Self-Education is My New Venture
I Want to Become a Book Girl
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I’d like to think of myself as an educated human.
How is education measured, though? By test scores? By wit? By ability to think through a situation and solve the problem?
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”Charlotte Mason
I am not writing today to discuss the idea of education in-depth. My goal in writing is to share something that enlivens me to my core.
My most recent venture is starting the habit of a literary life. A literary life, in essence, is reading the things I want to read. It is reading widely and faithfully from the “Great Books” and from well-written modern texts alike. It is connecting with more than just the annals of the ancient world; it is being transported to a time and place and living amongst the people through a primary source text like an epic or ancient play. It is reading a complete volume of poetry or an intimidating book I’ve been avoiding.
I wish I could tell you reading for self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit had been a goal for my entire life up to this point, but I’d be lying.
I am coming off of a very stale relationship with books written for adults. I admit, I have a grand affinity for well-written children’s books. (I myself am writing one, after all!) C.S. Lewis said that, “a children’s story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story”. I agree. I know I have been exposed to some great ideas through the works of Robert McCloskey, Barbara Cooney, Thornton Burgess, modern authors like Melissa Sweet, Tomie DePaola, Jen Bryant, and Barb Rosenstock.
The staleness comes from a (sometimes valid) need for information regarding my station in life as a mom and homeschooling parent. For example, I recently discovered the podcast “Raising Boys and Girls” with Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan. In an effort to improve my parenting, I made an impulse-buy and got their Are My Kids on Track? I truly think I made a good decision, albeit a rushed one! However, I used to think I only had time for nonfiction, parenting books. What a drag.
My newly found love for the kind of reading that isn’t just in the form of self-help and parenting books is what gives me the motivation to press in to new worlds. It is the thing I most likely want to talk about, too – this new love for books. My husband hears a lot of it, but I am constantly looking for wise readers who can “point me in the right direction”. I am not saying I haven’t had a developed taste for books in the past. I remember taking a wonderful college course that pointed me to the “Great Books”: Persuasion, Madame Bovary, and Metamorphosis are three that I remember the most.
Nonetheless, I have held the incorrect assumption lately (as in the past 10 years) that I simply do not have time to read for fun, aside from the children’s picture books and read-alouds. This cannot be true, friends. I know it isn’t true because I have met a few kindred spirits who weave reading for pleasure into the fabric of their weeks. They are homeschooling moms, too. Don’t tell me that they do not lead already-full lives.
Take my friend Sarah Clarkson. Okay, she and I do not personally know one another, but she is my friend because I sense a kindred spirit within her. She is the author of my newest read, Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life . My real-life friend who I met on Instagram (does that count?), Laura, recommended this one for me to read.
A woman who reads is one who takes ownership of herself…she knows that to read is to begin an adventure of self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit.Sarah Clarkson
In Book Girl, Clarkson asserts that to be a reader, one must choose reading, again and again. It sounds simple, but it illuminates a specific phenomenon that is taking place in our modern culture: people are spending less time reading good books now more than ever. As an anecdote, Clarkson recounts the day a young editor visited her girlhood home. He gestured to the bookshelves, groaning under the weight of copious books. “All of this…will be gone in another few years. We can read so much more quickly now on a screen.” Sigh.
“I don’t think physical books will go out of style because we are embodied beings who need to touch and feel, smell and see reality in tangible ways. Books are more than ideas bound to black type. They are also gifts, companions, physical presences that walk with us through certain seasons of our lives.”
I find that the buzz of a busy brain overloaded with bits of information is a real detriment to reading. Mental space is one of the first things I need in order to be a reader… something I choose again and again.Sarah Clarkson
I agree that physical books will never become extinct. I do share Clarkson’s concern here, too:
“My only concern with the use of technology for reading is simply that the fragmentary nature of online reading, the skim from headline to blog to article to Instagram not replace the habit of quiet, sustained reading, the kind that immerses you in the mind and ideas of another, giving you the space to consider, ponder and discern.”
Okay. So with that, I will wrap up this blog post.
Here is a look at one of the quotes that truly resonate with me from my reading of Book Girl:
The words you memorize become a part of you.Sarah Clarkson
If you agree that we were created people of words that eventually shape us into who we are, then we are definitely on the same page. May we seek to encourage each other into a reading life. I can keep you updated on my journey. Would you join me?
My Reading Life in the Commonplace Book
The quest for connection and self-education through good books brings me to The Literary Life Commonplace Book by Angelina Stanford, Cindy Rollins and Thomas Banks.
How It Works
This is more than a reading log. It is carefully choosing the books I will read for select genres, then reading them. Making time during the day is what I’m dedicated to doing now – mostly at night, before I go to sleep. The thing that I love about the commonplace is the area where I can write down the best quotes that resonate with me from what I’m reading. It also has a section where I can review each book and give it a star rating. The authors of the Literary Life Commonplace Book also host the Literary Life Podcast. On pages 28-30, they offer their own suggestions for books to read, but I like to ask my social media and newsletter audience for suggestions. By the way, each book I am currently reading was a suggestion from a friend!
May I share the titles I have chosen with you? If you have suggestions in any of these categories, the titles are not set in stone (aside from Book Girl and the Wendell Berry work).
In no particular order, I choose to read this year:
- A Shakespeare Play: A Winter’s Tale
- A Classic Detective Novel: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
- A Classic Children’s Book: The Robert McCloskey Treasury selection
- A Contemporary Novel: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- A Historical Fiction Novel: Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris
- An Ancient Greek Play: The Persians by Aeschylus
- A Collection of Short Stories: ? undecided
- A Biography or Memoir: The Reign of Queen Victoria by M.B. Synge
- A Devotional Work: I am thinking of reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge, but I am not 100% decided
- A Book About Books: Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson
- A Foreign (Non-Western) Book: something by Machado de Assis
- A “Guilty Pleasure” Book: The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
- An Intimidating Book You Have Avoided: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
- A Satire: 1984 by George Orwell
- A Book of Essays: Imagination in Place by Wendell Berry
- A Book by a Minor Author: Lila by Marilynne Robinson (she may not be minor to some, but I do not know her)
- A Classic Book by a Female Author: Emma by Jane Austen
- A Complete Volume of Poetry by a Single Author: A.A. Milne When We Were Very Young
- An “Out of Your Comfort Zone” Book: Confessions by Augustine
- Reread a Book You Read in High School: The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
We are people of words. Moms count, too. Let’s spur each other on to a literary life.