Summer is full of lazy days, beach days, and reading days! My children are voracious readers because both of their parents read a lot. They always ask what I am going to read over the summer, since I do not teach. Inevitably, I respond that I am trying to catch up with the books that other people in my teaching field have suggested to me. There is no time for that kind of extra reading during the semester.
A number of years ago, I wrote a paper about the Holy Spirit in the American Baptist denomination. As I worked, I found a reference to a list of the top ten books about the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit fascinates me, so I went to track down these books. As I was looking through the books, I was surprised to find that one of my favorite authors was included. John Calvin did not simply want to write about the Holy Spirit, he wanted to be known as the theologian of the Holy Spirit. There is great benefit to reading deeply about one subject and learning from the insight of a variety of writers.
I recently wrote a paper on philosopher Max Weber, Serbian president Aleksander Vucic, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. While writing that paper, I found another intriguing list. This one gathered ten books that influenced the world, including Weber’s Capitalism and Protestant Ethics. One of the young men in our church is writing his doctoral dissertation on leadership and ethics and I am looking forward to reading his paper. With the increase in the number of immigrants and displaced people all over the world, I am surprised by the number of people reading Marx and how many people think that it is the worst thing in the world to be called a socialist.
My daughters know that, in addition to the historical texts that I need to teach church history and the theological studies that I need for my pastoral life, I love to read poetry. For my birthday, I received a book called The Poetry of the 20th Century and I was shocked to see how much writing poetry has changed. It seems that things have greatly shifted from “poetry is the best words in the best form” to the statement that “every person can write prose, but the writing of poetry is a rare gift” to this book, where definitions and form are abandoned and anyone can be a poet.
Since most of us are monolingual, we usually read in English with an occasional book in translation. With all due respect to the Italians who wrote, “tradutore taditore” (the translator is the traitor), we hope and pray for good translators. Without good translations, we miss a lot. This year, I hope to read some books written by authors whose names I have trouble pronouncing. I want to see the world differently through their eyes.
A Reformed writer tells us that when we read a book, we may leave markings on it so we can go back to important nuggets. But each book leaves markings on us, as it expands our horizons, enables us to travel where we have not traveled before, and introduces us to new friends who are willing to share themselves with us.