I learned how to read when I was four years old. All credit there goes to my Mom. Since then, I’ve followed my insatiable thirst for a good read through the entire juvenile section of my hometown library, young adult series like the Hardy Boys and Narnia, and on up through mysteries, novels, stacks of nonfiction and reams of poetry. Other than a brief foray into some badly written, sappy Christian romances, I’ve kept my reading standards rather high: if it’s badly written, I put it down. If it’s depressing or dark, I put it down. If it doesn’t capture my attention, I put it down. And, up until just a couple of years ago, if I ran across a sex scene or profanity, I put it down.
I was raised by Christian parents who brought wonderful books into our home and taught me how to appreciate them. They were watchful over my reading, encouraging me to try new authors and experience new books but steering me away from the inappropriate. This was my reading world, with few exceptions, up until I turned 18 and entered a public university… with a major in English.
Four years later I graduated with eyes opened wide, a head full of knowledge, and a completed reading list full of “the inappropriate.” I wouldn’t say that I retreated from books, just that, as I walked away from college that day, I also walked away from book immersion. I was weary from four years of reading, writing, thinking, analyzing, digesting, defending, wading through the professorial picks, and trying to maintain that pure love for the story that had landed me in those classrooms.
But the thirst wouldn’t let me be. I began haunting the library again, a new one this time, searching for a good, simple book with no hidden agendas, no political diatribes, just a well-written plot and interesting characters.
They can be difficult to find, especially if your childhood standards come back and wave red flags at you every other paragraph. I was so hungry for the good and light and pure in literature that I bluntly rejected anything that tasted different. The problem was, though, that sometimes a little rough edge is necessary. Life is a juxtaposition of light and dark. And we Christians, whether in reading or in real life, can’t ignore both sides. No, that doesn’t mean we need to dwell on the dark side; but for me, as far as books go, it means that I need to acknowledge humanity in all our fallenness even as I read.
I’ve changed my reading standards a bit. I still put it down if it’s badly written or doesn’t capture my attention. And I still put it down if the whole feel of the book is depressing or dark. But I allow some leniency in the content; presenting real people in real situations means that, sometimes, things get inappropriate. I’m confident enough to think I can deal with the intrusion and see the bigger picture. I’ve been rewarded; I’ve waded through initial chapter that were off-putting, outlasted scenes that weren’t comfortable, and been rewarded with characters and plots that, all told, equal up to a story that is the good and light and pure of literature.
With three kids under three and a penchant for starting too many projects, Annie escapes by consuming books and writing about life, learning, and growth at SisterWisdom.