There was a time that I loved to surprise people I loved with gifts and other things. However, I have mostly discontinued that behavior because I realized that there are few things more wonderful than anticipation. It is that, I think, which often propels readers to own way more books than they can ever read. The anticipation of seeing it on their shelf and looking forward to the day they can pull it down and enter into its treasures illustrates the optimism of readers.
Here are some books I own that I look at with anticipation.
I decided to read more poetry this year, and I picked up a copy of The Complete Poems of John Masefield. I know little about him except that he was the English Poet Laureate and C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien liked him. So. . .
I have always like philosophy, even reading Joseph Wood Krutch in my early teen years. So I have set aside a couple of books by wonderful Christian scholars, Colin Brown and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Brown wrote Philosophy and The Christian Faith, years ago. Wolterstorff wrote a small but highly recommended little book, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion.
Many years ago an NBC news correspondent, Edwin Newman wrote two books on the use and abuse of the English language, Strictly Speaking: Will Americans Be the Death of English and A Civil Tongue. I heard an interview which was hilarious and have managed to find both books!
One of the best pieces of documentary film every produced, and a work that changed documentary film making was Ken Burns’ multi-episode, The Civil War. Repeatedly interviewed in that series was the novelist Shelby Foote. Foote was a southern novelist with a magnetic demeanor and enticing voice. He was an immediate audience favorite. His historical writing was the three volume The Civil War: A Narrative. Large books—but particularly good reading, perhaps because of Foote’s background as a novelist. Interestingly, in an interview, he said he wrote the entire three volume work primarily from one shelf of secondary literature.
I like the science fiction writing of Neil Gaiman. His book, Neverwhere simply mesmerized me. But he has written a volume of essays, The View From the Cheap Seats, including one on his favorite bookstores. I have it in hardback, and it asks me when I am going to read it nearly every time I walk by.
Sue Grafton was a mystery writer. Her famous series was based on the alphabet, ‘A’ is for Alibi and so forth. She died just before getting to Z, the last in the series. I like the clarity of mystery novels. And I have about fifteen of her 25 in the series yet to read.
The famous western novelist and screenwriter, Larry McMurtry—most famous for his Pulitzer-prize winning novel, Lonesome Dove—went through a deep depression. He said that during that time the only thing he could stand to read was a series of diaries by James Lees-Milne covering a large swath of the cultural, artistic, and political life of England in the 20th century. I stumbled upon one of the twelve volumes at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon and loved it, so I have managed to find three more, all first editions, with a goal of getting the complete set. I look forward with great anticipation, to reading them.
Part of the reader’s anticipation is optimism, and a little self-deception, for while looking forward to reading the host of books on hand, the optimistic reader is busy purchasing more with equal anticipation and enthusiasm. But perhaps optimism is not such a damaging trait in the days in which we live.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part 3 of Dr. Long’s blog “The Books That Make Me.” Read the previous post at yellowstonetheology.org/wednesday-word-books-part-2.