Readers continue to tell us about the books, stories, and poems, that have meant the most to them in their lives, and a number of you have asked us to keep the thread going. So here’s another round, beginning with this reader’s appreciation of a classic novel by Alan Paton:
I appreciate Cry, the Beloved Country as I suspect only a Christian – maybe even only a quasi- postmillennial Calvinist – can. There is much that could and should be said about it as social commentary and criticism and the like, and this does somewhat to make it sweet to me. The lyricism of much of the language is also a cup to be savored and delighted in. There is, I suppose, much else that could be lodged against it as objectionable because of the empowerment it denies to the blacks of South Africa in themselves, but this is not a view I think of often and I think it would have been dishonest for Paton to have attempted it. But what I chiefly remember is the day I finished it, sitting on our apartment balcony on a sunny Sunday afternoon, weeping at the beauty of its content and the boundless hope of its eschatology: all is not saved (though much is), but all is safe, because all is in the hand of God. Injustice may be at hand, and much evil may remain to run its course, but faith will help us to persevere in their despite. Pain is real, suffering is real, and there is no pretending they are not. But God is real, His knowledge and guidance of all the intricacies and the final end of all things is real, and there is likewise no pretending they are not.
Another shares a story about how reading can reveal who we are:
Permit a little spin on the theme, “Reading Your Way Through Life.” I’m a clinical social worker, and in therapy sessions with clients (I work in a public mental health agency, so most of them are poor and poorly educated), I routinely ask, “What have you read lately?” I ask that of any client, regardless of age. Most clients will report they’ve read something – for teens, maybe a textbook that they struggled through; for kids, maybe only a comic book. Adults may have read a romance novel, or a magazine in a doctor’s office. Whatever they report reading, I ask, “What in it appealed to you?” The answer may be profound, or may seem cursory; but the point is, it’s the client’s answer, because it’s the client’s life – and I glean something that may help him. Perhaps the client identifies an interest that’s worth exploring, or a hope she wants fulfilled; a child reading a Harry Potter book – her eyes light up describing a character she likes. Some therapists engage in bibliotherapy, inviting clients to read books (novels, not only self-help) that have a therapeutic theme (many of the book your readers have described fit this). For me, whatever the client is reading invites me to learn something about them – and, if I do my job well, if we talk about it, they might learn something about themselves, too, that can help them in their present struggle.
This reader shares a favorite poem: