The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

We like books and we don't care who knows.

It's been an unintentionally long while since I've written anything of substance, here. Being back at school last semester was really exhausting, word-wise, and I think that's the excuse I'm going to stick with. I'm back at school for the spring, again, so no guarantee you'll be hearing from me on the regular again. But I read a fantastic piece today about reading, and my imagination responded so strongly that I had to put pen to paper. Err, finger to keyboard. Not as romantic a notion.

The piece is called "28 Books You Should Read If You Want To" and it's not actually a list of titles, but rather ways in which one comes across a book (if you didn't click that link, go look and come back) just by living one's curious life.

Thinking about how I've come to know and love the stories that I cherish brings the beginning of tears to my eyes. Y'all know how much reading is a part of my identity. I love, in the totally great chick flick You've Got Mail, when Kathleen talks about how the books you read (especially as a child) help you to become who you are. I don't think this ever stops, but I think the rate at which we read and subsequently become tapers off rapidly in our adult lives and so we think that reading just isn't as necessary as it once was. Many of my peers (non-students) maybe slog through a book a year or something, or maybe read the latest series that's become films so they can get the whole story. Most adults don't sit, mystified, deep in the world that these words and their imaginations have formed for them somewhere "other" than themselves, like they did as children.

Even if the writing and printing of books stopped right this minute, so many have been penned that you could never read all of them in your life! And new books are published every day! New books worth reading can be in your hot little hands (or your ears, if you're of the audiobook persuasion) practically instantly! There's no end to where you can go and who you can be and what you can feel.

I hear out of the mouths of teenagers and young adults and adult adults (whatever) all the time that they "just don't like reading" or that "there's nothing really worth reading out there right now" AS THOUGH they've scoured every possible choice and come up empty? Please.

Janet Potter, the author of the piece I told you to go back and read (I'll wait) didn't give you actual titles -- she gave you room to imagine what there is out there in the world to experience, based solely on the happenstance of who you encounter in seemingly mundane situations that can be UN MUNDANED (whatever) if you bring a book along.

Lemony Snicket, whose books I'll admit I've never read (haha) is quoted as saying that he doesn't trust anyone who didn't bring a book along. Man after my own heart. During the semester, I bring homework everywhere I go, just in case I get a free minute. When I know I'll have many free minutes and not a lot of homework (cross-country flights) I bring leisure reading, too. Sometimes, I bring two books, out of sheer anxiety that I'll finish one and be stuck, bookless, for even the shortest duration of free time. This is a shining example of my being a classic Enneagram 6 as well as a word nerd (unsurprisingly, a characteristic of sixes).

I scoped the hefty lists that Janet Potter links to at the beginning -- full disclosure, I'd already compared my catalog to the Amazon list, and have read more than half of them (and of the remaining titles, have little interest in completing) and so I'm not going to say that those lists  have absolutely no merit. But what bothered me about all of them, and about anonymous book recommendations in general, is that I have no clue what's good about those books. I don't know what made the person who compiled that list love them enough to include them -- of all the novels ever written!

YouTube awesome person John Green posted a video today in which he recommends 18 books he loves that aren't super popular. I watched it, and I've never read any of them, and was only familiar with like two of the authors. Here. Watch it.


What's great about this video is that John tells you (very rapidly) precisely what is so great about these books you've yet to encounter, and why you might like to encounter them. Some of them are by well-known authors, and yet more than once he says that their other book is more famous but that this one is better. Just because it's a "bestseller" or a "classic" doesn't mean it's the end all be all! One time, I bought a book that had won a Pulitzer and it bored me half to death and I stopped reading like a quarter of the way in.

And when it comes to recommending classic novels, I kind of barf, because some of those are classic because no one wants to be the one to say "we can be done with this one now" and be shamed out of the literature nerd club forever. Or whatever. Certainly, there are some "classic" books that I've loved. I'm above averagely willing to read Shakespeare. I loved Heart of Darkness and The Stranger and Old Man and the Sea and Crime and Punishment when we were assigned them in high school. But y'all can take your Jane Austen and shove it. A thing I say a lot is that not everything has to be for everyone. (Except The West Wing. I don't want to know if you can't appreciate the best television show ever made. Full disclosure, I think that's actually MASH, and also I've never seen Breaking Bad, which a lot of people really liked. So.)

I have written a lot of posts about books. Maybe scope them, if you've got nothing better to be doing and want to linger inside my brain a while longer. If you don't do that, at least go back to this one. I could edit it or expand it or something but it's truth as it is. I like books, y'all.

Please read.

There's a Psalm For That -- Psalm 2

Fear/Hope -- Matthew 2:1-12