Summer is coming!

This fact alone is enough to make me happy.  But add to it the great books I can read this summer, and I’m about to do backflips!  (except that I have no idea how. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to!)

I’ve been asked to teach a class later this month on helping our families love books– a subject I’ve spoken on before– and I have some cool new (to me at least) ideas!

photo by Brenda Star

Have you ever thought about why we read books? What is it about Mr Darcy, Anne (with an “e”) and Harry Potter that draw us in?

Adventure? Romance? Magic?

Yes.  But I think there’s more.

Consider The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  (If you haven’t read it, you should.  No major spoilers here, don’t worry.)  In this book, society has done away with memories of the past.  No history is taught. No family generations share stories.  This, the theory goes, prevents hard feelings.  Keeps the world peaceful.

But when Jonas, the main character, has to do something monumental, he needs memories of the past.  He needs to know how people before him did hard things and succeeded.  He needs stories.

We are the same.  We read about people who have adventures so we can face- or imagine- our own adventures. We read about romance so we know how to navigate the twists and turns ourselves.  We collect other’s stories into ourselves to become more than we could be on our own.

Reading together is a bonding experience.  Of course, if we lived through something like the French Revolution with someone, we would be closer afterwards. (assuming we all had still our heads)  Reading The Scarlet Pimpernel together is less intense- thank Heaven!- but still brings us closer through shared laughter and suspense.  More than sitting through a movie together, books forge bonds.

Books open our minds to new ideas, new places, and new people.  I read and re-read A Wrinkle in Time several times while growing up.  I felt a bond with Meg who hated school as much as I did and came from a quirky family.  And I was fascinated by the idea of a tesseract.  Was such a thing possible?  I scoured the library card catalogue for reference to tesseracts and ended up checking out and attempting to read Geometry of Four Dimensions in elementary school.  I played around on my bedroom floor with the idea of different dimensions and non-Euclidian geometry before I knew enough to be intimidated the concepts.

Several years ago my kids and I read The Wright 3 and became a bit obsessed with Frank Lloyd Wright.  We visited a house he designed in northern Virginia, checked out stacks of books on his architectural style and poured over pictures.  To my shock, while flipping through a book from our local library, I came across a picture of the house we lived in in the Netherlands!  I plunked it in front of my kids and they all said, “Why is there a picture of our house in that book?”  I vaguely remembered the real estate agent in the Netherlands trying to impress me with the name of some famous American architect who had designed our house, but I’d never heard of him at the time, so I just shrugged.  I loved the house– especially the amazing windows– and the name of the architect didn’t interest me.  Until a book changed all that.

Books give us courage.  Like Jonas in The Giver, we all need stories of people who have succeeded to inspire us when life gets hard. This is a big reason we read scriptures.  Reading about David defeating Goliath helps us face the bullies in life with our shoulders back.  Learning how Jesus was compassionate to the woman caught in the act of adultery reminds us that we can be less quick to judge.  Great books are great, in part, because of the amazing people they introduce us to, and their ability to inspire us to be more.  Think of Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, Katniss in The Hunger Games and Frog and Toad raking each other’s leaves.

This summer, give books as birthday presents, take a book to the beach, listen to a book on CD as you drive to Disneyland.  Share great stories with people you love, and be inspired.


Some of my favorite reads recently include:

Tipping Point and anything else by Malcom Gladwell

 Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Entwined by Heather Dixon

 Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

 Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock