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My personal library. Annually I go through the exercise of pruning my library of books I will not read again or will not recommend.

Pandemic Reading

By now you have either watched too many movies, or have been reintroduced to your own imagination by way of reading. As far as I can tell it was “Vulture.com” who first coined the term “Pandemic Reading” very early into this Pandemic (posted March 10). Over a month later other magazine agencies like the NY Times started to write their own variations on the theme.

What have you been reading? What prompted you to read what you’ve been reading?

When I made a trip to SE Asia before Covid 19 was deemed a pandemic, I carefully selected a number of books for the travels (as I usually do). Yes, paper books, not ebooks; I still love the tactility of books – and besides – I mark them all up (since I often re-read, reference, or otherwise want to remember) – something ebook readers haven’t successfully managed to my satisfaction. I try to select from different genres like fiction, non-fiction, and something educational/challenging. And yes, I know books take up space, but that’s fine with me.

The Reading Arc

In early May, Rebecca Moon Ruark posted an interesting article titled “What your reading arc says about you“. Ruark got an idea from a Twitter contact, @MattWeinkam, associate director of Lit Cleveland, who “proposed a fun exercise for us reader sorts”:

Chart your reading arc from childhood to present day in 10 books.

What does your reading arc say about you?

Kelly Griffeth was inspired by Ruark and posted, “Judge me by my Books“. She writes:

“I read her [Ruark’s] fabulous post and got right to it, scribbling down titles as they came. For every point in my life’s journey, I have at least three stories that impacted the way I see the world. For example, I have four craft books that helped me in different ways (two made the list). Many books on my long list read like walks over hot coals, but they imparted perspective I’m grateful to have. For a book to make the ten, I had to love it as much as it changed me.”

I could not put it better, and it serves as the rubric by which to select a book.

My Reading Arc:

I have on occasion confessed that I was not much of a reader in my formative years. Either I was too active physically, or too lazy academically, I rather “read” comic books and Mad Magazines. Such was my delay to the way books can enrich. It was actually after University – after the forced readings – that I began to set a simple goal of reading a book a month – just to keep my mind active, and to keep up the skill of reading and imagination.

Here are the ten books of my Reading Arc:

  1. The first book I every read willingly was the Bible. Can you believe that? I was 13 when I gained what I call a living faith in Jesus, and thus began my first very slow and awkward reading of the Bible in King James English. Though I could hardly understand it then, the Bible has been my constant companion over these many years, and I am still reading to understand.
  2. The Transforming Friendship by James Houston, (age 33 – during the occasion of cancer treatment). Houston more than any other person/author has been the great spark to my intellectual and spiritual formation. I suppose I could list all his books, but I restrain myself (see Top 60 @ 60). This is the book that started me looking at a wider horizon of Christian thought over the centuries. I count him as a friend and mentor, and marvel that he is still teaching/writing at age 98!
  3. The Confessions of St. Augustine (age 37). Without intending to, I realized I had become “somewhat” Augustinian. He begins, “You O God arouse us to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
  4. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis (age 41). A book I refer to quite often as a source of rich analogy. One cannot go wrong with any of Lewis’ works, and it is a shame to list just one of his.
  5. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (age 42). This is one of those ageless classics that commands re-reading even though it is written in the Russian tradition of being so difficult (smile).
  6. In the Name of Jesus, by Henri Nouwen (age 47). This small little booklet based on a talk Nouwen gave to leaders; it is one that keeps inspiring thoughtful course correction. He reflects on the temptations of Jesus at it relates to leadership.
  7. Between Cross and Resurrection, by Alan E. Lewis (age 57). One of the most brilliantly articulated books I have ever read, written by a man who knew he was dying. This was surely his magnum opus.
  8. Answering God, by Eugene Peterson (age 58). A wonderful little book on the Psalms that reveals so much about prayer with the usual sparkling insights by Peterson.
  9. Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen (age 59). A man who’s genius was borne of anguish, here is his attempt to help a friend (and all readers) to understand ourselves as beloved by God.
  10. He Held Radical Light, by Christian Wiman (age 61). This is a masterpiece. It is a shock of beauty. Be prepared to read and re-read every well-crafted page… and have a dictionary nearby.

What Does my Reading Arc say about Me?

The exercise was a struggle of books vaulting to be in the list. It was an exercise of memory, and here are some of my observations:

  • I read very little that was memorable in my first 33 years except the Bible!
  • During and after Cancer I began to read for joy and insight having nothing but diminishing time on my hands.
  • The older I get, the more memorable and impactful the books seem to be to me.
  • Though only two works of fiction made it into the arc of ten books, they are rich with Christian spirituality.

I welcome your observations, and a description of your reading arc.

For a longer list of great books, see Top 60 @ 60: the top 60 books I’ve read selected on the occasion of my 60th birthday.