About once every two weeks I go to the Barnes and Noble on my side of town to browse. They have a campaign going on right now trying to encourage people to read great books. They have devoted four bookcases near the front of the store with books they recommend. They range from classics, pop fiction, self-help, science, short story, etc. I browsed the section for a while noting what books made the cut and those suspiciously absent. Some noteworthy books that made the cut:
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Of Mice and Men
- Grapes of Wrath
- Go Set a Watchman
Scattered in the mix were a large amount of self-help books focused on living your best life or finding meaning. Bill Nye’s book Undeniable also made the cut. There was one book that took me by surprise. Not because it was included but because it was the only one of its kind. That book was C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. It was placed on the very end of the bookcase on the third from the bottom row. If you were not taking a slow look at the shelves you would have passed it.
The great Forest Gump said that you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. I think you can tell a lot about a culture by the books they read. Thinking about the books included in the display I had a few thoughts:
- We are craving stories that have strong moral lessons (Harper Lee’s books).
- Despite our longing for moral guidance we are crippled with uncertainty brought about by our collective acceptance of post-modern ideas of certainty and truth (Hamlet).
- This uncertainty leads many to believe life is too hard to handle and requires too much to be successful (The endings of both of Steinbeck’s books listed resonate very well with readers because of this).
- The one source that can satisfy our longings and expelled all of this life’s uncertainties, has been push to the edges and largely forgotten. (Mere Christianity)
But bringing this closer to home. You can also tell a lot about a person by the books they read. So what are you reading? Do you enjoy stories with grand heroes where good conquers evil? Or are you searching for something to get your life on track? Perhaps you lack direction and purpose? I would tell you to go get yourself just one book. A book that is a global best seller. A book that has changed millions of lives. Get yourself a bible, read it, live it!
You have nothing to lose but everything to gain by reading it.