Sunday, November 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 17: Read to Change

Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

I'm supposed to pick just one? I love to read. Anybody who knows me knows this. I stuck mainly to fiction growing up but at some point when I was in my twenties I discovered that well written non-fiction* can be as gripping as the best novels. I read everything- biography, anthropology, sociology, history, medical narrative, essays, true crime, theology... I especially love books where the author delves into an obscure subject and makes it fascinating to me. Parrot behavior, anyone? The world of orchid enthusiasts? How about the Great Hurricane of 1938?

Entering another world by reading a good book is always wonderful. But I think the greatest thing about being a reader is the opportunity it offers to learn. I've learned as much through reading as I have through living. I've learned a lot more through living because of what I learned from books. I've read many, many books that changed my opinions, or ideals, or the way I see the world, but I think the one I want to write about today is Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey. I mentioned it here with the intention of going on to list other books that had influenced me, but of course I never got around to it (I do that. I'm one of those people who puts things off. I'm pretty sure there's a word for that. I plan to look it up, later.).

Yancey's one of those incredibly rare Christian writers who writes with complete honesty. He disregards the taboos and sacred cows of cultural Christianity to ask the questions one seldom hears in church. I should clarify that Yancey's disregard is never for the people who hold these ideas sacred. He asks uncomfortable questions, but in a gentle respectful manner, with complete honesty regarding his own failings and always holding himself accountable for their answers. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Soul Survivor was an eye-opening read for me. I've found that in my experience, people like MLK jr. and Ghandi are ignored by Christians or, worse held in mild contempt. They didn't fit into the proper mold and therefore had little of value to add to any discussion of theology or life. Yancey takes 13 people who influenced him and explains what it was about the subject's life or actions or beliefs that caught his attention, and allowed him to emerge from a deep-south-fundy upbringing with his faith in God intact.

Read it. It's good.

*Obviously fiction is more enjoyable if it's well-written, but I find that fiction writers can sometimes get away with atrocious writing if their stories are good enough. Witness the many best-selling authors who will never be considered in literature classes.

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