Books, books, books–how they have held the life of our family together with inspiration, solace, humor, adventure and wisdom. I asked one of my favorite book friends, Brenda Nuland, to share some of her book story, as I always know i can trust her to give me another good book to read when I need something to satisfy! Meanwhile, I am off, driving Sarah to Wheaton, and listening to a book on tape as we go. (The Help is our chosen one for the trip!)
The occasion was the evening before my son’s wedding last May as we enjoyed the rehearsal dinner with family and friends. The young man seated next to me had been one of my son’s best friends since they were both very young and now he had flown in from Houston where he worked as a chemical engineer.
Moments after being seated, he looked over at me and asked, “So, what have you been reading?” The very question which causes my eyes to light up and this normally introverted mother to enter into a conversation lasting quite awhile. This young man knew me well.
I told him, “I’ve been stalking Jonathan Edwards”! Seeing the quizzical look on his face, I new an explanation was in order.
For you see, I read often and many kinds of books but my favorite reading is when I start one book by and about a particular author and continue on until at least four or five books have been read. If it is about a particular person, I say I’m “stalking him or her” in books.
In this case, it was one chapter in Noel Piper’s book Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God, which led to a biography of the Edward’s marriage, called Marriage to a Difficult Man, and then to a book about Edwards by John Piper, and then another biography called A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden.
As I told my young friend, I was setting aside my reading about Edwards for awhile but I planned to return eventually as I found him most interesting. He had only heard of Jonathan Edwards through the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which he had to read in high school. So it was enjoyable to tell him more about the man I had been stalking through books for the previous year or so.
By the way, the young friend is Hindu and his family was originally from India. His parents are associated with the University I live near. I’ve never sat down and spelled out the Gospel but I have shared with him… books… our mutual love.
He now lives in Japan but has taken with him my copy of the autobiography of Ravi Zacharias called Walking from East to West, which we both enjoyed… and perhaps my Francis Schaeffer Trilogy that I gave him.
The historian, David McCullough, tells us in his book Brave Companions that he rarely knows who or what his next book will be about but the subject usually comes from the book he currently is working on. A “jumping off” point so to speak that keeps his interests fresh from one research to another.
The same has happened with my reading quite often, just as it did with my interest in Jonathan Edwards. For instance, I read the Jan Karon Mitford books years ago and through her recommendation, I learned about the Miss Read books. That led to an interest in English novelists from somewhat the same era and friends recommended the delightful Elizabeth Goudge and D. E. Stevenson novels. All of which began with the very first At Home in Mitford book.
When we were homechooling, my son (who has now graduated from college) decided to read books by Alexandre Dumas. At first I was skeptical, this rather dyslexic son of mine who preferred easy books now wanted to read French Literature?
It wasn’t easy at first but as he read further in The Count of Monte Cristo, he became more familiar with the way Dumas wrote and went on to read many of his other books. He knew I enjoyed reading multiple books by the same author at once and found in this case, it helped him read more difficult literature than he had been used to before.
I do encourage you to try this way of reading, even if you must read a favorite author’s books in between others, as I had to do before we finished our homeschooling years. It’s a great way to get to know an author’s works very well.
Have I stalked anyone recently?
As far as fiction… I just finished re-reading four books by D. E. Stevenson, the series which begins with Vittoria Cottage (no, that is not a typo). This summer I plan to re-read all the “Time” books by Madeleine L’Engle, beginning with A Wrinkle in Time. They make for light summer reading, especially as I’ve read them already a couple times before.
As for reading about specific people, I have been able to acquire all five of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s diaries through used bookstores online and library sales, beginning with Bring Me a Unicorn and ending with War Without and Within. Most people know her best from Gift from the Sea but I read her diaries during my high school and college years and I’ve always wanted to read them again.
Someday I’d like to return to reading about the American Revolution. I spent years reading books about that period of history and I have never lost my fascination with it. It was that passion which first made me interested in stalking Jonathan Edwards.
In between such reading there are numerous lighter novels, biographies, books about growing as a Christian, books about crafts and cooking and gardening, and more than one memoir written by cooks.
Now you understand why my young friend asked what I was reading…
Brenda Nuland, friend, mentor, inspirer and reader!
Thanks, sweet Brenda. Now I would like to know, what is your favorite book you have read for yourself this year? I am in need of some new books.