“Two things about my own life became clear: I really did understand both sides, and I didn’t understand them at all.”
Reading Edwidge Danticat’s novel Claire of the Sea Light is like swimming through a gentle tide in a body of water known for riptides. The feeling that something invisible, fierce, and irreparable is just under the surface never quite leaves the corner of the reader’s mind. The story traces relational ties in Ville Rose, a small coastal village town in Haiti.
Might Christian nostalgia—wrapped in a cape dress and sealed with a kiss—have an interest in the future as well as the past?
“Anyone who reads independently and spiritedly is going to carry an eclectic canon around in his head,” writes Christian Wiman. “That is half the fun of it all.” For the past five years or so, I have had the responsibility of coming up with the novels to put on the Century’s list of Christmas picks for fiction. At first I was baffled by this job. Did I have to read every new book?
Reading fiction has done more to baptize my imagination, inform my faith and strengthen my courage than any prayer technique has.
The title of Nathaniel Philbrick’s slim new meditation foregrounds the questions at the heart of every assignment made by every English teacher: Why read this book? Or that book? For that matter, why do we assign reading in the first place?