Most of you probably know that I am a bookworm. In all senses of the word. I remember it really started in second grade. The library at the old Haldeman Elementary School in Eastern Kentucky was dark paneled, high ceilened, musty smelling, and had wonderful tall bookshelves full of old dusty books. I found a section of books called historical fiction which I had never encountered before. I found books about Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. All of them written in story form. Long chapter books. I was hooked.
After that I always had a book with me. I would hide it in my desk and when I finished my work before everyone else, I would pull my book out and read. I would also hide it in my lap, and if the teacher was being especially boring, I would surreptitiously glance at the book in my lap. I remember being caught every once in a while. But not often.
By sixth grade, I was averaging a book a day. Not short books either. I remember that Little Women took me two days. It was so long! It was about that time that my English teachers started supplying me with books. Have you tried this one? Here, you should read this! When we were overseas in Haiti, with no library available, I would borrow from anyone I knew with books. And fortunately, we had a lot of book-reading friends.
I was indiscriminate in my choice of reading. I read some really good books. I read some really bad books. I read some books that have stayed in my memory and the good things I learned from them have stayed with me for a lifetime. I’ve read some books where I still have a lingering sense of guilt that I actually read such trash.
When I started struggling with anxiety, I had to take a break from reading. I found that books too easily messed with my emotions and when I was feeling fragile, I couldn’t risk letting a book tip me into anxiety again.
When I struggled with depression, I found the same thing. Books became something I had to be cautious with. And this is when I started just reading fluff books. Or re-reading old books that I knew were calm and peaceful. Kind of like watching silly sticoms instead of watching artsy films from film festivals. Every once in a while I would slip up and read something new, that looked pretty innocent, and then it would take me down an unexpected path of self-awareness on issues I didn’t feel like being self-aware of. One book series I accidentally picked up, managed to jump up and down on all my old wounds and I ended up having to do a lot of soul-searching, talking, therapy, prayer, etc before I recovered from that. (Though I do not regret it. I came out the other side, a much healthier person.)
All of this to say, I am rather careful about what I read these days. Which makes my decision, this past week, to get a book from the library, rather surprising. I went to the library with only one child, and I actually spent time perusing the shelves and finding something that looked enjoyable. I thought I was up to reading something new. I ended up reading A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr. Very good book. Very depressing book. Very uplifting book (but only if you really think about it and analyse it a bit). It took me two days to read, and by the end I was waving my kids away, Just a minute! I’m on the last chapter! Hold on a second! And then I read the last line, slammed the book down and stomped off. Mad at myself for getting all emotionally involved in a book again. Unable to stop thinking about it.
And then, during our bible study this morning, I found myself thinking about the book again, and realizing that the author was pretty in tune with the book of Romans. And I was glad that I had read the book. Even though it took me a couple days to really process it. In a nutshell the book is about the unrelenting sinfulness of man and the unrelenting hope of the cross. If you are up for an emotional roller coaster, I would highly recommend it.
I am now comforting myself with Venetia by Georgette Heyer. A book I have read before, a most wonderful piece of amusing, clean fluff. (As long as you can overlook the latent sexism that seeps through any romance written in the 50s.)
My end conclusion is, reading is dangerous, proceed with caution. But it’s also stimulating, exciting, and can lead you on amazing adventures of learning and growth. Also proceed with caution. I know that reading has shaped me, good and bad, into who I am today. And I will always proudly wear the title of Bookworm.