The Reading Balance
I think it is almost safe to say that I was born a bookworm. I know that from the day I picked up a book and discovered I could actually read on my own, books have been my friends and companions through thick and thin.
It probably isn’t a surprise that I married a fellow book lover, for book lovers tend to get together one way or another. He may not read as much as I do, and may not be quite so wormish about books as I am, but he knows a good book when he sees one, and when it comes to organizing the book shelf, his will be perfect every time! There are few things more cozy to me than curling up together with my sweetheart and reading the afternoon away.
Years have changed a lot of things for this bookworm. The responsibilities and demands of life have shifted my priorities: I don’t read as much as I use to read, and for a while, I read almost nothing at all. In part, many moves that kept books tucked into boxes for months or years at a time were to blame. But that wasn’t the only reason.
A favorite singer says that with love, too much of a good thing, is a good thing, and when it comes to loving my husband and our marriage, I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly. Yet, with almost everything else in life, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and reading too much of even good books can prove to have ill effects on other aspects of life.
I doubt that over-reading in general is something that much of the population today has to worry about. But sometimes I wonder if we take time to find balance in our reading, in what we read, how we read and yes, even how much we read.
The Bible tells us to have moderation in all that we do, and while I never read anything that could be called a bad book in a moral sense, I did read too many books about other people. One day I realized that I would rather live in my world of make believe than deal with the real challenges of life. That’s when I cut back on the light storybook reading, and began to read more of the real stuff.
I learned that fiction, like dessert, should be sparing and well selected, or it spoils the appetite for real food — and real life. It might not be popular, but I can think of a dozen or more girls of my acquaintance who found themselves dissatisfied with real love — almost missing the beauty and spoiling the joy of what was meant to be the happiest years of their life — because they couldn’t understand why when they got married it wasn’t like the story books made it out to be.
I learned that as good and wonderful as reading is, it is no substitute for living — for really living. It can inspire dreams and aspirations that are high and noble, but at some point if we don’t put down the books and start living, we’ll find life to be as empty as a blank notebook we always meant to write in but never quite did.
So I made a promise to live more, even if it meant reading less.
Somewhere out of my quest to find that reading balance (and this is a quest I have no doubt that I will continue for the rest of my life — because that is how balance is), the motto that became the heart of a yearly reading challenge formed. It’s the one that I tell myself often when I feel tempted to read too quickly or too much, or am thinking about reading in general:
The point of books isn’t how many books you get through, but how many books get through to you.
It isn’t the number of pages, or the number of books, or even just the kind of book. It is choosing what I read so that in reading, the words aren’t just symbols that pass under my eyes and make no change on my mind, heart or life. It is choosing books that make the life I do live better for having read the words I do read.
I may not read 100 or more books in a year anymore. I might be tempted to rush through the few I do read, losing the depth of the book in favor of getting on to the next one. And yet, all the times I’ve read, letting the book get through to me, instead of just getting through the book, I’ve realized again how good reading really can be.
Love it! This article reflects many of my own thoughts on reading. I do love to read, but I’m picky about what I read. I want my reading to enhance my life, not to distract me from my life.
Totally agree about fiction, especially christian romances. I can’t say they are wrong, but I do think they hold a danger of pulling the reader out of reality and into a beautiful world where everything works out and the hero is always strong, handsome, wealthy, adores his lady, everything a girl could possibly want, all wrapped up in one person. (Sorry, that was a really long sentence!) I personally stopped reading them, just because I lost my appetite for them. (Ok, once in a blue moon I read a Christmas one!)
I too have to remind myself to slow down and not just “read” the book, but to take time to let it change me. That takes more work, but what’s the point of reading if you’re just decoding words?
Great article, I’m glad I found your site today!
Thank you so much for sharing, Chantel. Reading your post, I was thinking, “Wow! This is just like ME!” There’s so much I relate to in yout post – especially this: “I learned that as good and wonderful as reading is, it is no substitute for living — for really living.” That’s so true – or so I have found it in my life. I used to read, read, read ALL the time. And now I do, dearly, love to read, but I don’t read so much … and I think I enjoy what I DO read so much more as well as enjoiying life so much more!
Then again, I didn’t entirely like my life. But I still didn’t think of myself as escaping from life, just making it more interesting.
As I fellow bookworm, I’ve also learnt the importance of a ‘reading balance’ in my life. I read less fiction these days as I’ve found it takes away my appetite for other non-fiction books, even God’s Word. To my shame, I used to read many books each year but not consistently read through the Bible.
I was born a bookworm too and for me, books were often like dessert.
And going to the library was better than getting candy or ice cream….
I could go on and on about how books helped me grow up and conquer my fears and how they were always “there” for me….
I too have slowed down and rarely read more than 25 books a year and even that is a stretch! I have found that “real life” and living each day with the ones I love is far more important than finishing that book.
“One day I realized that I would rather live in my world of make believe than deal with the real challenges of life. ” Mmm, too true.
And something we must always remember to do, but I often forget is to view each book we read through the screen of the Scripture.
Thank you for this thoughful article! I like your comparison of fiction to dessert – you are right, some is good, but as I try to be more aware of what I eat this lent, I will also try to do so with my reading.
That is hard to hear for a fiction-lover like me, yet I know you are right. I have been discovering it a bit, myself, but I don’t know if the lure of fiction has been lost. And in some cases fiction can be like real life and help with things, but often it’s not. My dad used to tell me that fiction was an escape from real life, thus he didn’t really like us reading too much of it. I should have listened then, but I was offended at the idea. I wasn’t trying to *escape* anything–I liked my life! But in some ways I was missing out on life, and even shirking duties or things that I could have taken on to help others. So I am reading less these days, too, and hope that I will continually grow more and live life the fullest I can to God’s glory.
“Letting the book get through to me” – a very good point! I read very little fiction now, and have developed an appetite for true, real books – books that show me how to really live. Real stories are far more life-changing, although a few fiction books are written well enough to drive home truth. Reading books slowly is an art I’ve had to develop, too, since I’ve always been a speed reader.
I couldn’t agree more!
I have always loved to read, but as I’ve gotten older, I take more pleasure in the duties of
being a student, servant of the Lord, and daughter/caregiver. When I do take the time to read, I usually read the Journeys devotional for women or a religious book that I can identify with. I tend to enjoy books that are written about the way life really is.
Thank you, Chantel. My journey in reading sounds so similar… though I’m not quite as far along the event chain of life. I too have discovered that living real life necessitates putting down the book, and loving people does too.