Plenty of people claim they like to read, they just don't like to read assigned books. That's like saying pizza is your favorite food, except when your mom serves it for dinner. Books are assigned because no one's born with a sense of good or bad literature, or knowing what works influenced the history of thought and which ones didn't.
If you loved Huckleberry Finn when you read it on your own, why did you hate it when you had to read it for class?
The sad fact is simply that most people haven't been given the tools for appreciating literature because they haven't been taught to understand it. Anyone who loves their job, or hobby, or sport only does so because they "get it." Understanding is a much overlooked and undervalued asset in today's data-infatuated culture. The goal isn't to interpret anything, only to accumulate as many statistics as possible. No wonder so few people thoroughly enjoy reading.
It's easy to like a book that requires nothing of you; it's the entertainment version of data-acquisition. You simply read the facts about the characters, the facts about the events, the facts the facts the facts, and maybe there are some action-packed facts or some titillating ones, and those are the source of any enjoyment you get from reading. You tell people you like to read, but you don't like books you've been told to read.
A lot of this conflict goes away when one learns how to read. Simply decoding words isn't the extent of reading; a good reader is one who can identify the meaning in a text, appreciate the beauty and complexity of the language as used by the author, and connect their knowledge of various texts to produce a viable body of understanding and increase their powers of critical thinking.
There are those who think this is a waste of time, that any time spent studying literature would be better spent studying the Bible....forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that the Bible is literature. Not in the sense that it's fictional, of course, but the Word of God doesn't come to us pre-interpreted or devoid of traditional literary form—for our delight as much as our instruction, the Bible is poetry, drama, adventure story, philosophy, theology and even romance all rolled into one.
While it's true that we should devote time to studying the Bible (lots of time, even), it's also true that studying literature is a valuable exercise in its own right. For one thing, it can help us better understand how to approach the Bible and its various genres, and provide excellent practice making inter- and intratextual connections and comparisons. Beyond that, it helps us understand other people, the events of history, the ideas of past generations, gives us an increased appreciation of true beauty, and helps us understand ourselves. Also, it's often really fun.
That sense of fun, however, is not without context. For many, it represents an Enlightenment ideal that has crept almost wholly unnoticed into modern thought. The Enlightenment humanists asserted that man was best in his "natural" state, and that culture and society overall had a diminishing effect on him that robbed him of his true potential. Thus, enjoying a book unfettered by any notion of understanding it, or of self-improvement, will yield better and more pleasurable results than the alternative.
This flies in the face of everything the Bible says about man and society. Society, though it can corrupt its members, is also the civilizer of men. Man requires structure and law to keep him from complete chaos, and society is the instrument of such organization. Each societal structure comes with its own rules, and an understanding of these is necessary for an understanding of any product of that culture.
More than that, the deepest understanding of Scripture requires a knowledge of its cultural and religious origins, the nature of the languages in which it was written, its coherence as a unified document, etc. How can we assume the path to interpretation of any other text is any different?
If your only expectation from any book is that it provide a measure of diversion, any book will do. But if you want to read in order to grow and truly enjoy the beauty that still shines in this often murky world, you'll need to choose the right books, and you'll need to devote yourself to understanding them. Inculcating those desires in our children and equipping them with the tools to do so is one of our foremost goals, and that is why we carry such a variety of products to help you do the same.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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