Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Conversation in Books

My book shelves are filled with books I have yet to read and my Amazon wish list and Goodreads "to be read" list both sport a huge number of books. Not infrequently, however, someone I love speaks of a book they are reading. Their tone of voice and facial expression tell of their delight with the book and reveal how it has touched them in some way. Immediately, my curiosity is aroused, and so I set aside the long list of books calling to me to see what has called them.

When August was reading Redwall, his enthusiasm piqued my interest, so I read the first book in the series. When Taylor was reading Harriet the Spy, I wanted to re-read it, and after Anna Mae read Pegeen, the second in a series by Hilda Van Stockum, I borrowed it. I read The Body Ecology Diet after Jennie Lou found it, and I read the Faith Club based on Ashley's comments. When Ginger described the wonders of Christiane Northrup's Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, I bought and read it. Every time I talk to Andrea, I leave eager to read the books currently on her bed-side stand, and Culley's pleasure with the audio production of The Subtle Knife had me running home to download it.

I know that books serve as a conversation; I learned this back when I was in school. Writers of any merit are conversing both with earlier writers as well as with their audience of readers. Anyone who has been in a book club or shared a book with another person recognizes the way in which books evoke conversations among readers. For me, the conversation moves beyond this, however, for I've found that reading books that appeal to people I love also serves as a window in their hearts and minds because it seems clear that the book's appeal is likely a reflection of their thinking and values.

That's why when Raleigh spoke about enjoying The Shack, I immediately bought and read it. I knew the book was Christian fiction and that the spiritual ideology was likely to differ from my own, but I wasn't reading it to find support for my own practice. I was more interested in the tale that evoked my son's satisfaction with this book. I wanted to know him through a story he loved.

I wasn't disappointed. I found a window into the nature of his faith and the manner in which love and forgiveness serve as his underpinnings. Though Raleigh and I have not spoken directly about this book, I feel like we've had a conversation because we've read the same words on the page and we've each responded these words. As I read The Shack, I was able to consider where our thinking was likely to have connected and where it might have diverged in response to William Paul Young's story, just as I wondered about Jennie Lou's and Taylor's thoughts when I read The Body Ecology Diet and Harriet the Spy.

The conversation offered by books is far reaching, rich, and deeply satisfying. It's always worth it to put aside a book on my list to pick up one enjoyed by my dear ones.

1 comment:

Jennie Lou said...

A reflection of your real love for us.