Having joined GoodReads, which is a sort of cross between LibraryThing and MySpace, I've been thinking about my reading habits. The immediate post-seminary era called for an abundance of chick lit. Our book group at church reads a variety of great novels - from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Since I've already read some of the upcoming book group titles (Davita's Harp and Stones from the River [marvelous books you should go out and read this moment]), I've been plumbing our shelves for books that got lost in my good intentions. (Yes, we own a lot of books I haven't yet read. I have a book-buying compulsion and can't keep up with the pace of my acquisitions.)
Last week I devoured Mary Gordon's "meditation" on Joan of Arc, which is part of the Penguin Lives series. It's kind of an odd fit for pleasure reading - religious but not excessively relevant to ministry or my particular mode of spirituality. I still enjoyed it, in part because I was quite surprised by how much of her experience resonates with the kinds of discussions that have been going on at Fidelia's Sisters and the underground, password-protected blog for young clergywomen - Joan's tendency to cry, the emphasis on her clothing (she opted for menswear, whereas a lot of my young clergypals wear adorable shoes as a trademark), and certainly the constant motif of being a little girl in a traditionally male world. There was also a lot of medieval history involved, about which I know embarrassingly little. I still know embarrassingly little, because my retention for names and dates is beyond poor.
After bidding farewell to poor St. Joan, I went back to the bookshelf to pick out another less-obvious choice.
During my freshman year of college, I read The Brothers Karamazov. Even though it intimidated me by its length and density, and even though I had to supplement my weak reading comprehension with a little yellow-and-black-striped friend, I loved it. I always intended to go back and read more Dostoyevsky, but he always seemed a bit heavy during semester breaks and such. But now seems the perfect time to read Crime and Punishment. Elizabeth read Anna Karenina when she was pregnant with Gracie, and I adore the notion of making a tradition out of prenatal encounters with Russian literature. I'm happy to report that reading Dostoyevsky is going better at 27 than it did at 18, even without the benefit of a syllabus to dictate my reading schedule and a professor to guide my understanding. Apparently I did learn a few things along the way, because I don't feel nearly as dense as I did back then.
I love to read. What are you reading?