Saturday, December 19, 2009

Me and Books

I heard someone say once that heaven would be a library. As much as I love to read, that makes no sense. The making of books is a completely human, completely earthly pursuit. In heaven we will have perfect knowledge, supposedly, so books will be unnecessary; at the least, we will not care about the human pursuits that drive the writing of books. Of course, this makes heaven seem incredibly dull, for us bibliophiles, but if we just make heaven out to be a nice version of our best days on earth, we are missing the mark quite a bit there.

I will read pretty much anything that is recommended to me, but not necessarily what is given to me. I have found that people don’t always read the books you give them. Books have to be chosen, I think; that doesn’t always mean bought, of course, but chosen from a shelf, whether retail, used, or library. We are blessed by McKay’s in Chatanooga, and I can’t go in there without buying a used book. I bought John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, and Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain the other day, to join the pile of thirty I need to be reading or want to read. I plan to finish an Alexander McCall Smith tonight (quaint, the equivalent of TV-watching) and finished Big Stone Gap and The Road (what a combination) in the last few days. I am also reading academic materials.

Eclectic would describe my reading habits and choices, which I would expect from anyone but am disappointed to know is usually not the case. People get in ruts with their reading, even professional readers (English teachers, book reviewers, journalists, and others who make their living around the written word).

Ecclesiastes says that “of the making of books there is no end,” and that was before the printing press. I sometimes wonder why I want to write fiction when I go into McKays or a public library—there are more than enough books in the world. But we keep writing them, and some are even good and worth reading. It is more than just hoping to make some money from it. There is something inherently human about the permanency of words on paper for others to see and even more, understand and perhaps even appreciate.

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