Our church’s book club recently finished a novel called “Home” by Marilynne Robinson. Ms. Robinson is an award-winning author, and her works have one quirk that most of us around here are intrigued by: they are set in small-town Iowa. As our group was talking about how all the themes of the book wrapped up, where the characters’ arcs led them, and how we felt having lived for a time in this different Iowan world, we all had a similar revelation. It is a powerful thing to read a good book.
All forms of media have the power to open us up to different points of view. At its most basic level, a good piece of art like a movie, show, or book can transport us into a world we would never otherwise experience. Storytelling really is an exercise in empathy. It’s why we identify so strongly with certain characters. It’s why we obsess about how our favorite television shows will end. Life is better when we have these stories to ponder together in community, during coffee breaks, family meals, and the like.
If it has been awhile since you read a book, it’s never too late to give it another try. If you find reading boring, maybe it’s because you haven’t found the right book yet. And if you need a little help in getting started, there are great, free resources available at the library we are blessed to have here in Muscatine. Maybe you don’t have time to sit down and read a book? Well, there are even audiobooks about your favorite topics of interest that can be played during commutes, while doing the dishes, or whatever time you have available.
When I look back on my favorite books, a lot of them take place in settings that are completely different than anything I could imagine on my own. Whether it was JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Patrick O’Brien’s Napoleonic Europe, or even just Robinson’s small-town Iowa from down the street, the strangeness of the setting can dazzle, but it is always the humanness of the characters that makes the memories of those books special.
Of course, as a pastor I also believe that reading is central to the life of faith, as well, and, if you’re looking for a way to deepen your own understanding of who God is, how history works, and what there is to look forward to, I’d recommend a particular book that is full of the same great drama. It even has a happy ending, and I know that you’d be welcome to discuss it at any church in town. Happy reading!