At the start of this year, I made it a resolution to read more books. Somehow this goal always makes it to my list, but this time I decided to share what I was reading on this blog by posting monthly book lists. I’m now in the beginning of the seventh month, which happens to be the longest I’ve probably ever kept a new year’s resolution. It’s very likely that it’s due to the public nature of sharing my goal and the indirect accountability it provides. So because I have made it this far, I thought I’d share why I chose to spend this year reading.
1. To be inspired
I love when I read a book that paints the scene or emotion in such a vivid way, luring you in, and then leaving you inspired to pursue your passions. Paris Letters was one of those fun books that described the journey of a woman who saved enough money to quit her marketing job and move to Paris. Her descriptions of living in Paris are worded in a way that brings you into her journey of becoming an artist. I found A Moveable Feast, Paris Was Ours, A Confederacy of Dunces, and The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh to also be full of vivid descriptions and stories that inspire you to explore, learn, and create. Then there are more motivational books, like Art and Fear and Big Magic, which share insights into the creative process, while normalizing many of the common feelings and emotions experienced during the process.
2. To write better
Books like Bird by Bird and Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies make a compelling argument for why it’s necessary to read well, and how engaging with an author’s words causes us to reflect on what the author is inviting us to do. This “shapes the habits of our minds and the habits of our hearts” (McEntryre, 2009, p. 69). By reading well, we have the opportunity to become better thinkers, which informs our framework for how we understand and respond to others, our environment, and the world. Recognizing good writing not only enhances our ability to process, but influences our ability to right with precision, which “has to do not with sophistication, but rather with the felt accuracy of elemental feelings and appetites” (p.48). And most importantly, both authors express the need for being intentional with our words and how “good writing is about telling the truth” (Lamott, 1994, p.3).
3. To learn about the past
My desire to learn about the past is fueled by my interest in exploring other countries. But I also believe it’s beneficial to learn about history, because it provides context and insight to the formation of a place, culture, or people. In Night, Elie Wiesel shared his personal survival story in a concentration camp, during the Holocaust. In his story, you get a greater sense of what the Jewish community faced during WWII, and how it affected their sense of self, their faith, their relationships, and how far they would go to hold on to hope over the daily reality of death. Emma is a romantic novel that provides context for what courtship and marriage looked like in England during the early 19th century, and how societal class affected who was considered an acceptable marriage partner. Napoleon: A Life and Marie Antoinette are both biographies that also provide historical details of the events taking place during their lives and the impact those events had on them, the country of France, and the world.
By intentionally making reading a priority this year, I have found that these books have provided a journey of curiosity and inspiration. This journey has unfolded beauty in poetry, in history, in the stories of others, in the research and knowledge of others, and has given me inspiration to draw from as I write or take photographs. I’m thankful for these books and the beauty they give me each time I open one up and close another.