If you’re anything of a book person, and maybe even if you aren’t, you’ve probably received several email and facebook exhortations recently, challenging you to resolve to read more in the New Year. Yesterday I signed up to read one book a week and named the first book I intend to read this year in order to enter a drawing for a $100 gift card (to a bookstore, of course). And a significant portion of the congregation of my church has just started a read-the-Bible-in-90-days plan.
Unless we just met in the last thirty seconds, you know I’m all about books and reading. But to be honest, I have mixed feelings about these programs.
I’m not suggesting that reading the Bible through is not a good idea. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again (though not by April 1). Nor am I saying that I frown upon anyone making an intentional commitment to read more and setting up whatever goals will help them do so. My concern is that this approach - determining to read a certain number of books or pages by a certain date - is something like rushing through the forest to get to the other side without really seeing a single tree.
I read a lot of books, yes, but I rarely read them in a hurry or on a schedule. I have found in forty-some years of experience that reading is – or can be, anyway – much more than getting from the front cover to the back cover and checking the title off some list. I feel Frodo’s utter lostness on the shoulders of Mount Doom because I have spent time with him in the good green Shire, in the comfort of Bag End. I lose myself alongside Ransom in the Great Dance, having struggled with him through the horror of the caves. I climb the rainbow with Mossy and Tangle after walking with them I don’t know how long across the shadow-plain.
By all means, read as much as you can this year. Keep a list of what you read. Set goals in your calendar if you want. But don’t race through. Walk slowly up the long drive, under the rhododendrons, to Manderley. Stand and breathe the salt air of St. Simon’s Island. Read deep and be refreshed.