Reading the World

When I was twelve, I would pray the same prayer every night: Lord, send me adventure.

Following Him has been the greatest adventure of all, and seeing how He weaves plot, character, and conflict has proved to me that He is indeed the “Author and Perfecter” of my faith.

Perhaps that’s why I love books so much. They give little glimpses into the Greatest Story. Here are a few I have loved lately:

George Saunders’s A Swim in a Pond in the Rain might be a niche tome for those who love literature, particularly Russian literature, but it is also applicable for all, heavy with insightful tidbits about “writing, reading, and life.”

“Well, the part of the mind that reads a story is also the part that reads the world,” he writes. 

Taking a closer look at Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev, and Gogol revealed a world alive with causation, variation, and meaning. In addition to communicating big ideas about philosophy, politics, art, and religion, these old Russian writers spin a good yarn and lead the reader on a variety of adventures in their short stories.

Saunders does a great job of processing them in manageable pieces. Although I disagreed with some of his takeaways, I appreciated his insight on all but the Gogol chapter. He could have skipped that one altogether, in my opinion.

I can’t remember the last time I read a whole novel in 24 hours, but Christine Cohen’s The Sinking City kept me reading so that I finished the whole book in a day.

Equal parts fantasy and historical fiction, this haunting fairy tale brings all the horror of evil to light in the face of steadfast love, forgiveness, and friendship, and just as darkness does when confronted with light, it vanishes. 

Liona is a patrician’s daughter in medieval Venice. An old promise haunts the family, and Liona must form new friendships, and a new identity, to escape it. Magicians and sea-people plunge the reader into a whole new world. I wouldn’t recommend this for kids younger than 12.

While I was on book tour for The Winning of Lady Wisdom, I picked up Ellen Bryan Obed’s Twelve Kinds of Ice, a delightful work of creative nonfiction detailing her family’s relationship with the ice of northern Maine. The illustrator, Barbara McClintock, grew up in North Dakota, and her detailed fine line sketches bring the words to life. It made a great read aloud for the whole family.

I enjoyed this one so much, I looked up Obed’s other works, and was also enchanted by Borrowed Black, a fanciful poem set on the Labrador Coast, featuring the villain named Borrowed Black, reminiscent of Seuss’s Grinch. This one might be a little on the scary side for the youngest readers.

I’ve been waiting anxiously for Daniel Nayeri’s The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams, and I wasn’t disappointed. While different from his autobiographical, Everything Sad is Untrue, Samir retains Nayeri’s captivating sense of humor and call to adventure. 

Monkey, an orphaned boy, is rescued (bought) by Samir, a traveling merchant. As the story unfolds, the reader sees that Samir elevates the value of his goods by telling whoppers (lies), and that Monkey seems incensed by this. In an unforgettable plot twist (I love a good plot twist), we learn to see each character differently. I loved the aspects of faith and deep thinking that Nayeri wove into this adventure tale. 

These many adventures, along with re-reads of Lewis’s Till We Have Faces and MacDonald’s Thomas Wingfold, Curate helped me through a snowy Spring. I hope you find one or two adventures here to add to your summer reading list! 

I would love to hear what you are reading!

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