One of my favorite places in this world is my home library. Not only is it cozy, warm, and inviting, it also houses my main earthly treasure, books. I admit it: I am a bibliophile. I love books, and I can’t seem to get enough of them. No wonder I am a Christian; we are called the “People of the Book,” after all.
Fellow book addict Edward Newton once wrote: “A man (or woman) is the most interesting thing in the world; and next is a book.” Who was it that said that a book is a man’s best friend? When I am in my library, I surround myself with hundreds of friends that provide different perspectives of God and of creation. In the ancient art of reading I meet a very ancient God indeed.
I think that God has granted us the gift of reading in order to better explore who we are and to make something of ourselves. It is a travesty that fewer people read books these days, for it is in reading that we can find ourselves—and many times loss ourselves—in the worlds that books create.
There is no better time for reading books than now. Laptops and e-readers have made the sport versatile and mobile, giving us instant access to thousands of texts at the palm of our hand.
It’s an even better time to read as a family and to read to our children. Our President’s Administration encourages it; our schools emphasize it; our bookstores nurture it. Even Nancy Guinn is becoming new and improved.
Oh! and the joy to see a child read! My five-year old daughter is reading up a Dr. Seuss storm, and it’s an absolute thrill to watch her sound out words. This week she worked through the word, “incredibly.” Every victory makes her want to read more, and her voracious habit has turned my car and my wife’s car into extensions of her own growing library!
When I read with my daughter or partake of the sacraments offered in my library, I quickly realize that by reading we can also find the very fingerprints of God. In an Atticus Finch, we find God’s fingerprints of courage in the face of prejudice and status quo. In a Frank McCourt, we find humor despite humiliation. In a Winston Churchill we find an enlightened future rooted in a distant past. In a Strunk and White we glimpse the wisdom of the English language.
Books are a powerful medium in which authors gain the voice to say something profound and grope for a mysterious God. Words help us to discern and see God at work around us. Books capture moments in time and show us a mirror of who we are, from the darkest of souls to the grandest of visions. They also reveal just how close or how far we have ventured from God.
Perhaps I like books and can see God within many pages of my library because I love writing too. Writing and reading go hand-in-hand and establish a dance between knower and known. A late professor of mine, Dr. Daniel Goodman, once said in a sermon: “We write because we want to find God. Every sentence in its own way is a search for God. Every period at the end of a sentence is another admission of failure, another frustration. So what do we do? We start another sentence, always searching, always seeking; but God, ever the ironist, always seems to reside and live in the next sentence.”
Same can be said about books. God is in the next page, the next purchase, the next library loan!
Edward Newton cited a rather fitting poem for us booklovers: “Thou fool! To seek companions in a crowd/ Into thy room, and there upon thy knees/ before thy bookshelves, humbly thank thy God/ that thou hast friends like these!”