Summer Reading: It’s Time to Break Out the Good Books!
Summer is here, and conference season is– quite miraculously– almost over. I’m thrilled to be home for more than a week at a time, and am getting ready to settle down for my favorite part of summer– the reading binge. It sounds indulgent, and to tell the truth, there are summers when I haven’t been able to fit it in. The consequences for not reading, though, are far more serious than you might imagine.
In a recent article for The Circe Papers, Dr. Brian Phillips writes of becoming physically dehydrated during a hot summer run, and cautions homeschool parents and teachers against mental dehydration. He states, “You cannot continue to put out what you have not taken in . . . Most of us are dehydrated and we don’t realize it until the serious symptoms show up. We push and push, run and run, until our heads hurt, our vision goes fuzzy, and the world is spinning. Papers pile up, patience wears thin, and enthusiasm wanes. What happened? For me, the problem is almost always the same. I try to give out while failing to take in.”
What happens when I can’t or don’t fit in my summer reading binge? Experience has taught me that I don’t get more done, I accomplish fewer of the things that matter. When I don’t take time to sink into the stories of other ages, I become depressingly unable to see beyond my own, to escape the prison of presentism, a danger C.S. Lewis addressed in the essay “On the Reading of Old Books” in God in the Dock. When I ignore the garden to work a little more, or forget to contemplate the sunset so I can finish a few just one more line, life loses a bit of its savor. When I neglect input, output dries up and I wander, drained, through the days.
So . . . now it’s time to read! I’ve already begun a leisurely rummage through my bookshelves, pulling out an embryonic stack of books to place beside my chair for instant nourishment. It’s an eclectic pile, as it should be (note that the title of this post mentions not Great Books, but simply good books– we’ll talk about that in a future post).
Wendell Berry is rubbing shoulders with Louis L’Amour and G.K. Chesterton, and Gene Stratton Porter’s Laddie is bookended by Angels in the Architecture and Beauty Will Save the World, plus a few favorites by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Gilman and a handful on education, the arts, and culture.
The Kindle app on my iPad is loaded with a selection of old children’s literature– The Little Maid books by Alice Turner Curtis, Andrew Lang’s Fairy books, the Little Colonel books, plus poetry, Cicero, a few business books, and other classics. I’ve downloaded three new audio works (narrated by Charlton Griffin) from Audble– Homer’s Iliad (already have Odyssey), Vergil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Divine Comedy. I have the print versions, but they are meant to be heard, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve listened to any significant portion of them.
I know what will happen, of course. The list will grow and change, and I’ll be haring down any number of rabbit trails as I read. This is serendipitous, and the rabbit trails often lead to new and exciting discoveries. Many of those currently on the list are re-reads, so they may be elbowed off by amazing new (often old) works. I’m looking forward to the synergy.
That’s my summer reading plan. What’s yours?