Book lovers love books about other book lovers. After all, we share the reading life in common: its challenges, its delights, its unique common language. Websites like Redeemed Reader exist partly to help parents and educators promote the reading life with their children and students!
Our “Literary Nightstand” series features all sorts of books about books, but the four titles below are uniquely about the reading life itself: the books that shaped these authors, the ways they’ve managed to find time to read, the ways in which books have shaped their lives–including their spiritual lives. Interestingly, the first three were all published one year ago this month. The fourth is now out of print, but well worth trying to track down. Each of these four authors argues that the reading life is worth cultivating and, perhaps most importantly, the reading life will change an ordinary life into something greater.
4 Books About the Reading Life: a Literary Nightstand Round-Up
Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures & Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson. Tyndale Momentum, 2018. 288 pages.
Clarkson celebrates all the best parts of being a “book girl” in this bibliographic memoir:
Gifts of learning and wonder, of hope renewed, of the capacity to ponder, of the will to act–these are just a few of the gifts to be explored … as we consider the particular goodness of being a book girl.Clarkson, Book Girl p. xii
From this earnest beginning, Clarkson dives into 10 ways books influence our lives, particularly our emotional, mental, and spiritual lives. Books build character, impart hope, and help us see the wonder around us (and so much more!). Fellow bibliophiles will especially love the plentiful booklists that appear in each chapter, echoing the chapter’s particular focus: “The Books We’ve Shared: My Family’s Favorite Read Alouds” or “The Holy War: Books That Taught Me to Pray.” Book Girl is primarily annotated book lists accompanied by Clarkson’s reflective essays on particular themes and categories of books. Bibliophiles who are eager for more book lists (aren’t we all?!) and who enjoy reading personal reflections on the reading life will appreciate this title.
On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior. Brazos Press, 2018. 272 pages.
We used Prior’s Booked as a teen/adult read-along title a few years ago; in that book, Prior urges readers to read promiscuously: indiscriminately, widely. On Reading Well turns that around a bit as Prior urges readers to read slowly and deeply. She is quick to point out that only the best books hold up to the close reading she is recommending. Prior’s introduction is an excellent defense for reading well, not just reading widely. Reading well means reading excellently, in pursuit of virtue; Prior goes on to illustrate how this looks through the lens of 12 classics, each of which is associated with a particular virtue. The 12 classics are the following: Tom Jones, The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Silence, The Road, The Death of Ivan Ilych, Ethan Frome, Pilgrim’s Progress, Persuasian, “Tenth of December” by George Saunders, and both “Revelation” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor. Readers who want to make the most of Prior’s book will probably want to read (or re-read) these titles because there are spoilers! Meaty, rich, and a book itself that must be read slowly, On Reading Well is a good fit for bibliophiles who want to dig deep into the reading life.
I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel. Baker Books, 2018. 160 pages.
Anne Bogel is Modern Mrs. Darcy–maybe you’ve heard of her? This is her second book, and it celebrates all things related to the reading life. A quick, light-hearted read, this is for the typical bookworm. Not as spiritually significant as the other titles on this list, I’d Rather Be Reading is a fun collection of personal essays about one reader’s experience that somehow unites all bookworms’ experiences. After reading it, we know Anne gets it: she gets the library fees, the piles of books strewn about the house, the books that make us cry, the books that mean much to us at certain times in our lives, the ways in which we change as readers. This is a small hardback, and it would make a nice little gift for someone who’s a reader but already has all the books!
Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasures with Books by Annis Duff. Viking Press, 1944 (out-of-print).
We rarely review out of print books because they are hard for our readers to track down; when we make an exception, that means it is a title worth tracking down! Think of this book, Bequest of Wings, and its companion, Longer Flight, as “OOPS” books (out-of-print-specials). Bequest of Wings is a memoir of a family who delighted in and celebrated books with their children from birth onwards. Plenty of book titles sprinkle the pages, but the real gift is the peek into a fellow bibliophile’s experience with bringing all things reading into the life of the family: quoting poetry, visiting the library, reading stories together. A book published in the 1940s might seem quaint, but the lifestyle described is one many of us still practice–or long to practice. A great gift for new parents in particular, this is a title for book lovers who want to meet a new friend in the form of a book. You will want to put the book down at the end of each chapter and practice something in it right away–or simply hunt down a favorite children’s story you remember from your own childhood.