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Tuesday, August 8, 2006

A Time to Read

The Bible says, in Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. For me and for many people, summer is a time to read. I have always loved to read. I canít remember when I didnít read. I was blessed to have a father and a mother who read, even though neither of them had more than an eighth grade education. My oldest sister has told me that she learned to read fast by reading over my fatherís shoulder. When he came to the end of a page, he turned to the next page whether she was done or not. I was especially blessed to have this older sister who not only read but subscribed to a book club. I loved it when those books arrived and I could read them. I remember reading a book by or about Ernie Pyle, Probably This is Your War.

We lived about 40 miles from the nearest town with a library. There was a smaller town about 14 miles away but as far as I knew, it had no library. Unfortunately, we didnít go to town often enough to be able to check out books. I read every book in the one room school library including the works of Shakespeare. The teacher told me that I wasnít old enough to understand them but I felt compelled to read them anyway. There were wonderful books by George MacDonald. One I remember well was At the Back of the North Wind, the story of a little boy named Diamond who lived in a room over the coach house. There was Black Beauty and the Bobbsey Twins.

After the Second World War, when books were available again, the teacher (my sister Lyla) ordered new books. A few came and I read Caddie Woodlawn. I thought it was marvelous but it didnít last long enough. I always wanted more. I am afraid I read for pleasure, mostly. I have many reference books and read those also but I love mysteries and novels and biographies and whatever comes along. Once in a while I come across a book that is not fun and I have finally given myself permission not to finish. This last weekend we were talking about books when the family was together for a memorial service for my sister-in-law, also a great reader. We agreed that Umberto Eco was the most difficult author to read that we had struggled through. I read The Island of the Day Before when Kay sent it to me in Japan. You need a dictionary in one hand the book in the other to read since so many obscure words are used.

Mark and I were spending the summer at Cabin #1 in Takayama Kokusai Mura, Shichiahama,-Machi, Japan. Takayama is a missionary enclave where many missionaries and missionary organizations have summer cabins. Years ago they had to escape from the lethal heat and humidity of the cities and at least two places were procured. One is in the mountains and one is at the ocean. Takayama is at the ocean. The missionary kids have the fondest memories of spending summers there, as do we. I was able to be there a number of times and so Mark and I asked my sister and her husband if we could rent the cabin. It was marvelous. We brought along about two dozen books. Of course, as was my habit, I read them as fast as I could instead of rationing them. One time, when I was talking to Kay, I complained that I had finished all my books. A few days later a postal delivery person toiled up the rather steep path to the cabin and delivered a packet of books sent special delivery from Kay. It was wonderful. This one book, The Island of the Day Before, had been with Kay on a dive trip and when I opened it, I could smell her sun screen. Of course, I had to finish it even if it wasnít fun reading because of the scent of my daughter.

I also love lists of books. I have a list of, as the complier said, The 100 All Time Best Novels. I think they are of the 20th century. I also have a list compiled by Chuck Colson, both new and old books. Most of these books have a Christian or at least a spiritual emphasis. He classifies these as light but meaningful summer reading. Washingtonís God by Michael and Jana Novak The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark The Mitford Years by Jan Karon. I love these books. Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather Peace Like a River by Leif Enger A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine LíEngle. I love her books. The Summer of the Great-Grandmother is a lovely book. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Mr. Colson says to make sure your kids donít see the movies, excellent as they are, without first reading the modern classics that inspired them! The World of Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse.

I actually like to read certain books over and over again especially in the summer. One is The Shell Seeker by Rosamunde Pilcher. Another is Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. This was a recommendation from my sister, LaVerne. One I read again a short time ago is 84, Charing Cross Road together with The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. Need I say, these are both about a book lover and a book-seller?

Dr. Ted Engstrom gave a lecture years ago entitled, ďReaders Are Leaders.Ē He suggested that people discipline themselves to read a minimum of 500 pages a week. He further suggested that we read in at least five different areas of subject matter, guided by our interests and needs. One of the pastors in our church has the five following categories: 1) The Bible and Theology, 2) American History, 3) Zoology and animal behavior (he used to work at a zoo), 4) American Literature, and 5) Best Sellers. I have my own categories and I donít always read 500 pages but it is a worthy goal, so read and donít feel guilty.

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