The word that comes to mind when I walk through my home is ‘bibliophile’. Bookshelves line the basement, you’ll find stacks of books in the guest bedroom, and the dining room and master bedroom have stacks of their own. A few books rest on the arms of chairs and couches in the front room. Piles of books sit on the table in the kitchen.
Needless to say, the only problem that I’ve encountered so far is ‘Where do I start?’ I’ve always been a reader. My love of books originated with my mom reading to all of us kids when we were little. We’d each pick a book and huddle around her as she read every afternoon after lunch.
After we learned to read on our own, everything was fair game. I grew up in a little town, and I quickly demolished the public library’s collection. Their shelves were lined with books I had already read and re-read.
Love of reading woke me up early and kept me up late at night. My late night reading adventures resulted in the reason that I wear glasses today. As a kid, I strained my eyes from trying to sneakily read under the covers.
I didn’t learn my lesson though, and I still read past my bedtime. I’ll finish a book, have a good cry, and get over the loss of beloved characters by starting a new book. Yes, I’m even guilty of purposely reading slowly through the last chapter so that the book doesn’t end as fast.
Call me crazy, bookworm, bibliophile, or nerd. But I truly believe that reading makes you a better human being and this summer, I’m challenging you to put together a reading list and watch it transform you.
Reading make you a better person
I love Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. How couldn’t you love him? He’s loyal, blunt, and adventurous. Clumsy yet practical, he longs for adventure that will take him out of the comfort of the Shire, and perhaps see some Elves along the way.
Sam’s genuine character shines through Tolkien’s pages and inspires friendship to no end. But his tale is only one of the multiple characters who make up the Fellowship of the Ring.
What about Gimli, the dwarf with quick wit and blunt humor? Pippin and Merry with their antics and quick thinking? Each character weaves into the intricate world of Middle Earth.
But it’s not just Middle Earth that is complicated. The world is a muddy place full of muddy people (and hobbits). There are different vantage points to every story and reading allows you to see into the perspective of the other – a life skill that comes in handy most days of the week.
Books makes you healthier, too! Did you know that reading can prevent Alzheimer’s, improve your general brain health, reduce your stress levels, and help you better empathize with others?
With benefits abounding, reading is the way to go to improve your life overall this summer. So far, the only negative affects from reading that I’ve found are an empty wallet due to book purchases, bloodshot eyes due to 2:00 am reading binges, and anger that bubbles up when a movie director missed an important part of the book in his attempt to crush a week long, page turning journey into 1.5 hours.
But don’t let that deter you – the pros far outweigh the cons.
Putting Together Your Summer List
Ah summer. We’ll blink and it’ll be August, our summer plans sitting on their Pinterest boards, untouched and unexplored. Make this summer different!
Start your reading list by picking out three books: One you’ve wanted to read but never have time for, one recommended by a friend, and a classic. Here are three suggestions:
1. A book you’ve wanted to read but have never had time for
You know that book that’s been on your reading list for longer than you care to admit? That’s the book that should be on your summer reading list. Maybe you can crack it open on a long plane ride. Perhaps it will make the perfect pool side book.
My shelves are overflowing with when-I-have-the-time books. This year, I want to spend some time with Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales. The book has sat on my shelf for over a year now. I’ve been encouraged to pick it up by multiple people now, but I’ve always used the ‘don’t have time’ excuse. This summer, I’m packing it with me to take to my adoration hour.
2. A book recommended by a friend
Do you have a friend whose house looks more like a library? Does your parish priest frequently mention a book he’s diving into during his homilies? Ask a reader you trust for a spiritual reading recommendation.
It may not be a book you would pick up on your own, but it’s guaranteed to expand your reading horizons. Lately, a book that was recommended by a podcast and some trusted readers in my life was Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved. It’s not a book I would have picked for myself, but Nouwen’s writing is radically changing the way I approach prayer.
As Father Benedict famously said, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” Your summer reading list is a great chance to get out of your comfort zones and explore something great.
3. A classic tome
There’s no shortage of new books for your faith life. Wanting to pick out one of those too, head over to our book review section and see some of the Epic Pew favorites! However, there”s something to be said for a classic spiritual book.
Your cup overflows with choices when it comes to classics. This year I’m putting Story of a Soul by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux on my list. It’s a book that is referenced by some great spiritual writers. It’ll also be a chance to get to know the Little Flower a little bit better.
But don’t stop there!
These recommendations don’t mean that you have to stop after those three books are finished. Believe me, I’m already planning my fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the summer and I’m not planning on stopping (or sleeping) anytime soon.
Select your summer reading list and head down to your local Catholic bookstore. Hang up your hammock in the backyard, make yourself a glass of iced tea and let a reading list transform your summer! Happy reading, and may your shelves always overflow with books.