seen into the minds of truly beautiful individuals. I have gone places both real and imaginary that I would never be able to go otherwise. The best part is, I get to paint a personal picture in my head of what these places look like. I get to feel things out. I can create my own experiences with little more than printed words bound by cardboard and string. In my mind, life cannot get much better than that.
I am not sure that I have any particular point to make about this other than that I think the world would be a much better place if people would read. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to find time, and yes, you will not always get to read about things you enjoy. It is still important. Parents, read to your children. Every child has something they enjoy, so figure it out and find books that cater to their liking. More often than not, kids do not like reading because adults read things that do not interest them, or else they are only given opportunities to read for school, and the books there bore them. I firmly believe if kids can have access to topics that they enjoy before they are old enough to read for themselves, they will be more likely to do well in school because reading will not be as arduous. After all, every subject under the sun requires at least minimal reading.
I fully intend to read to my children regularly. It may or may not have something to do with my own personal gratification, but I also hope they learn to love books the way I do. I hope. I do not expect my kids to be as freakishly bookwormish as me (though it would be nice), but I do hope they will be able to use reading as a useful tool in their lives. I want them to have more possibilities open to them in the future. I want them to discover new things, and develop a broader understanding of the world around them. Most of all, I want their reading to draw them closer to God.
I recognize that not all books are created equal. Some are better than others, and there are some that rise above all others in importance. If I had to categorize the written word I would separate it into six main categories:
1: Spiritually Satisfying and Enjoyable
2: Spiritually Satisfying but Boring
3: Not Spiritually Satisfying but Enjoyable
4: Not Spiritually Satisfying and Boring
5: Spiritually Repugnant but Carnally Enjoyable
6: Spiritually Repugnant and Boring
I am sure there are other ways to categorize things, but this is the best way I have found to separate things in my head. I am not going to take time to separate specific genres or book types into these categories because I know for the most part my personal preference would lead me to putting certain books in places that others would disagree with. I do not want or need virtual tomatoes thrown at me because I prefer Charles Dickens over Mark Twain, or whatever.
I stay as far away as I can from categories five and six simply because it is not good for the soul. Things that are pornographic, gory, or blasphemous tend to fall in those two slots. I see no reason to fill my mind with filth. to me, those things should never have been written in the first place as they give books a bad name.
Most textbooks fall into category four for me, especially if it is on a topic that is particularly dry, or uninteresting to me… like physics. Others might find reading about that enjoyable, but I find it boring. Again, that is personally my preference. Secular novels, biographies, histories, etc. tend to fall in category three unless I find them boring. Keep in mind when I say “Not Spiritually Satisfying”, I do not mean anything bad. There are plenty of books that are fun or good to read but that do not do much to uplift spiritually. As far as I am concerned, as long as they do not pull me down I do not have a problem reading them as much as I want.
Categories one and two are mostly reserved for scripture, and books that are specifically written with the intent to uplift and motivate the reader to do well. You might be surprised at some of the books I put in this category, but again it is my personal preference and I will not bother arguing specifics.
I would have to say, my two favorite categories are numbers one and three because they are both at least harmless if not uplifting and they are fun to read. I do read in two and four sometimes (usually for class or work) and I still benefit from them.
However you decide what you read, I hope you do. I hope you find something truly uplifting and/ or enjoyable. I hope you put down your electronic device, turn off your TV, and curl up in a corner somewhere with a book in your hand.