Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: a Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes. 2021. [March] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I mentioned in my earlier review--my PROPER(ish) review--that I didn't love, love, love this one. That there were times I was in complete agreement with the two authors and time I STRONGLY disagreed with them. I knew writing the review that it would be impossible to unpack all my thoughts on the book.
Before chapter one, they'd already made me mad! "Kitten videos may be endearing, but not enduring." SERIOUSLY, HOW DARE YOU!!!!! KITTEN VIDEOS ARE THE BEST THING EVER.
Moving on to chapter one,
Reading on screens differs from reading physical books.
Reading on a device (like a Kindle) does NOT differ from reading physical books. It just DOESN'T. Reading is reading is reading.
Many people are reading a great deal of material, especially online. But they are not necessarily reading quality material or reading well.
It sure is convenient to use general words like "many" and "most." It makes it impossible to prove or disprove. I don't necessarily disagree--since I don't know MANY or MOST and their reading habits. I can say that it seems a little judgmental to go into whether the people who are reading are reading QUALITY and reading WELL.
We want you, whether you read a little or a lot, to experience more joy in reading (and therefore in life). We want to dispel the notion of reading as duty and instill the concept of reading as delight.
AGREED. Mostly. Who could argue with the whole READING IS DELIGHTFUL concept?!
A recent statistic from the Royal Society of Literature sounds similar to the Pew report’s finding. The 2017 RSL report showed that one out of five people could not name an author—any author.
*If* this is true, how sad! But I'm always curious WHO the subjects are and where they are rounding them up.
The amount of time Americans spend reading each day increases with age, with retirees reading the most. But even those in the seventyfive and above age bracket read only 50 minutes per day. Not a single age group averages as much as an hour of daily reading.
Not even an hour a day? Could this be true? (Probably. But I think it's a matter of averages and maths. I'm sure there are plenty of people who read more than that and then plenty of people who don't read anything so that the averages are pulled down for everyone.)
We want everyone to discover the delight of reading literature in any genre or format.
You say that, but then with some of what you write later you've got me questioning in you really mean it!
Reading a book immerses oneself into an extensive work. When this is done receptively and thoughtfully, it becomes artful reading. Some people call it “deep reading” and believe it is in deep trouble.
They talk a LOT about artful reading of course. I think it is a matter of engaging the text and staying engaged with the text--during but also perhaps afterwards as well. Great characters STICK with you long after you finish the book.
Who should care more about reading timeless truths than children of the Book?...We’ve lost the ability to read the Bible consistently and attentively...What then happens to our relationship with God?
STRONGLY AGREE. I have wondered if there is a connection between loving to read and loving to read the Bible...and if some of the disconnect with people who don't read the Bible has to do with the act of reading itself.
C. S. Lewis writes, Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world.
TRUTH. I talk with my mom about this and we started naming examples. Two or three that come to mind are Milne's Pooh books but also many of Seuss's books and ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The books that you read and reread and reread and share with your family become PART OF YOU and remain a part of you deep down. I call this reading DNA.
Reading is by its very nature a leisure time activity. Although some people speak of reading as a compulsion and something they cannot live without, reading is usually something we do after we’ve handled life’s routine physical and social demands.
Definitely in the first group!
Literature refreshes at deeper levels than many other leisure activities.
Possibly true, but I wouldn't discount good-to-great films that I would argue could be viewed "artfully" or good-to-great music OR other activities and hobbies like SEWING OR QUILTING OR KNITTING or whatever. Reading isn't the only worthwhile hobby.
Our failures to read and read well have deprived us of an essential way to transcend our confining world of private preoccupations and worries.
Again I think there are other ways of escaping "private preoccupations and worries." MANY ways--not all healthy, not all wise, not all beneficial, not all free.
We need to be clear here that it is not the “pastness” of literature that makes it worthy. It is the presence of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Additionally, acquaintance with the past liberates us from bondage to the contemporary. C. S. Lewis has written on this with his usual good sense. In an essay titled “Learning in War-time,” Lewis asserts that “we need intimate knowledge of the past,” not because “the past has any magic about it, but because we . . . need something to set against the present.” Then he shares the following analogy: “A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the [person who knows the past] has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.”
As literature projects human experience, we see our own lives more clearly and accurately. In this way, the literary enterprise shapes and forms us. The very nature of reading is contemplation of the human experience and the world in which it exists. Literature is a confession of the human race. We have a stake in it.
YES. It's so easy to agree with this before he starts narrowing down what literature is. I think to some extent or degree ALL books are capable of this. Some more than others.
Literature categories edify in different ways, but most reading experiences can be edifying if we read self-consciously as Christians. Not reading prevents these new avenues of edification from developing in our lives.
I don't like the phrase self-consciously as Christians. Wouldn't a reader's worldview be so deeply rooted and his or her beliefs be so grounded in the Word of God that he/she doesn't have to intentionally think about it or purposefully be conscious of it? Again maybe, maybe not??? I might be assuming too much? I think it is almost more important to examine AFTER you've finished a book and consider/reflect/ponder the book's spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Again I don't think this is limited to just reading. You can watch a movie or television show and walk away edified.
We need to consider not only the quantity of experiences in literature, but also their quality.
But do all books have to be equally amazing?
When writers write they do so from the perspective of their own world view. What they presuppose about themselves, God, the good life and the validity of human knowledge governs both what they say and how they say it. That is why reading with world views in mind (your own and that of the author) will help you understand not only what is written in the lines but what is written between the lines—that is, what is presumed before a pen ever reaches the page.
I think this is true enough. I think sometimes this takes a reread OR a book discussion. You need more than one set of eyes to sometimes grasp all the angles of world view peeking through.
Authors often express worldviews in subtle ways. Thoughtful readers recognize nuances or assumptions that either resonate with their own beliefs or fail to do so. This doesn’t mean Christians should read only literature falling in-line with their faith. It does mean, however, that their faith informs their reading.
TRUE. I don't think (adult) readers should limit their reading to "only" Christian books that line up with their specific leanings or denomination. I think this will come up again later, but I do think adults can/should self-censor what they read at times.
We’re using the adjective biblical rather than Christian because, sadly, much of what is called “Christian art” today is not artistic. This is particularly true when it comes to books. The popular genre of Christian fiction contains too few literary gems. When we write about a biblical aesthetic, we mean a perspective on the arts that is steeped in scriptural knowledge and informed by artistic awareness. We’re not advocating separate categories of Christian art as opposed to secular art. Because all artists are made in God’s image and live in a world that reveals him (whether they realize it or not), both Christians and unbelievers are capable of producing artistic works.
I think Christian fiction unnecessarily has a bad reputation. It is SO easy to pronounce judgment on it and condemn it even if you've never read it or given it a chance. EVERYONE loves to hate on Christian fiction. But it can be GREAT. Maybe not great in a snooty "literary" way. Christian fiction is never going to be as "literary" as say SHAKESPEARE or MILTON, etc. But why does it have to be?
Contrary to trends in college literature departments, it is not impossible to define literature, and the best thinking on the subject for twenty centuries will guide our journey to this definition. While we wish to encourage all types of good reading, our passion and expertise focus on imaginative literature. This is also the sphere in which we can most decisively speak of having lost the art of reading. We will begin by looking at a literary specimen and drawing some preliminary conclusions about the nature of literature. Literature is: experiential, concrete, universal, interpretive, and artistic. To say that literature is experiential means first that its subject is human experience. Authors do not seek to convey information about human experience but to recreate experiences that readers vicariously live in their imaginations and emotions. Literary works specialize in truthfulness to life. Literature embodies experiences familiar to all people in all places at all times. Literature is a window to our world. A work of literature is bifocal: we look at the details of a story or poem but also through it to life. Comprehending this aspect of literature as life helps us grasp the relevance of what we read.
I don't disagree so far...not really.
As noted, poets and storytellers present human experience as concretely as possible. They appeal to imagination over intellect. But they do more than present human experience; they also interpret it. All great artists have a theme, an idea of life profoundly felt and founded in some personal and compelling experience. . . . All writers have, and must have, to compose any kind of story, some picture of the world, and of what is right and wrong in that world. So far, our discussion has centered on literature’s content. But an additional, equally important, dimension to literature is its form—the “how” of a literary work rather than the “what.” Because authors work hard to craft beauty into their compositions, readers should pay attention to their intentional artistry. What is literature? It can be briefly defined as a concrete, interpretive presentation of human experience in an artistic form.
I guess the issue I have with this wonderful, grandiose sounding definition of literature is that it seems to be saying ALL literature will have ALL of these elements ALL the time. If it's missing even one of these, it isn't really literature and is just junk. My favorite description of literature comes from Ray Bradbury: "Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. the mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life."
Literature acquaints us with the great ideas by which the human race has ordered life. These ideas are important, but not every view is true. Christian readers should compare what is conveyed in works of literature to biblical truth.
Sometimes. I don't really get that every single book that is to be considered "literature" has to be philosophical in nature. But I do agree that everything is always to be held up to the Bible to see if it's true or just sounds true.
The writer’s task is to present human experience as concretely as possible, to interpret the presented experiences, and to create artistic beauty.
It's this artistic beauty that is getting to me. I just don't get it.
We know God wants us to have literature in our lives because he has revealed himself to the human race in a book that is primarily literary in nature. If we apply the criteria for literature explored in the preceding chapter, at least 80 percent of the Bible meets the definition of being literature, and with a generous application of the criteria, the percentage is even higher. It is therefore accurate and helpful to think of the overall genre of the Bible as a literary anthology—a collection of predominantly literary works composed by numerous authors over a span of many years.
I hadn't thought of it like that, but I like it.
When we consider the entire body of literature the world has produced, viewpoints obviously contradict. We cannot assert that literature as a whole embodies right ideas about God, people, and nature. A more realistic assessment is that literature embodies the great ideas by which the human race has ordered its affairs. On one level, this is simply interesting to know. But there is a practical usefulness as well. The ideas conveyed in literature serve as a stimulus to our own thinking. Encountering these ideas forces us to codify what we, as readers, believe to be the truth. This process sometimes expands our understanding and more often leads us to repudiate error and confirm our commitment to truth. The Bible calls us to understand, embrace, and walk in the truth.
AMEN, AMEN, AMEN. Sometimes it's encountering those ideas that differ from ours that we can see our own more clearly. GOOD BOOKS GET OUR BRAINS SPINNING in a good, productive way.
Reading a work of literature begins with a magical moment of transport. This transport includes both a leave-taking from our ordinary world and an arrival in an imaginary one, but we’ll focus first on the departure. As soon as we become engaged in a story or poem or drama, our everyday concerns and physical surroundings recede from our consciousness. This initial wonder is therapeutic to the human spirit. There are many joys in reading literature, but transport alone makes it worthwhile for even the most reluctant reader.
Do other types of reading also transport us in this way? Screen reading rarely does. When we read on a digital device or computer monitor, we do not leave concerns behind but remain very much connected to them.
NOT TRUE. I don't think it's entirely fair to screens to blame them for distracting thoughts and interruptions. Not if the real weakness is in attention spans OR undisciplined minds/bodies. This might be true if you were never, ever, ever, ever, ever distracted, losing concentration, losing interest, having to go back and reread because you lost your train of thought, etc. while reading a print book. Interruptions happen with print books too--especially if you live with others.
Self-forgetfulness is one benefit accompanying transport. People need regular times when we move beyond preoccupation with ourselves and our concerns. The very act of reading admits us to a particular state, which in itself is pleasurable and beneficial, quite apart from the content of what we are reading. As we leave our physical and mental surroundings, we simultaneously arrive in an alternate world that is merely imagined. We cannot touch it with our hands or see it with our eyes. Its specific qualities depend on the genre and literary work we are reading. The broad genre most obviously creating this world is narrative or story, which includes sub-genres such as fiction and creative nonfiction. But other genres conjure imaginative worlds as well. Literature offers a concentrated version of a chosen subject. It defamiliarizes a subject in a way that helps us see it more clearly than we do in real life.
I think this describes MOST IF NOT ALL reading. Not just "literary" or proper "literature."
What does literature offer when we make the return journey? If we have been reading something good and satisfying, we experience a feeling of disappointment as we close the book. Such disappointment is revealing. It tells us that the leave-taking and temporary residence in an imaginary world have been meaningful and desirable, in itself a tribute to the value of reading. At the very least, a work of literature asks—and prompts us to ask—the right questions about life experiences.
Without biblically-grounded criteria, a novel becomes whatever the reader wants it to be. When authors and readers do not believe in objective truth, literature loses transcendent meaning....While not all readers are familiar with modern literary theory, most are heavily influenced by cultural perspectives and pursuits. Without even realizing it, they absorb unbiblical perspectives that have become part of society’s fabric. They focus on personal advancement and mindless entertainment. They read novels much like they watch TV, passively absorbing images and action with little thought to the quality of the content or the values it promotes....Even Christians disagree about how to view literature and other fine arts. Os Guinness writes that “most Christians lack a Christian aesthetic, an agreed Christ-centered philosophy of the arts. Christians therefore tend to swing between two extremes—puritanically dismissing the arts as irreligious or seeking to exploit them as a means of promoting faith and morals.” This is too often the case when it comes to novels. Some Christian readers consider fiction a secular invention to be avoided. Novelists who are Christians frequently wield their pens with evangelistic or moralistic fervor. Both extremes stem from a failure to appreciate literary quality.
Is this true? I may not be the best judge since I write about everything I read and give at least a little thought to its worth, value, quality, etc.
The aesthetic lack is especially apparent in today’s Christian fiction market. Too many of these novels are bland romances with flat characters and pat endings. Although exceptions exist, Christian fiction written according to modern formulas tends to lack character complexity, imaginative language, and creative execution. No wonder some believers view reading novels as a waste of time!
Again hating on Christian fiction! Why?!?!
Definitions of literary fiction can be somewhat diverse, but it’s used here to describe well-written novels with timeless qualities that transcend popular trends. What separates popular fiction from literary fiction? Writer Bret Lott explains the differences this way to his college students: I tell them that literary fiction is fiction that examines the character of the people involved in the story, and that popular fiction is driven by plot. Whereas popular fiction, I tell them, is meant primarily as a means of escape, one way or another, from this present life, a kind of book equivalent of comfort food, literary fiction confronts us with who we are and makes us look deeply at the human condition. Literary fiction goes beyond page-turning action and predictable plots to a skillfully-constructed narrative about complex characters. It engages the mind and emotions with excellent craftsmanship. The best literary fiction reflects God’s beauty and creativity in an imaginative and biblically-realistic way.
I do often talk about character-driven and plot-driven in my reviews (especially at Becky's Book Reviews). But I'm not sure it's as simple as that in dividing literary from popular.
What is true about this novel? • How are the characters authentic? • In what ways do they change? • How is the central conflict resolved? • In what ways has the novel increased my understanding of others?
These are suggested questions to ask of books.
How can we promote healthy reading alternatives to today’s junkfood, literary fare for children? We can recognize the unique nature of children’s literature and become aware of current concerns. Then we can choose good books and integrate reading into family life through strategies like reading aloud and controlling technology.
The authors are approaching the chapter on children's books with NEGATIVITY from the get-go. They are assuming that MOST if not ALL of children's books being published are JUNKY JUNKFOOD. The Christian's only hope is to go back decades to the tried and true classics like C.S. LEWIS' Chronicles of Narnia.
Why did all the other chapters approach the topic at hand with positivity? Why is children's literature singled out?
Children lack the emotional and intellectual maturity to temper the reading experience with an adult’s reserve or analysis. This is why the most crucial aspect of children’s literature is its incredible capacity to shape impressionable young minds. This is also why it’s so important for loving and godly adults to guide children in going beyond merely learning to read to reading with discernment and delight. Concerns about children’s literature fall into two broad categories: quality and content. Although both lamentable quality and questionable content permeate many of today’s books for young readers, poor literary quality has long been a concern.
So the argument appears to be CHILDREN'S BOOKS EXIST ONLY TO BRAINWASH CHILDREN and children are too stupid to realize they are being brainwashed. I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE this attack on quality that "has long been a concern."
This charge of poor quality is often leveled at large series characterized by formulaic and predictable plots. Writing excellence is sacrificed on the altar of commercialism in a host of books linked to movies, video games, or superheroes. Such books, particularly beginning readers, suffer from unimaginative language and incoherent plots. Simple language is necessary for younger readers, but we needn’t abandon good writing.
Apparently they've never taken a course on children's literature OR a class on READING. Series books with their formulas and predictability are A GOOD THING and ESSENTIAL in developing a reader. Not that one is to stay STUCK forever and ever and ever in the early chapter book series and not move beyond that. But it's a STAGE, not a destination. And not all early readers OR early chapter books are "poorly written" and "unimaginative." I DARE ANYONE NOT TO FALL IN LOVE WITH MO WILLEM'S ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE. AND DON'T GET ME STARTED ON MERCY WATSON by Kate DiCamillo.
I seriously doubt that either author has read widely in the field of children's literature. I don't think either author knows what is what.
Content concerns are also far-ranging. A simple picture book, featuring lovely language and beautiful illustrations, may promote an unbiblical concept. Even nonfiction is often laced with manipulative indoctrination. A first grade student may bring home a flyer advertising revisionist history as well as stories about vampires or aliens. Objectionable content increases in books aimed at older readers, especially those geared toward teens. The Young Adult genre includes hopeless dystopian and occult horror, but it is overwhelmingly weighted with “real life” fiction. In most of these books, teens struggle with problems ranging from trivial ones about appearance to weighty trauma like sexual abuse. No matter how minor the problem, self-centered protagonists see themselves as victims with a difficult life. No one understands these protagonists (especially parents) and they need to handle struggles on their own. God is absent or Christians are portrayed negatively. Scenes are graphic, but answers are few and hope elusive.
There is *some* truth in this. Picture books like ALL BOOKS have world views. Some picture books do promote world views that are at odds and opposed to the biblical world view. (Picture books aren't automatically safe. But is any book automatically safe? It doesn't matter how long--or how short--how new or how old--no book should be considered safe when it comes to being in sync or in alignment with Christian values and beliefs. That is why parents *should* read any book before sharing it with their child. It isn't *every* picture book that is packed with *dangerous* ideas. But parents shouldn't be blind to the possibility either.)
As for objectionable content--every single family will have to decide for themselves what they object to and what is deemed "allowable" and "forbidden" subjects. I don't have issues with individual families deciding for themselves what is "safe" "good" "right" and "appropriate." Just don't assume that ALL families will perfectly perfectly agree.
I think there is again some truth when it comes to YA--and even Middle Grade--these days. Not every single book. Not every single author. Not every single genre. And sometimes the focus on content forgets context, context, context. Sometimes the HOW and WHY matter significantly in judging a book's worth. The novel SPEAK comes to mind. OR even FAHRENHEIT 451.
I think reading WITH your children and DISCUSSING what you're reading is sometimes worth the exposure.
When you condemn 99% of the books available for children, tweens, teens, and new adults...you're really saying SORRY YOU DON'T GET TO READ ANYTHING BUT THESE TEN BOOKS WE'VE DEEMED QUALITY ENOUGH FOR YOU TO HANDLE, AND SINCE YOUR BRAINS ARE SO SMALL AND WEAK, YOU WON'T MIND.
I think DISCERNMENT can be modeled, demonstrated, taught. I think parents can start teaching/demonstrating HOW to read a book wisely and well with children especially as they enter middle school and high school. Better they learn HOW TO READ A BOOK AS A CHRISTIAN from you than to be in for a shock once they go to college, get a job, live on their own.
I think sometimes the focus is so much on EVERYTHING YOU MUST AVOID AT ALL COSTS that one forgets that it is just as important to being GROWING DEEP ROOTS and BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION on the Word of God. If the roots are DEEP and the foundations are STRONG, if genuine faith is there then exposure to a book that disagrees with the biblical world view won't really upset things.
After all, we've spent the whole book arguing how adults are smart enough and wise enough to read secular books artfully and gain the benefits of reading even books that aren't biblical in nature.
That being said, I do believe in age appropriateness.
Few books combine an engaging story with an authentic (but not moralistic) portrayal of godly parents and growing faith. This is especially true for boys.
I don't think this exists for girls either.
Considering quality and content helps us choose good books. Most people simply want to get children reading. The prevailing philosophy is that is doesn’t matter what kids read as long as they are reading. But just as decent parents wouldn’t feed children a steady diet of junk food, we shouldn’t allow children to constantly consume books of poor quality and questionable value. Literary quality is good writing. Sentences flow smoothly, and the occasional phrase sings. Figurative language is fresh and apt, appropriate to both content and reader. Interesting and authentic characters make progress. They do and say things to propel the plot gradually toward a satisfying resolution. Worthwhile content promotes biblical values without preaching. Problems can be portrayed, but goodness and hope ought to illuminate any darkness. This is especially important in books for children, who must be guided to develop intellectual and spiritual maturity. Children’s books should shine with hopeful content and sing with excellent writing.
I'm not sure I agree with the first part. I still sense a lot of snobbery coming from the authors. I do like the second part.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “The only standard to be used in judging a children’s book is: Is it a good book? Is it good enough for me? Because if a children’s book is not good enough for all of us, it is not good enough for children.”Tolkien wrote, “Books written entirely for children are poor even as children’s books.”Lewis said, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.”
I somewhat agree with each of these. Somewhat. But what appeals to children and what appeals to adults often differ. And that's not a bad thing. I do believe with all my heart that EVERY SINGLE book has the POTENTIAL to be someone's favorite book, the book that turns them onto reading, the book that awakens the magic that is READING.
Whenever parents or children pick up the Narnia series, we recommend beginning with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and reading them in publication order. Editions released in recent years often package sets with The Magician’s Nephew as the first book because it tells how Narnia was created. But attempting to maintain chronological order is pointless because the events in The Horse and His Boy occur during the same time frame as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Artful reading takes more time than scanning. But rather than stressing about not having time to read, we can think in terms of having freedom to read. Instead of wasting precious minutes on meaningless activities, we can remind ourselves of our ability to make conscious choices.
I suppose I can agree. We can certainly all be better stewards of our time.
We long to read good books again, and they can be enjoyed repeatedly with increasing delight. C. S. Lewis called the desire to reread “a good test for every reader of every kind of book.” But the desire to reread shouldn’t guide all our book choices. We should expand our horizons into new genres and authors.
Some readers stick to books they view as safe. Books that won’t surprise or upset them. The kind found in church libraries or Christian bookstores turned coffee shops. While an increasing number of works within the Christian market show spiritual subtleties and literary skill, many others are overtly evangelistic and aesthetically poor. But readers in general shouldn’t limit themselves to banal books that never cause uncomfortable feelings or expand the spirit. These novels fail to acknowledge either life’s pain or its beauty.
Again hating on Christian fiction. Assuming that Christian fiction falls into the "banal" and "poor" camp. The way they describe it is almost foreign to me.
An artful reader may read dark fiction depicting the biblical reality of broken people living in a fallen world. Genuinely realistic fiction, however, should be pierced by glimmers of redemption’s light. Fiction can be realistic without being vulgar, evangelistic without being didactic, and beautiful without being esoteric.
So unlike what he said about Young Adult literature. Apparently if it's a dark adult book it's of value and if it's written for teens it's junk.
For Christians, the best form of censorship is self-imposed. It begins with awareness of how our literary experiences influence our thinking and behavior. If a work of literature is prompting us to immoral thoughts or actions, we either need to stop reading the book or exercise stronger control over its influence. Literary works are moral and immoral.
True about self-imposed censorship.
God gives us exactly 1,440 minutes each day, which we can neither extend nor reduce. We can’t prolong a relaxing day at the beach or shorten a painful day at the hospital. Each of us has a single finite life on this earth. How will you choose to spend each minute of what poet Mary Oliver calls “your one wild and precious life?”
Worth a thought.
The “true reader” receives literature by initially suspending personal thought processes and being open to the work’s art.
Receptive readers are alert to the work’s artistry. They notice beautiful language and experience the emotions of the characters. Just as tourists who rush through the National Gallery of Art receive little enjoyment from its many masterpieces, fast readers sacrifice pleasure. For most people, reading attentively requires slowing down. Slow reading at our leisure leads to fulfillment. Susan Hill describes slow reading as “deeply satisfying” and then contrasts reading speeds: Fast reading of a great novel will get us the plot. It will get us names, a shadowy idea of characters, a sketch of settings. It will not get us subtleties, small differentiations, depth of emotion and observation, multilayered human experience, the appreciation of simile and metaphor, any sense of context, any comparison with other novels, other writers. Fast reading will not get us cadence and complexities of style and language. It will not get us anything that enters not just the conscious mind but the unconscious. It will not allow the book to burrow down into our memory and become part of ourselves, the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom and vicarious experience which helps to form us as complete human beings. It will not develop our awareness or add to the sum of our knowledge and intelligence. Read parts of a newspaper quickly or an encyclopaedia entry, or a fast-food thriller, but do not insult yourself or a book which has been created with its author's painstakingly acquired skill and effort, by seeing how fast you can dispose of it.
I feel attacked. What I don't think some people comprehend is that it's a matter of NATURAL PACE. Some people naturally--organically--read at a faster pace. This doesn't mean they are "cheating" or "skimming" or "skipping" or "scanning." DON'T ASSUME THAT A FAST READER is sacrificing meaning, comprehension, or pleasure by reading at their natural pace.
I just can't understand why there's all this JUDGEMENT involved when it comes to reading fast. Seriously. Read for MEANING. But don't get caught up in TIMING it. Why can't people just get to read at their own pace.
Not that I'm bitter. Okay. Maybe I'm flashing back to elementary school when you're reading in groups and are supposed to be following along while someone reads out loud and waiting for your turn.
Even if a book isn’t immediately engaging, it’s a good idea to give it a chance to prove itself. Some people recommend setting aside an hour or ninety minutes for an initial reading. This allows the reader to become grounded in the story and acquainted with the characters. Also many people advocate a “50-page rule”: Read at least fifty pages to see if it captures your interest.
That would be awfully long for a chance!!! If I dedicate ninety minutes to a book it's almost a sure thing that I'll finish it or it would be a WASTE OF MY TIME.
C. S. Lewis defines a prime example of a bad book according to the way it can (or perhaps better, cannot) be read: “The ideally bad book is the one of which a good reading is impossible. The words in which it exists will not bear close attention, and what they communicate offers you nothing unless you are prepared either for mere thrills or for flattering daydreams.” A bad book not only defies good reading, but it also offers little genuine pleasure. C. S. Lewis defines a good book as one that “permits and invites” good reading. He adds: “It is not enough that attentive and obedient reading should be barely possible if we try hard enough. The author must not leave us to do all the work. He must show, and pretty quickly, that his writing deserves, because it rewards, alert and disciplined reading.” Lewis believes the entire work should generate enjoyment. He writes, “Every episode, explanation, description, dialogue—ideally every sentence—must be pleasurable and interesting for its own sake.” Lewis wrote, “Unless you are really trying to look through the lens you cannot discover whether it is good or bad. We can never know that a piece of writing is bad unless we have begun by trying to read it as if it was very good and ended by discovering that we were paying the author an undeserved compliment.”
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible