Last night, as Mike and I were going to bed, I read to him from a book I had just started. It was a book on marriage. It was debunking traditional advice given to people who desire to have a better marriage. Then this morning I read to him something I had read about Nihilism. It interested me because it applied to a problem a friend of ours was struggling with.
He said to me, “I thought you were reading the book about marriage.”
“I am,” I responded, “but I’m also reading about Nihilism.”
Then he thought for a minute. “And weren’t you just talking to me about something you read from A Wrinkle in Time?”
“Yep. I’m reading that too.”
I counted them up and admitted that I was actually reading six books at the moment.
He laughed, because he had five books of his own going at that time.
Now, before you put me in the “egg-head” category I need to make it crystal clear that I’m not a part of the new intelligentsia—as if that’s exactly what you were thinking. I do love books, but primarily because I need lots of help with life.
Sadly, I can’t take St. John Chrysostom, C.S. Lewis or David McCullough to lunch and pick their brains. I can’t literally surround myself with all the people smarter than me, or people who have traveled down roads on which I’m traveling. But I can surround myself with their words. So, when I have a question, when I need help, when I need to see life from a different perspective, I pick up a book.
I don’t always finish books. Occasionally I do, but more often than not I don’t. And that’s just fine. Sometimes it’s like meeting someone, getting the help you need and moving on without having to know everything they say about everything. And let’s be honest, some books aren’t worth finishing.
But many are and I just keep them going until I’ve gotten what I need, I get bored, something else grabs my attention, or until I finish them and grieve over their departure.
As I’ve thought about the number of books I tend to have at my side at any given time, I discovered three reasons why I don’t stick to just one:
1. Books come in a variety of formats. Each format fits a particular situation.
Traditional bound books:
Perfect for morning reading. I usually have a ruler and a pen in my hand. I ask questions, jot down comments in the margins and have a conversation with the author while I enjoy my morning coffee.
Great for road trips and long walks.
Best for air travel and waiting rooms.
2. Books address the diversity of life’s circumstances. Life comes at you fast, from all angles.
Stories, Fiction, History:
For when I need some comic relief or a new perspective on life.
For when I need to tap into someone else’s life experience and get concrete help for life’s challenges.
For when I need inspiration and an encouraging word from travelers who are ahead of me on life’s road.
3. Our days play out in a variety of settings. The different settings present different opportunities for learning.
My mind is the most alert and the most “teachable” in the morning. Consequently, this is when I tend to read “heavier” material.
If I’m likely to be distracted or interrupted I’ll gravitate toward fiction or stories that don’t require me to have a pen and paper in hand.
Because I’m already sleepy, I need a book that I can read in snippets. I rarely finish a chapter at night so I want to read bite-sized portions that will give my mind something positive to meditate on while I sleep.
So, there you have it. Three reasons why I read several books at one time and why it’s OK for you, too.
QUESTION: What about you? How many books are you reading right now?
P.S. Here are the books I’m currently reading:
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Audio Book)
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (Kindle)
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman (Paperback)
Nihilism, The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose (Paperback)
Giver of Life, The Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition by Fr. John Oliver (Paperback)
The Melody of Faith, Theology in an Orthodox Key by Vigen Guroian (Paperback)