Surrender to fiction: Fall books: Reading habits

October 5, 2012

I  would love to tell you that I read psalms every morning, poetry every noon, theology every afternoon and prize-winning fiction every night. The truth is that I read largely by necessity during the school week, saving the good stuff for late nights and weekends.

On weekdays, my early morning reading includes a review of the material to be covered later that day in class. I seldom assign the same textbook twice, which means that I am always reading something new in Bible, theology or world religions. This not only helps me keep up with fresh developments in these fields; it also reminds me that there is no “neutral” approach to any of them. An author’s values are embedded in the work.

On Fridays I shift gears, reading something that puts my mind out to pasture for the weekend. Right now it is the collected poems of Jack Gilbert; next on the list is Kayak Morning, by Roger Rosenblatt. I have a few trusted friends who send me such books, which I accept as maps to places I might never have gone on my own.

Bedtime reading is always fiction, in predictable rotation: a mystery, a memoir, a literary novel or short story collection. I also make sure to read men and women writers, from this country and abroad, both classical and experimental. The point is to surrender my grip on my own life before I go to sleep, which begins by stepping onto the magic carpet of someone else’s life through the pages of a book.

Saturdays are the best. On the Sabbath, I am free to read all day long—anything I like, for as long as I like, in pajamas if I like—as close to literary heaven as this reader expects to get.

Comments

Barbara Brown Taylor's reading habits

I am living the readers heavenly dream.  And feeling guilty about what I'm not doing for " work".  

I am a "retired" mother, grandmother, senior citizen, have self published a lifetime' collection of poetry, my husband has to be busy if he's still breathing so he's gradually taken over everything.  I'm pretty much an introvert, a mystic, crave solitude but can't help feeling I ought to be "working". Does anybody have any thoughts?

Working

Everything worthwhile requires work. Apparently your husband has taken the route that fits him best and derives enjoyment from what he is doing. You have done the same. For some, your choice would be laborious. Just because you enjoy what you are doing doesn't make it less than work. But maybe you shouldn't feel perfectly fine about not "working," for this tension between what you do and what you think you "ought to" could be helpful in living in that place of openness to the next door that the Lord opens to you. It is perfectly fine to feel somewhat ill at ease, because we still live in a world that is far from being finished.