After a brief hiatus, it’s time to pick up again on our thousand foot survey of my experiences as a reader. Last time I shared some details about my reading during college. Now we’re going to move beyond that into what I tend to think of as my “non-fiction” years. It’s not that I read no fiction during these years, I read a fair amount of it, but it just seems like non-fiction works were my main stay during this time moreso than at any other period along my reading journey.
The reason for this, I think, was in order to correct a great deficiency in my reading up until that point. You see, I’d read very little non-fiction that wasn’t required for school. I felt that I was particularly lacking when it came to an understanding about my newfound faith and thus most of my reading tended towards that direction. I read a lot of books on practical things like marriage, becoming a godly man, raising children, and so forth, basically anything I hoped would help me grow as a believer. I also had a keen interest in the underpinnings of the Ciirstian faith. I wanted to have answers to tough questions and to be able to give reasons for my beliefs. C.S. Lewis’ books were a mainstay for me during this time. Of particular value was The Abolition of Man which certainly influenced me in the writing of The Chronotrace Sequence series.
To be honest, a lot of what I read during that time I look back on as not terribly good. A lot of it was pretty shallow, quite frankly. But maybe I had to read some of that to get beyond it. As a new believer, I really had no clue what I was getting into and I did not have anyone really discipling me on a consistent basis. My faith grew in large part from simply reading the bible. Beyond that, I guess I just went for the cookies on the bottom shelf and I ended up going through a lot of “fluff”. Most of the non-fiction I read during this period isn’t stuff I would recommend.
So much for non-fiction
So were there any highlights? Not surprisingly, it was the fiction I read during the years after college that stands out. I read Lewis’ Space Trilogy (also a big influence on The Chronotrace Sequence) and The Great Divorce, Screwtape Letters, and Pilgrim’s Regress during this time all of which were wonderful (suffice it to say I’ve never read anything bad by Lewis). It was also during these years when I first got up the gumption to read Dostoevsky. I loved his Brothers Karamazov, but found Crime and Punishment to be, well, punishing.
One rather interesting tid bit is that I did read a few books in Spanish as well since I was living in Central America and am fluent in that language. Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth was probably the best thing I read in español. Hopefully some day I’ll get around to reading the English version!
A book I did not read in Spanish, but instead in English, was Don Quixote. I found it to be a rather depressing experience. Gordon Lightfoot may have waxed eloquent about him in song, but Don Quixote was mentally not all there and reading his story is like watching a slow train wreck.
I’m sure I’m missing some really excellent books, but that should give you a good sampling. Sorry I didn’t go more into the non-fiction books, but there really wasn’t much there that bears repeating.
I think the next post will be the one to wrap up the series and I can’t wait to share with you what happened along the next stretch of the road because that is when I finally took the plunge and started writing down my own stories. And, like I imagine is the case with many writers, it was in large part due to my experiences with the books I was reading at the time. But I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that in the next article.