On books and blogging and reading

Emily, please don’t stop blogging.

I remember lying on my tummy on the floor as an eight year old with my face in a book about a boy in West Kerry called Patsy O and then getting a pain in my shoulder as a nine year old for staying in the same curled up position for too long on the couch reading about Laura Ingalls in the Big Woods and the vast prairie and then trying to figure out how to lie down and still read Janette Oke’s carefully written romances through my new glasses without the pillow pushing them across my face as a teenager. I remember slipping away from the sandwiches and orange juice after the meeting on a sunny Sunday afternoon to sit in the car and devour the first Christy Miller book I had found wedged behind some devotionals on the church library shelves. I remember crying convulsively and running to wash my face before anyone saw me as I identified with Jo March’s crises in Little Women. I remember, first timidly and then confidently, approaching the town librarian with lists of book requests to order from the city library because I had read everything available on the small town library shelves for my age group and all the age groups below me and several above me (well, anything that wasn’t horror, which narrowed the selection down considerably). I remember when somebody’s mother would recommend a book like What Katy Did and I would discover books that were godly and true and lovely and noble and honourable and I remember reading and reading and reading them through.

My sisters and I have reread our beloved books from cover to cover, we all have different volumes that we have worn thin, but I remember a time when the supply of books quietly dried up and for a few years I concentrated on my studies and, instead of flying through fiction in my free time, I devoured paper and words for exam technique and grades. There is a season for everything and that season was good.

But the supply of books had dried up for me for two reasons. First of all, living on the side of a hill in a bog in West Limerick doesn’t place you in the front receiving line for fresh new Christian publications. You have to actively seek out and usually order from abroad good wholesome Christian books if you want to read them. Maybe I had read through my quota early, but I remember going to the bookshelves at home and the bookshelves at church and realising I had read my way through.

Books cost money. In a previous season, we could save up enough to afford to order books from the BJU catalogue or order them from the larger stock of the Christian bookshop in Dublin. But in the season that began in those years when I was staring at the shelves willing new books to appear, in the season that we still find ourselves in, money was, and is reserved for things like bread for sandwiches and milk and teabags and apples for the lunchboxes. And then when I went to college, and later when three of us sisters were in university at once, there just wasn’t the luxury of splashing out on a new book just for the sake of an afternoon or two of happy reading. Scholarship money is heaven sent for textbooks and groceries to keep your brain alive through the week, but there isn’t a whole lot left over for novels or even the latest Christian release.

So what did I read? In university I once again remembered my voracious appetite for words and writing and I had a laptop now, and for the first time, internet that didn’t sound like dial up but actually loaded text and pictures onto my screen in real time. In this new era of access I discovered a new world of words and voices in the form of chapters of varying lengths on as many topics and themes as I could think to look for.

As a terrified college student trying to stay dry as I tramped through city streets to lectures in the rain and grabbing a mental break from study in the cold library when I didn’t know anyone to go for coffee with and trying not to talk to myself as I processed the unexpected trauma of it all, I fell in love with the happy, crafty, honest world of mommy blogs. In the whirlwind of assignments and exam cramming I found a world of writer’s blogs where I could escape for free to forget the stress for a minute or five and unwind in a devotional blogpost or a thought-thrown-out-there blogpost or just a here’s-how-my-day-went post. The lonely part of my soul found friendly voices, the starved reader in me found words and themes to think on, the creative part of me found ideas and companionship and the part of me longing for Jesus found the voices of others longing for him too.

You see if you save up to buy a book, you want to know that the money you spend will be well spent on a good book, a book that you will enjoy, and learn from and grow with, and buying a book like that is a risk every time. But in this new world of blogs I found that I could listen to other voices and learn from others’ experiences, without having to spend money I didn’t have.

And in these penny-pinching years of student loan repayments, I find reams of reading material online where I would be starved of words otherwise.

But there is more. On the days when I come home from the often intellectually mundane task of teaching contained, prescribed thoughts to uninterested students and my brain wants to engage with something more challenging, I scour someone’s blog for thoughts to ponder and discussions to drift through. When I am lonely in my house as a single young woman in a new town full of strangers and staring students, when I long for conversation about something other than the weather and the water charges I check up on the familiar face of a blog for a bit of news or a new thought shared or even just a photo of their kitchen. Speaking of kitchen, as a young person learning to live, I am scouring all of the blogs in the world for recipes to repeat and photos to admire and mostly mistakes to learn from.

So Emily, don’t stop blogging because blogs are different from books, but equally as important. Blogs are books in their own right, continuous books that are never finished, more true to life than tidy published works. Like our experiences and our threads of thoughts, blogs expand and develop and produce offshoots of fruits like tidy published works whose ideas and philosophies were born and nurtured in the ordinary thinking, whose backbone of big ideas were framed through writing small thoughts and hitting publish, and edit, and letting the thought lay low, and then writing another. When I need fresh ideas and I can’t afford a new book I can read the archives of a good blog from first post to yesterday’s post or think through the themes of the blog, article by article.

And Emily, don’t stop blogging because blogging occupies a different sphere to Instagram and instant anything. Yes we will enjoy our small screens and snapshots on the train but then we will all go home and before we wind down (or in order to wind down) we will need to read something longer and slower. To have a healthy adult mind I need to chew on something, read it through to the finish. Sometimes small-screen capsules of thoughts seem coldly similar to platitudes or pithy phrases and I have never been good at swallowing those. I need to hear someone explain the story behind the silver lining statement; need to read about the mistakes before the mastery.

So Emily, and all the writers like you, please listen when I say, don’t stop blogging. We are reading! Silent listeners we are, but grateful ones.

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3 thoughts on “On books and blogging and reading

  1. Dear Hannah Joy,
    Thank you for your kind words on my last post. (I remember you from your previous comments on my blog!) Again, thank you for taking the time to write all that to me. Your encouragement made me tearful, even, because I am always so thankful to hear that whatever I have written has encouraged anyone at all in any way at all, and I am so thankful to God that He has ever used my words to bless anyone else. Truly.
    Bless you, dear Hannah. And thank you.
    ps: your book list, above? YES. We should talk books. 😉
    pps: I’ve poked around before on your blog, and again today (you’ve made some changes since the last time I was here!) You are so sweet and I sincerely hope my girls grow up to have a heart for Jesus like you do. I have a feeling we’d be good friends if we ever met.
    ~Stacy from http://www.withgreatjoy.blogspot.com

    • Thank you so much for coming over and commenting Stacy! You are so kind! I hope we do get to meet up someday! We would definitely be good friends! I’ll let you know if I find any good book recommendations for your girls but I think you’re the expert there! Keep up the good work! 🙂

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