On apathy


Last week, nearly a dozen of my favorite bloggers posted lists of the favorite books they read in 2011 and/or posted lists of books they are planning to read in 2012. I wish I could post a similar list, but, unfortunately, for the last six months or longer, my desire to read has waned. Big time. I haven’t been to a book store in months. I can’t remember the last time I heard about or saw the cover of a book and thought, Oh, I would LOVE to read that. I’ve been trying to figure out why and what is the solution. Whether correct or not, I determined three possible reasons.

First, I have been a heavy reader for many years. (Hello, my name is Leslie and I’m a bookaholic. It’s been 7 months since my last…) When I first stumbled upon the doctrines of grace, and sound biblical doctrine in general, I wanted to read every single book, catechism, essay, etc. that I could get my hands on. I wanted to drink from the fire-hose. I’ve calmed down. Nowadays I’m content to savor an old book, not in any hurry to start the next one.

Second, I read way too many books targeted for Christian women. Tim apologized in advance when he first agreed to let me write reviews for Discerning Reader. He knew that I would mostly be reviewing books for Christian women, and the main topics for that particular audience are few: homemaking, hospitality, being a submissive wife, and parenting. He warned me about burn-out. But the prospect of reading the same (essentially) book over-and-over again didn’t deter me because I was famished, hungry to read about how my “new” understanding of theology, scripture, and doctrine informed my daily life.

I’m thankful for that season of reading and learning. But I’ve had enough; I’m full; I’m pushing away from the table. Most new books published for people like me will say the same thing because every single one of them uses the same verses to make their points. I have an obedience problem and, a lot of times, I lack the wisdom for knowing exactly how to apply God’s word to my situation. Reading another book isn’t going to fix that (as if a book could fix anything). Besides, trying to fit someone else’s life into mine never worked.

Third, I read too many books from a sense of duty rather than delight. A vast majority of the books I read and reviewed were ones I wanted to read. Many books, however, were ones that I did not want to read, but forced myself to anyway. I don’t want to do that anymore.

Though this began as a post about personal apathy toward reading, I am convinced that I’ve been rather unenthusiastic about a lot of things in my life. Nevertheless, I think those reasons, combined with various circumstances, events, and life-happenings, worked together to produce in me a real apathy toward books, book-ish things, and almost every subject in which I’ve ever shown an interest. I regret being such a bore in 2011.

So, what are some possible solutions? Dare I say, resolutions? Oh, I have a few. I will read only what interests me. I will try to read widely. I will endeavor to enjoy fiction again. I will not pressure myself to review every single thing I see, hear, or read. I will laugh more and make others laugh with me. I will go on adventures. I will try to get more sleep at night. I will delight in God himself and not books about him. Finally, and perhaps most daring, I will continue to cultivate a few close relationships with other women centered on life and our pursuit of Christ, not books, television, movies or other interests.

I am tempted to disallow comments on this post because I am sure it will not be received the right way by everyone as I’m sure I haven’t been as clear as I could be. I am neither sad nor depressed. I’m not even in a bad mood. I was only trying to think through why I didn’t want to do very much reading last year when it occurred to me that I haven’t really wanted to do much of anything. It has been a great help to write my thoughts, and I am looking forward to clicking the publish button. That’s a good sign, isn’t it? Thanks for reading.

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22 thoughts on “On apathy

  1. Love your honesty in this post Leslie. And that paragraph on “resolutions” – so great, especially the bit about cultivating friendships based on Christ – love that! Happy New Year to you!

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  2. Alan Jacobs’ book “Reading for Pleasure in an Age of Distraction” talks a lot about reading whatever you want just for the pleasure of it. Sometimes, with all the “you must read this book” posts out there in the Reformed leaning Christian blogosphere makes people feel guilty about not reading whatever everyone else is reading. I plan on reading more fiction, too. Read poetry, too. For me, reading is about expanding my view of things, including how I see and use language. Poetry is essential for that.

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    1. I’ve enjoyed your poetry posts these past few months, Kim. One of my “wants” for last year was to read more poetry. I made a few attempts to write some of my own, but I have not been pleased with any of it enough to publish on the blog. I hope to keep it up this year, though.

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  3. I can understand becoming apathetic about something you make yourself do. I find that with books that are “spiritual” in nature or that are meant to be instructive, if they’re really good books, a few paragraphs are enough for a few days. I enjoy meditating on each new insight. Now, fiction, I will definitely devour quickly. I think your resolutions are good ones.

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    1. Thanks, Lynn. We’ll have to talk about your all-time favorite fiction next time we’re together. I found some James Harriot at a yard sale this summer after I heard you say something about it being one of your favorites. I haven’t read it, but Hannah did, and she really enjoyed it.

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      1. I will look forward to that conversation. πŸ™‚ And yay for Hannah! They really are so great. He was such a gifted story-teller.

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  4. I can really relate to this post!

    This happened to me several years ago and it took a while to get my book reading ‘mojo’ back. Cutting WAAAAAAAY back on intentional and unintentional internet reading (ie: wasting time noodling around) helped tremendously. For one thing, it left me more time to read real books and for another, I wasn’t nearly as tempted to buy a copy of every interesting book that everyone was reading. That led to reading pressure.

    I still don’t read as much as I used to but I read without an agenda and I’m enjoying it again.

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  5. I agree wholeheartedly with Jane above! I love this post; there’s nothing wrong & everything right with evaluating yourself & your life, whatever conclusions you draw from it. If there’s a single person who hasn’t felt apathetic before, I’d sure like to meet them. I also love your resolutions, especially if I could be one of those ladies! πŸ˜‰ Christ is the foundation of my friendship with Sommer, & it’s one of my most treasured & meaningful relationships!

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    1. Thank you, Chrissy! I knew you’d understand. I’m so happy you and Michael are going to be part of our lives. Speaking of Sommer, we are so blessed to have her in our lives, aren’t we? She is such a beautiful person. We’re family, but you are especially blessed to be one of her favorite friends. I’m not jealous, though. πŸ˜‰

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  6. I completely understand. I’ve been feeling that way about photography. My goal over the next year or two is to read all the classics that I will have the kids read for school. I have Moby Dick, Peter Pan, Stuart Little, The Call of the Wild, Pollyanna, White Fang, Gulliver’s Travels, Stone Fox, and Tuck Everlasting.

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  7. Thanks for posting this, Leslie. When the doctrines of grace found me, I read everything I could get my hands on and listened to as many sermons as possible. I’ve since calmed down, and life hasn’t let me keep up that pace. I’ve also been guilty of trying to keep up with the reformed, reading Jones’. At this point, the Word has to come first, and then some books but with no pressure.

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    1. Well said, Persis. Thanks for the encouragement. My Bible reading goal for this year is to finish the 10 chapters a day plan and mark every instance of ‘delight.’ I’m excited about it! I’m not pressuring myself to read anything else.

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  8. Leslie,
    Thanks for this post. I love that you write your thoughts beautifully. I, too, have tried my hand at poetry and have come to the conclusion, I am not yet familiar with enough of the good stuff for it to have worn off yet. So right now I am just enjoying the reading of different things. I have noticed in my own life a series of ages and stages, ebbs and flows. I have to consciously not compare what I am doing with where I want to be or I get discouraged. You’re ahead of that game – that is wonderful.
    Have a Happy New Year.
    Blessings to You,
    Jojo

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  9. Hear, hear! It’s so funny that you posted this because I almost DIDN’T post my list of favorite reads of the past year because…get this…I was EMBARRASSED. Isn’t that silly? I worried that there was too much fiction on it and I was so intimidated by others’ lists that included nothing but intense, theological and doctrinal tomes. But, I’ve decided, much as you have, that while some of my reading is certainly instructional (and should be) it is also freeing and fun and even enjoyable to read for the pleasure of it without an agenda and without a sense of duty. I know I’m not making much sense but what I’m ultimately saying is: I hear you. I understand. I’m with you. And I love to read good fiction every now and then. πŸ™‚

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    1. Funny! I actually read my first John Grisham this past weekend, I so struggle with reading fiction. (To be trueful I skipped 80 of the 360 pages, b/c I couldn’t justify wasting the time and the writing was on the wall about the ending.) I It is actually one of my goals to read fiction this year. I know I miss so much by not disciplining myself to do so. SO this year, I am going to raid my daughter’s bookshelf and read some of the classic fiction, I haven’t read since highschool and college. AND I’m not starting with the Illiad. I don’t want to set myself up for failure. Any suggestions – I thought I might pick up a Tom Clancy or something like that.
      Blessings dear Sister – love your candor. Have a great day! Jojo

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      1. Oooh, I do enjoy Tom Clancy. Although, I couldn’t really get into his two latest novels. Jack Ryan is one of my favorite characters, though. You might want to read them in order; I think his story begins with The Hunt for Red October. I haven’t read them in over a decade, but the ones that really stand out in my memory are Without Remorse and Rainbow Six.

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  10. I can so relate to this. I am far more interested in living the doctrines of grace and working that out in the everyday then in reading another book about it. Thinking and talking about them isn’t the same thing as application. When I first started grasping the gospel fully, doctrine was such life to me and I read all I could get my hands on. Though I desperately need a daily reminder of the gospel I am more into the word with that foundation instead of books about the foundation. Make sense? this sounds almost arrogant…not meant to be. Just where I am right now.

    I feel it is time for me to go and do now that the foundation is built instead of attaining more information or knowledge. Grace is meant to be lived not just observed and discussed.

    I am weary of the typical women’s books too. They do often say the same thing. I think we need more older women teaching younger women then more books about being a godly women.
    I am trying to be that where it applies.

    I am glad you shared this. It is some thing I have been wrestling with this last year.

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    1. Thank you for that thoughtful comment. It sounds like we’re on the same page. One of the things I heard recently is that we don’t get equipped to live the gospel sitting and reading or talking about. We get equipped living life together in close relationship with other believers.

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