From our Curate: Time for a Summer Read!

One of my favorite aspects about summer is the freedom to read books. This is a long-standing love of mine.

I have some great childhood memories of long hours of lazing away the summer days while reading. I would jump on my bike and ride to the city library and pack up a basket full of books. I was enthusiastic (nerdy?) enough to join the reading programs where I would receive a paper print out and then acquire a stamped ‘thumbs-up’ when completing a book. I suppose I am still a sucker for a gold star but, honestly, the freedom of summer book-reading on its own was and still is prize worthy enough.

Choosing a Summer Read: Recently, I was listening to a YouTube video that quoted CS Lewis with regard to reading ‘original sources’ of books rather than commentaries about the books. In other words, he was suggesting that one read John Keats’s poetry rather than read a modern book about Keats’s poetry. Go to the original source, was his advice. His reasoning was that commentaries can lead one astray as to the meaning of the author about whom they are writing. One should find one’s own meaning, was his thought.

Now, I have to say I tried this last fall. I was in an old musty bookshop in London, and I thought I would pick up some Dylan Thomas, Blake, Lord Byron or Tennyson. Perusing through the pages, I couldn’t make heads or tails of much of it. So, I thought, that maybe in a different bookstore these authors would be more understandable. I actually tried three bookstores in total. But these authors did not get any more readable with this approach. There must be something about the bookstores of CS Lewis’s day that has changed.

I write this true story in hindsight and with some whimsy. I’ve read Charles Darwin’s Origen of the Species. I understood every word and thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps there is a basic understanding of the literature that is required – CS Lewis didn’t mention that.

Reading the Bible: Now, here is a reasonably original book for the summer! My favorite bible at home is The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version. It was a gift from a professor who thought I could benefit from the extra information that is included in this edition. While it has the text that all similar bibles include, it also introduces each of the chapters. The timeline, historical context and overview of each chapter contained in the introduction is really helpful for providing a bridge to modern appreciation. I don’t think CS Lewis would find this commentary wayward, and if so, God can set him straight on that.

Admittedly, I do have a lot of silly paperbacks on my bed stand. They are a joy to read. Some of them are Austens and Brontës – but certainly not all. I would love to hear what you have chosen to read this summer.

The Rev. SuEllen Pommier