Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reader's Digest

Classes have officially begun and I've closed the book on winter break. I went back to school heavy-hearted and whining self-indulgently, missing the balance and freedom winter break had bequeathed to my life. One of the greatest things about break that I'll miss the most during the semester is all the books I was able to inhale. I've missed reading. But I managed to cover some ground this January, and it is immortalized below.

One of the books I procured at Urbana for only a dollar, this story describes memoir-style how the author lost his faith at Urbana. Not a resounding commercial for the conference. What it's actually about is his struggle with doubt through his college years, and how his undiagnosed clinical depression complicated and informed his doubts. If you've ever been depressed, or known someone who was depressed, or want to be able to understand the individuals you have yet to meet who face depression, this book is a good place to start. The doubts he discusses resonated with me so much, and though the book starts with a bleak (gut-stabbing, terrorizing . . .) outlook, it culminates in real and honest encouragement. It's a page-turner, not because his story is dramatic or unusual, but because he is able to speak to candidly on a topic very few have addressed.

This was a young adult murder mystery novel my sister got from the library on a whim. It was lame. I mention this for posterity. I spent like five whole days of my winter break on this book. 

The most expensive book I got at Urbana for a whopping five bucks, this charmingly sarcastic make-your-own-adventure-style how-to book explains what loving others in God's name practically looks like. What I love about this book how she speaks to the tension between first world living and God's calling, and how to fit kingdom living in with midterms and errands. Wherever your circumstances find you, there's a chapter in this book for you: men or women, introverts or extroverts, rural residents or city dwellers, students or investment bankers. She paints an accessible vision of the vibrance of the gospel, and everyone should read this book. If you couldn't come to Urbana, it is your best substitute. If you did come to Urbana, it will help you funnel all that inspiration into action. This stuff is where it's at, people. Let me know if you want to borrow it.

It was by sheer kismet that this novel ended up in my possession, thanks to an awesome student from our youth group. (I wish I could say it was a perk of being a youth leader, it's not, it's a side effect of awesome people, THANK YOU ELIZABETH!) While I'm no die-heard John Green fan, he always tackles existential dilemmas very well, and this latest novel was no exception. I didn't like it quite as much as Paper Towns, but I credit this more to the fact that cancer is a reality more distanced from my life. Speaking of which, I would not recommend reading a book about lung cancer while suffering from bronchitis. I felt like I couldn't breathe the whole time. 

Oh Virginia, I want to be you, minus your fake marriage and unceremonious suicide. But I feel like a major hypocrite here, because though I love To the Lighthouse with an ardent passion, my exposure to her other writings has been minimal if not nonexistent. So winter break was the perfect time to correct this. And lo, though I read her with lover's eyes, she once again proves herself the literary genius she has been lauded to be! And what ho for feminism, she has unfortunately fanned the fires that were arguably dampened by my forays with a feminist interpretation of Dickinson from last semester's literary acoustic class. True, this extended essay is not fiction, so that's kind of rough, but I'm glad her cleverness is not limited to a single genre.

I can't look at my dresser without feeling a certain level of forlornness, from the charming linguistics book I keep saying I'm going to finish and make Michael read (ugh, I swear, I'm almost done, you'll really like it!) to the hefty volume of spy-memoir my dad remarks on every time I crock open a different book. So many books to read, so little time to read them. But I can table them all on account of the stimulating ideas I've been promised to encounter through my courses. They better follow through on those promises; they cost enough. 

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