This is my story, and I’m sticking to it: Variety spices up life and libraries. So … what to read?
Well, it depends.
You might take a walk-in-the-park. Read one of those books where you go with the author because the trip is fun and entertaining, and you need to get away for a while. Lord knows, in today’s world we can all use a picnic.
Of course, not all walks lead to green meadows. Some books lead you down the garden path. Sure, they entertain … but with ulterior motives. The author wants to get under your skin. Or put you in someone else’s skin. He/she wants to make you think. Except you don’t know you’re thinking, on account of you’re caught up in the plot, the imagery, the characters. Until THE END. Then it’s, “Wait. What?”
Some books are like extreme aerobics for the mind. If you’ve ever plowed through a page, brow furrowed, you probably know the kind I’m talking about. Sure sign you’re between the covers of a book like that? You get to the end of a paragraph and suddenly notice the tension behind your eyes. That would be your brain slowly twisting itself into a Gordian Knot of confusion. Oh, the humbling struggle to make heads and/or tails out of what you just read! And in your native tongue, yet.
I recently tackled two books like that, and I’m here to tell you, there were passages where I almost hurt myself trying to hop aboard the authors’ trains of thought. I would have given my right arm for an inkling, let alone a firm grasp.
But I kept on slogging, because every blessed once in a while, a passage would all but light up the page and me along with it. I would get it … I would so get it. And what I got fed my soul.
“Affliction,” wrote Simone Weil. “Time bears the thinking being in spite of himself toward that which he cannot bear, and which will come all the same. ‘Let this cup pass from me.’ Each second which passes brings some being in the world nearer to something he cannot bear.” (Gravity and Grace)
She also wrote, “We must recognize our brother in a stranger, and God in the universe.”
In between those two things, she wrote a lot of stuff I didn’t understand at all. But the nuggets I got were worth the mining.
Same with Pascal’s Pensées. Like Weil’s Gravity and Grace, Pensées was more a series of notes, scraps of ideas, than a book. Some of Blaize’s scraps left me adrift on a sea of utter cluelessness. Okay, a lot of them left me adrift on a sea of utter cluelessness. But the fragments I understood … O, mon frère!
But like I said, variety is key. So, today I’m reading a nice murder mystery. Does the fact that Spencer’s latest adventure doesn’t grind my mental gears mean reading it is a waste of time? Far from it. You ask me we need all kinds of books in our lives. The genres fit together like pieces of a puzzle.
And the puzzle is us.