A pair of recent conversations and a few memorable exchanges (one even included the surprise gift of a couple of books my friend had been reading!) have cemented for me the lasting impact and import of this simple, but sticky, question, “What are you reading lately?” It is a question which I routinely ask people in the course of conversation and it has led to numerous worthy recommendations for future reading as well as untold conversations full of fascination and information. However, it has also elicited the always startling response of, “I don’t read much.”
The numbers are in, and it does not look good. In fact, it appears that we may be on the verge of a self-inflicted age of “literate illiteracy.” While we are busily catching up on the latest Facebook gossip, or attempting to squeeze that 160 character quote down to 140 characters, our ability, and even our desire, to attend to something more complex than the latest clever meme making the rounds has alarmingly atrophied. As one New York Times writer opined in January of this year, “[According to a Canadian media study conducted by Microsoft] we now have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish.” According to recent Pew Research 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book in the last year and, worse still, 1 in 3 American men have not picked up a book in the last 12 months! The numbers sink even further for those with low incomes and no college education.
Reading is a gift which allows me to freely converse with ancients like Augustine and Isaiah. Through this marvelous facility I am able to pick the brains of brilliant and not-so-brilliant thinkers of our age like Hawking, Wright, or Dawkins (I will leave it to you to discern the brilliant/not-so-brilliant divide). Because of reading I have travelled to real places I will never put my feet, like the summit of Mt. Everest with Jon Krakauer or the South Pole with Sir Ernest Shackleton. Additionally, I have wandered the fantastical paths of Middle-earth and Narnia and crossed galaxies with Asimov and Herbert. The potential poverty of my life without reading is staggering to consider.
So, to the question again, “What are you reading lately?” I would truly like to know. Give me your best and most recent reads. Let’s share the love of great stories and the pursuit of worthy thought with one another.
In the spirit of transparency, I offer you my current reading stack:
The Nathaniel Drinkwater series by Richard Woodman. This series of nautical adventures is more robust that Horatio Hornblower and not so esoteric as Jack Aubrey. If you need to spend some time on the high seas, Nathaniel Drinkwater is a fine companion.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton. I am reading everything by Chesterton I can locate. He is eminently quotable and has a pithy wit. He would have an immediate affinity and command of social media were he living today.
The Collected Poetry of Robert Frost. His voice continues to stir something good, and pure, and simple, and profound in me. I commend a “Walk Through Snowy Woods” as you peer down “The Road Not Taken” and perhaps consider the business of “Mending Wall” with Mr. Frost.
Enduring Salvation: A collection of sermons delivered by Dr. Paul Vernon Bomar. Dr. Bomar served Siloam (the church I pastor) at the turn of the century from the 1800’s to the 1900’s. The opening line of the introduction is the following endearing quote from Dr. Bomar, “People ought to have religion enough to attend church regularly and sense enough to stay home in bad weather.” The sermons did not disappoint and challenge me to carry on the good work that others have done here before me.
How about you? What are you reading lately?