As a preteen I spent hours in other worlds. When Dad came home from work, he always knew where to find me. I devoured countless Boxcar Kids or Mandie adventures and read more than a few books from historical fiction series while I was totally oblivious to anything else going on in the house. I traveled the world with homeschooler Hope Brown and solved mysteries with the renowned (but unrelated) Encyclopedia Brown.
While in high school and college I read for schoolwork but less and less for my own interests. When I did choose a book for my personal reading, it was usually a book I thought I *should* read but didn’t necessarily enjoy, and eventually it was too obvious to deny: I had lost my love for reading.
Once I graduated, my lack of reading habits continued until I realized how much of my “reading” was done on social media. Which doesn’t really count, if you’re wondering.
So I started again. Slowly at first, but my habits have grown stronger and more entrenched. I have a couple of books going at the same time, and more than once recently I’ve stayed up late because the words on the page won out over sleep. Some books are still more educational and less thrilling than others, but that’s okay. Some books are like that.
Why do we read? Why is it important to have an established pattern of reading? Books have been written on that. But I haven’t read them yet, so I can’t give you the official answers.
What I can do is tell you my reasons for reading again, and how books have persuaded me to spend time on them. Your reasons are probably different, and that’s okay, too. There are lots of reasons. Comment and tell me yours!
I need encouragement for the issues and struggles I face.
I know I have a problem with seeking after the approval of others. But I’m not the only one. So do Edward Welch (When People are Big and God is Small) and Lecrae (Unashamed). Maybe someone struggles with idolizing entertainment. So did Brian Ivie (The Drop Box). As humans, we will probably be able to identify with many different struggles and problems on different levels, and even if a particular story doesn’t mirror our own at all, we can still glean truth from it. And that truth will be ready and available when we need to apply it to our own lives or guide us in the way we relate to others who may have similar struggles.
I don’t have enough time.
Life is short. Our years go by so quickly and are full of responsibilities and tasks we can’t leave off, which means many things maybe we’d like to do have to go undone. I don’t have time to do it all, but I can live vicariously through others who have done things I haven’t, like Eric Alexander, who climbed Mt. Everest (The Summit).
I can sort through textbooks and college-level classes to form my own opinions on big issues, or I can read the book of someone who already did that and recorded their own experiences in a way I understand. Most political figures have written their memoirs, and many in other professions have as well. Excuse me while I go visit Laura Bush in Spoken from the Heart.
Okay, I’m back now. But seriously, life is too busy for me to do all the things I’d like to, and FOMO may be all the rage but it is frustrating, too.
I can’t do it all myself. I shouldn’t even try.
I have a limited perspective.
While there are some things I can’t do for lack of time, there are plenty more I literally can’t experience, because I wasn’t raised in Islam (Hiding in the Light, Rifqa Bary), confronted by Nazi soldiers (The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom), or born with a severe disability (Life Without Limits, Nic Vujicic). By reading others’ unique stories, I gain an insight into my own that I wouldn’t have had without their perspectives.
I have been given so much–and I forget to appreciate it.
I used to misunderstand fiction. I read in a biography (back when I was still reading the first time) about a missionary who disdained fiction because she didn’t want to tell children in her charge anything untrue. That resonated with me, and I held it as my unofficial position for years.
But do we really want to do away with stories? No more movies or those read-alouds I loved growing up? What about The Chronicles of Narnia?
There is power in stories. Good stories show us beauty and specialness in life, and bring us to a deeper understanding of ourselves by watching characters we love.
Again, fiction is powerful, and it can be negative just as easily as positive. Even easier, probably. I think we need more discernment in fiction books over nonfiction due to their power and the freedom authors have in creating their fictional worlds. But with that said, I have come back to loving stories again—both true and untrue. And one of these days I’m going to attempt LOTR.
So there you go. We are busy. We have much to do, and reading can be hard to fit into already overflowing schedules. But there’s one more thing I’ve learned about that.
Time can be found and redeemed.
We may be surprised how much time we spend doing not really anything at all, and reading can give greater return for that time than scrolling Facebook or even catching up on the headlines (really, there is some news that just doesn’t even deserve to be reported). How often are you simply waiting? Maybe you ride public transportation or rock kids to sleep or have a job with lots of “free” down time. Any time you find yourself on social media can typically be turned into time with books, especially through the new e-reader availability.
Reading isn’t everything. But as we choose our books tastefully and spend our time on it wisely, may we find greater returns than we ever expected.