I am currently reading a book that I first read 27 years ago as a high school assignment. This is without question, the most rewarding experience I’ve had since I committed several months ago to read a book a week. That’s saying a great deal.
It was in fact this new commitment and the near constant stream of thoughts it birthed which led to the authority in my life to direct me to resume writing, but about books instead of relationships or culture. People love to argue about relationships or culture he reasoned, but there will be very few in this era that even bother to read a book, let alone the books I read, and even less who care enough to read a housewife’s ramblings about said books. And so here I am, but I digress.
I am halfway through a book I was assigned to read my senior year of high school. It’s an acclaimed book, by a renowned author. It also happens that I have an intensely personal connection to the one of the central places where the book is set. The “rediscovery” of this particular author was emerging right around the time I graduated high school (1989), and this was what caused my AP English teacher to assign it.
I recall she thought that I, of all her students, should devour the book. She wondered what I thought of this and that and the other. I was not, at the time, mature enough to appreciate the historical significance of where I lived. I wasn’t particularly proud of it, and I didn’t much appreciate being forced to read about it. I’d been force fed history about my hometown from kindergarten, and I also knew a fair deal about this author who she was so excited was finally being acknowledged. I was bored.
Fast forward 27 years, and here I am, devouring this book. Seeing the broken and battered black Southern dialect at the end of reconstruction as beautiful as it was hard to read until I got 20 or so pages into it. I’m able to see the 125 year old churches that I actually sat in, walked passed, and sang in through entirely new eyes.
This is the difference between simple reading, and the ability to devour a book with equal parts contemplation and wonder. It is what I want to pass on to my children, the legacy of being a devourer of books. To quote Booky McBookerson:
If you have books, kids will pick them up. If not, books will not likely be seen as of any import a lot of the time. I can’t imagine a house without books, and pretty well never consider a book purchase a waste of money.
If you’re reading here, I already know that books are a great part of your life. How are you passing that on to your kids?