On Reading: Books That Bring Healing and Life

I love a good story. Don’t you?

There weren’t a lot of story books in our home when I was growing up, but our neighborhood babysitter had plenty. She introduced me to the wonder of fairy tales, reading to me and my sisters at bedtime from one of the big, colorful books she’d brought along. I not only wanted to read more of them, I wanted to write them.

So, I did. As a girl, I wrote short stories and poetry. When I grew up, I wrote news articles and essays. Now, I write here and elsewhere on the Internet. I’m also pecking away at a work of fiction, as well as pulling together words I hope will become a book to help others tell their life stories.

As a child, my favorite place to find stories was our local brick, Carnegie-style library. From the day I discovered the library’s basement-level children’s department, I knew I’d found my happy place. It was dark and musty and very small, but it held a world of wonder and a wealth of stories. The library is where I met Laura Ingalls, Ann Shirley, Captain Hook, The Boxcar Children. The days when I’d pedal my bike across town to mount the steps up to the library and down into the children’s section were red-letter days for me. I’d spend an hour or two devouring what I could of books the librarian recommended, then I’d select one, maybe two, that I could fit in the basket of my bicycle and pedal home.

On a visit last week to the library near me, I discovered an author I had never read before, Ann Hood. I devoured her novel “The Book That Matters Most”, staying up until midnight several nights. Since reading the last sentence a day ago, I’ve carried the story and its characters around in my head. Have you ever read a book that’s stayed with you long after it’s finished?

I want to share with you two other books that are leaving an imprint on my soul these days. One was a “summer read” and the other is a perfect selection for autumn. They are very different from one another, but isn’t that what makes reading such an adventure?

“Love Heals” by Becca Stevens, is truly soul food. Reverend Stevens is an episcopal priest who founded Thistle Farms, a ministry to women coming out of prison, prostitution, addiction and sex trafficking. I’ve written about her in the past. Her beautiful new book was released just in time for fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It reads like a devotional and captures all the ways love heals us. This, from her chapter on healing through daily rituals:

“We need some good old-time religious practices to infuse our lives so we can use the most powerful force — love — to heal our communities. Practices teach us to habitually invite God to strengthen and shape us so we can become disciples capable of embracing the backside of anger, the shadow side of pain, the short side of justice, and the inside of prison walls with love.” ~ Becca Stevens

Each of the 14 chapters includes beautiful photographs, scriptures and poetry. It’s a collection I’ll give as gifts and I’ll return to again and again for inspiration and comfort.

A one-time read that I thoroughly enjoyed over the summer was “Emily of New Moon” by Lucy Maude Montgomery. Like Anne of Green Gables, another L.M. Montgomery heroine, Emily is an orphan who must make her way in a world foreign to her. Emily’s chosen method of dealing with her loss is to write. The adventures that come into her young life make up this book. Her story continues in subsequent titles in the Emily Series. In Emily’s words, here is how she responds to a teacher who asks why she wants to write:

“I want to be famous and rich,” said Emily coolly.

“Everybody does. Is that all?”

“No. I just love to write.”

“A better reason — but not enough — not enough. Tell me this — if you knew you would be poor as a church mouse all your life — if you knew you’d never have a line published — would you still go on writing — would you?”

“Of course I would,” said Emily disdainfully. “Why, I have to write — I can’t help it by times — I’ve just got to.”

Because of characters like Emily and inspiring authors like Ann Hood, Becca Stevens and Lucy Maud Montgomery, I will go on reading and writing — I’ve just got to!

What are you reading? What books would you recommend to a friend who loves good stories?





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