By Joe LaGuardia
This is the first part in a multi-part article series on my “reading life”. Enjoy!
On a recent mission trip to Cuba, I spent some time reading C. S. Lewis’ memoir Surprised by Joy. Like other books by Lewis I’ve read, I found it hard to follow his line of argument, narration, British idioms, and the writing in general. I am accustomed to reading dated literature–most of my favorite books come from the early 20th-century–but it is just that I have never been a fan of Lewis in the first place. Don’t judge me.
The one thing I did enjoy about Surprised by Joy (and I’m glad there was one thing, since, in Cuba, I had nothing else to read) was how the rhythm of Lewis’s upbringing can be measured according to the books he read. Every season of his life was marked by tragedy and triumph, as well as an exposure to literature that came his way.
Lewis speaks of his father’s personal book collection, his favorite reading in school, the tutor who introduced him to Homer, and his on-going love affair with mythology and poetry. Every coming-of-age tale he tells accompanies a movement towards a new genre of literature. When he eventually gets to his Christian conversion, it comes by way of the joy that literature brings to his life.
I am a reader too. When I look back on my life — (again, something I had a lot of time to do while awaiting sleep in my room, lovingly called “the Cave”, in Cuba, sans television and internet) — I can easily see how literature also acted as a thread throughout my life. From The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree to everything written by Barbara Brown Taylor, I remember most of the books that have shaped my life and accompanied me through good times and bad. Why not, like Lewis, try to record it for the ages?
So over the next few months, that’s precisely what I intend to do — narrate the seasons of my life through books, a “reading life,” as it were. I love reading, and I love reading articles about reading, so I hope that these little chestnuts along the way will encourage you, bolster your love for books, and invoke some great conversations of the central place books play in the lives of bibliophiles across the globe.