Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On the well read life

"What binds the authors together in an intellectual community 
is the great conversation in which they are engaged..."  Mortimer Adler

It was a Biography Channel show about John and Abigail Adams that reminded me of a great passion of my life... that which I hadn't thought of as I used to when we were actively homeschooling (I say actively because in essence... we all educate at home whether we realize it or not).  For the narrator talked about Abigail being "self taught" (or what we now call... homeschooled) through the reading of books and well able to keep up a conversation with anyone in the new country.

I was (teasingly) accused by some people that my decision to homeschool my son was to give me an excuse to purchase books.  While not the real reason, it certainly was an enjoyable part of the process which many homeschooling families have been going through recently.  The enjoyment of picking the books to read in the next school year. 

There is a special vocabulary among readers who learn to speak the language of the bookish.  We nod in secret agreement when we are told our home is very cozy and Mole-ish in character.  We understand that Aslan is not a tame lion... but he is good.  Others stare at us as an adult and a child search for Pooh sticks near a creek... but the two are oblivious to the others as they are in search of the sticks and perhaps a little honey.

We long for red headed kindred spirits and fully admit to being on the Tookish side of the family as we nurture a secret desire for adventure. We appreciate mother's chamomile tea (even when we have not been naughty) and think of Laura at Christmas when we place a shortbread cookie (wrapped, of course) in the heel of a stocking.

While there is something special about the literature of our childhood, the fellowship brought about by favorite authors knits adults together... both friends and strangers.  I recently (this past winter) joined the sorority of women who love Goudge and Stevenson, want to attend a ham dinner cooked by Father Tim, and have many times followed Christy into the mountains.

I quote Lewis and listen to others wax poetic about authors I have yet to "meet".  Their recommendations are sought after at library sales and used book stores for those out of print or skimming library shelves for that new author's best selling mystery.

Our favorite books and authors form us into who we are.  Just tonight I discussed with my son the Schaeffer's interest in taking care of the environment and seeing any sword in a movie reminds me of his passion for French literature... which led to many evenings reading while he attended fencing lessons.  :)

My daughter immediately understands who Edith is and the difference between Elizabeth and Elisabeth.  We adore "all things Jane" (including those books made into movies to be viewed over and over).

I mentioned to a friend that I was reading my first Wendell Berry book of essays, which led to an excited recommendation of his novels.  As I've been reading it, I understand so much why certain people in my life have told me, "you'll love his writing!".

When we read the classics, we join the "Great Conversation" of Western thought through centuries past.  The reading of classic Christian ministers, pastors, and poets link together the generations and truly cause us to "stand on the shoulders of the giants".

A good biography can take me into the life and times of an admired historical figure as well as in the midst of a great battle or holding my breath as war is breaking out on a new front.  I visit New England and feel I've walked this path before but only in books and the battlefields of Pennsylvania and Virgina bring memories of words read late into the night.

I must admit to being sad at the way children are taught in schools these days.  So much is taught "for the test" that little time is given to the reading of whole books and stories to spark their imagination and develop a love of books for a lifetime.

Thankfully... hopefully... prayerfully... there is a shelf at home with precious volumes, well loved by the child and read with great theatrical voice by one who loves them.  One day may they be described to another as... "well read".


Nanna said...

oh my the word you hit the passion for reading right on the head LOL, I love to read aslo as one of my rooms got turned inot a Librarey LOL, wehn life keeps me busy I sometimes even long to read, never give up your passion for reading, for even God himself said ''study to show thyself approved"

DarcyLee said...

I, too, am a lover of good books and I'm so thankful that my girls were able to read real, living books as they homeschooled. I stayed away from textbooks as much as possible! A truly lovely post and I would like to put a link to it on my blog if that is okay. Have a wonderful day.

DM said...

This is so absolutely well said that it gave me goosebumps. I haven't actually sat down to read any good fiction in a while (I have a 17 month old who keeps me pretty busy), but the thing about books is that they stay in your heart forever. Christy is my absolute favorite book. Have you read Julie? It is very good, as well.

carla said...

What a fun post to read! I recognized nearly all the references (except the Tookish family).

Lately I've been re-reading some of E.D. Hirsh's 1987 book "Cultural Literacy". His point is that there are a lot of things we need to know to be able to connect with people and that children need to know a lot of these things before they begin school. It's needful for them to be familiar with something so they can build on it. So that's what we're doing with our young grandsons this summer. They need to know stories and folk tales and authors and a whole lot more.

The saddest part of your post was when you generously said that everyone schools their children. They don't, Brenda. Shamefully, there are many people who leave all of that up to the public schools saying "that's what they're for". Perhaps you haven't known many of them. I've known too many.

The Journey said...

you'd better hurry and give me a call for coffee, your book stack is growning. My youngest doesn't like to read- I don't know how he managed that one - his father and I love reading. I read 2 books last night- I couldn't sleep til 3am. I too loved homeschool for the books and lesson plans.

Anonymous said...

So well written Brenda. My mind went with you to each place and time and house. I will admit I haven't read all the authors. You though, have sparked my interest many times through your writings and opened up new avenues of reading. This too will be one of those times. I may not have actually had the experience of traveling much...yet from books I have been many many places..and in many mnay times. Been privilaged to "meet" many exceptional people and view the world. To those of us who love just say the word books is like saying home. There is that warm familiar wonderful feeling.Sarah

Anonymous said...

My household, too, loves reading. We've homeschooled for 23 years and have held so many lovely books in my hands, although I've let many escape my clutches over the years. I guess the problem of lack of library space has been beneficial to us, as my husband would 'amen.' I'm reading out of the local library now, Glenn Beck's The Overton Window. I've never thought of GB as a great author, but this book is not bad.
Good post, Brenda.

Cheryl said...

Delightful post!

Heather said...

Books are so much a part of our home we forget that our collection is anything but normal! New friends walk in and quickly appear slack-jawed, and they are only really seeing the tip of the iceberg! Then we wander into the Historian's office ... My oh my! We are so blessed to be surrounded by good things to read - wonderful thoughts to encourage, challenge and transport us!

Anonymous said...

I love Wendell Berry -- essays, poems, novels, short stories!


Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

I absolutely LOVED this posting. You said it all sooooo perfectly! Thank you!

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Brenda, I so enjoyed this posting, I had to share the link on my site today..........

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I have been missing my time to read, but have started to MAKE time for it again! I need it!

I have not read Elizabeth Goudge but am going to because of your recommendations!

My family is on the Tookish side as well, and we all delight (well, at least we ladies) in being kindred spirits and in traveling the prairies with Laura.

We are all Janites as well!

I do believe we must be kindred spirits, dear Brenda!

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda. I just read this post and agree that it was fabulous. I was wondering if you would mind explaining some of the references? I don't know who the Tookish family is, but if they are as wonderful as the rest of your recommendations, I know I will love them also. thanks.

Jeanie in KY

Kayla said...

For those who were wondering, Tookish comes from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien - the Tooks were the more adventurous of Bilbo Baggins' ancestors.

Rebecca said...

I was "touched" by this post. Reading is the OTHER tie that binds hearts together. The shared pleasure and pools of knowledge provide warmth and vibrancy to family and friendships where good books are treasured.