Summer is my time for revisiting old book friends, those that are almost as dear to me as my human friends. Between their worn, familiar covers is a treasury of beloved stories, characters and wisdom I love to visit again and again. I’ve heard it said that readers can be divided into two camps: those who read a book just once and those who re-read a book, sometimes multiple times. My criteria for a book I will return to again is that it must engage my imagination, delight my love of language and teach me something about life, either through story or prose.
Following is a brief introduction to some of my old friends who have given me hours of summer reading pleasure. Perhaps some of them are already your friends too, or this may be your first encounter. I hope you will enjoy getting to know them.
Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
This book was my first introduction to the author, who lived and wrote in rural England during the early 20th century. The novel’s quaint richness of language, fully rounded characters and picturesque settings delight my love of all things old and British. However, I am most entranced by the beautifully interwoven story lines with their themes of courage, history and love. I have read Gentian Hill often, finding new wisdom in old legends retold and authenticity in how the lives in each narrative ultimately grow together to make a stronger whole.
I wrote about Elizabeth Goudge in a previous InScribe blog post, linked below.
This novelist’s writing is an acquired taste, with its “stream of consciousness” style jumping from thought to thought within the main character’s mind. Admittedly it took me a while to engage with the story, then I couldn’t put it down. The introspective journey of the main character as she experiences the breakdown of her marriage, resonates with me on many levels. As a writer I am intrigued by how the story moves along in incremental detail while still maintaining suspense and interest. I also appreciate how the main character’s process of coming to faith in Christ is handled in a believable way without being heavy-handed, and has much to do with the satisfying conclusion. I return to this book occasionally because it evokes an empathetic response I need to revisit, for my own heart’s sake.
Roots & Sky: a Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy
Reading this book is like coming home to a comfortable old chair by the fire after rambling in the wilderness. In evocative, poetic prose, Purifoy describes how the old house of her dreams becomes home for her heart as well as her family. Through each of the four seasons, she chronicles the first year of loving Maplehurst back to life. While restoring its Victorian farmhouse and overgrown gardens, she undergoes a personal interior restoration. God glows warm in the lowering sun creating rainbows through rippled old glass and in the age-old rituals of planting, weeding and harvesting. She finds a simple rhythm in the pared-down days of caring for her newborn daughter and watching her three older children bloom as she gently introduces them to the liturgy of unstructured play and imagination.
Since I discovered this book several years ago, I have read it through every autumn, the season where the book begins. It reminds me to look for God in the sacred of the ordinary and mark each moment on the pages of my spirit so I will always remember.
Enjoying the Presence of God by Jan Johnson
I confess I am not a fan of “how-to” books, although I will reference them when needed. Jan Johnson has the gift of instructing by coming alongside, saying “this is what I learned in my journey so I share it with you, hoping you will find it helpful.” Returning to her book is a regular habit in my spiritual life now, as it reminds me that being in God’s presence isn’t about duty but about enjoyment. She gives examples of thanksgiving being the atmosphere of our days, of talking to Him in “breath prayers” throughout routine activities, of discovering what His voice sounds like when He speaks to our spirit, and how obeying Him frees us from disappointingly trying to manage our own lives.
The book is Johnson’s own story of finding enjoyment in the presence of God after a long spiritual drought. Her insights, sprinkled with pertinent quotes and examples from other Christian authors, ring true and practical without sounding lofty. I come away from reading it, not overwhelmed by shoulds and musts but encouraged by how simple an enjoyable life with God can be.
These are only a few of my old book friends I love to revisit. There are many more on my bookshelves, waiting for me to peruse their familiar passages and discover new treasures. Like all genuine friendships, they only improve with age.
Valerie Ronald lives in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. She is a graduate of Vancouver's Langara College journalism program, and has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer, public speaker and bookstore employee. She writes devotionals for her home church bulletins and her online blog. Her current book project chronicles how God's faithfulness saw her
through the dark valleys of divorce and cancer. Along with her husband,
Valerie enjoys spending time with their blended family and six
grandchildren. She is a nature photographer, water colorist, cat lover and Scrabble addict.
More of her devotionals can be read on her blog https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com