Friday, April 20, 2018

In Defense of Difficult Reading: Marilynne Robinson's What Are We Doing Here

Reading something fun and light can bring us joy as readers. There are some days when we just need to sink into another world and read something that my father would refer to as "fluffy." Sometimes the security of knowing that the chef will solve the mystery will making a perfect souffle is enough to make us feel a little better about life.

But I think there's another side, too. Reading can and should be fun and entertaining but it also has the capability to make us think. It can teach us about the science and history of the world we live in. Books can compel us to ask hard questions about ourselves and the choices we make individually and collectively.

I like to read for fun, but I also enjoy being challenged. I recently read What Are We Doing Here?, which is Marilynne Robinson's newest collection. The book mostly contains speeches that she has given over the past few years. They are not easy reading--the speeches consider our history as Americans, what it means to be a person of faith in the 21st century, and the place of both humanities and science. I so appreciated that both Robinson and her publisher saw the opportunity for readers to do some hard reading and think about big questions, even if they only knew her as the author of novels.

After graduating from high school or college, there is not a requirement for most of us to continue learning. We don't have to learn a new language, or learn how to write code for our website, or read hard books. But what are we missing if we don't?

Reading doesn't have to always be complicated or always be carefree. How wonderful it is to live in a world where we can read a cozy romance with the knowledge that they will get their happy ending and then turn to a book that explains the complexities of space or physics. Readers have the unique joy and privilege of experiencing all worlds, both real and imagined, and I intend to try to read about all of them.

1 comment:

  1. Great reflection! I find I don't read challenging books as often as I maybe should, because I read a lot of children's fiction. I do love that feeling of reading a book that really pushes the limits of my knowledge or makes me understand something in a different read.

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