Good Books for a Tired Reader

Grandson, Aiden, reading in his bed!

Grandson, Aiden, reading in his bed!

My daughter, Amanda, has been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Woven into her full life, this dense volume has taken her many months to read. She has been reading it along with three other friends who’ve formed a small, reading circle, gathering periodically to discuss their progress through the book and their interpretations. Proud of them. For me, my mind is too weary for such mental demands from my “recreational” reading.  Yet, reading of various sorts and genres is crucial to my life.  Recently, I re-read a book in two sessions in two days:  The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars — winner of the the Newbery Award in 1971.  A children’s book?  You have it!

As you may know, The John Newbery Medal is an award given to an author for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” given each year, chosen from books published the previous year, beginning in 1922 by the American Library Association.  It was the first award developed for children’s literature, a worthy endeavor.  Some complain about the choices and how they are made, but having such recommendations has created a framework and standard for writers, teachers, librarians, and readers.

                            When our two girls were growing up in our home, we homeschooled them up to or into high school.  I used the Newbery list as one reference for book choices. Both of my lovely ladies were consumers of books.  I smile to think of it. They were/are so totally different, yet each savored many, many books. I could meander down this trail but will refrain.
                              So, while Amanda’s mind dives in the deep pools of Dostoyevsky, the 19th century iconic, Russian novelist,  with his philosophical, ethical, spiritual, psychological, and sociological whirlpools,  I paddle around in simple dialogue and description.  Yet, interestingly, Betsy Byar’s simple, summer narrative explores some of the same themes as daunting Dostoyevsky — family relationships and conflicts stirred by personal angst, identity crises, and character formation chiseled on the anvils of advantage and disadvantage and distorted perceptions of reality.  Both novels display fascinating shades and shapes of human growth — the ever mutable “man.”
                              Many of the Newbery Award and Honor books have both entertained my mind and challenged my thinking.  Looking back over the list of award books, here are some (just some) of my favorites:
Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry (1941 Newbery winner)
Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Gray Vining (1943)
 Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates ( 1951)
Charlotte’s Webb, by E. B. White ( 1953)
The Wheel on the School, by Meindert De Jong (1955)
Carry On, Mr. Bowdich, by Jean Lee Latham (1956)
The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth Speare (1962)
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle (1963)
Up A Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt (1983)
Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan (1986)
                               You may want to do a web search of Newbery Medal books and pick up a few at the library. Remember that good children’s literature appeals to and nurtures adults also.  Read and enjoy. Read aloud with a spouse, friend, or with your whole family!  We have never out grown oral reading!!  I remember my mother reading to my father when they were in their 80’s! Reading, privately as well as orally with others, should never be abandoned. Cut back on the twaddle activities of life and invest in such reading.
                               I smile. I must tell a story about our second, lovely daughter, Charissa.  She is six years younger than Amanda, so they were always in quite different stages growing up, thus she was exposed to literature and life a bit beyond her age and in numerous ways grew up in the fast lane. Always on the go. Always observant. Bright as a sunbeam. . . . She was pretty young when she was first exposed to the book, Sarah, Plain and Tall and the movie version. She called it, “Sarah, Short and Tall.”  Oh, this brought smiles and chuckles to the family and still does.  (By the way, the above picture is of Charissa’s son, Aiden, who is nearly 4 1/2 in this picture, and will be five in three months! He devours books and is enjoying learning to read! What a joy to read to him!)
                              Charissa’s book title version, “Sarah, Short and Tall,”  is a true statement about personal development, whether it’s physical, emotional, intellectual, or character formation: each of us starts small and then, hopefully, gets taller. The question is how tall and balanced will we get!  Novels center on character development. Good novels reveal the trajectory of personal growth and its impact upon others. Sometimes characters “grow” from short to shorter or just stay short and small, but usually characters change — grow in some direction — as the plot (sequence of events) intersects their lives . Books animate life’s options and reflect patterns we recognize in real life.  Good novels help us to process our own experiences and help us to understand other people.
                             Time is too limited and life is too full to read everything good. However, our lives are improved, if we are willing, by reading a smattering of literature that inspires understanding, strengthens determination, and provides stepping stones for direction. We can imbibe the growth of certain characters as we witness their stories, translating aspects into our own personal development. Reading to entertain then becomes reading to enrich. This is good.
                            I have said that I am a tired reader and am weary. My weariness stems from the chronic, angry (hurting) and exhausted voices of my body. I wish they would go away, that I could live in a body that did not draw such constant attention to itself. Such is the reality of living in a fallen world and in a broken body.  I am encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s words in II Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
                              Inwardly, we are being renewed, day by day. Each of us can be like Charissa’s version of Sarah — short and tall. We start short but we grow tall — through that inward growth — facilitated by the Holy Spirit — employing all the experiences of life, even the reading of a good book written for children. Why not? I’ve never stopped being a child — the Lord’s child — no matter how tall, short, or old I’ve grown.


Categories: Parenting, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Good Books for a Tired Reader

  1. I am learning to appreciate books by self published authors. The one I just finished reading is by Jay B. Ayers a missionary to Belize. The book is called Oh Yes…God Can! My next one is by Andrea Colson who is also a missionary. She is now in Chuuk and her book is called Reaching the Uttermost Part. I have written one called Life on the Ranch: Life Lessons I Learned on the Ranch. I am learning so much from faithful people who are serving and trusting the Lord. I know that it is a challenge to write about one’s own life, but I am so blessed by reading of God’s love and care in each situation.

    • kltolsen

      Oh, thank you so much for your suggestions, Drusilla! They sound so interesting. I see a few self published books advertised now and then, but how do you find these?

  2. debra

    dearest friend,
    my life is always enriched when i read your writings. my prayer will always be for your full recovery and healing but you are blessing so many while you live with your noisy body and write within the boundaries it enforces around you.
    as you said above of other’s writings, i say of you: my life is improved, by reading (your) smattering of literature (writing) that inspires understanding, strengthens determination, and provides stepping stones for direction. the same can be said of your influence upon my jessielou-bug.
    i ask our Father to give you joy, hope and perhaps a giggle and a chuckle from that 🙂

    • kltolsen

      What a heart-warming, tear-tugging comment you sent! Thank you, my dear friend! Please give some hugs to Jessielou-bug from me. Thanks for the smiles. Miss you — so far away in Ohio, but close through thoughts and prayers.
      Under His Feathered Wings!!

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