The below content is written by Lily Wallaker as a guest post. Thank you so much, Lily!
If you’re reading this blog post right now, I’m going to make a somewhat bold assumption–you like to read.
That love of reading probably extends to your love for books. Maybe you’re a sci-fi person, a romance reader, or a fantasy lover. Either way, you probably like delving into the new worlds of stories, losing yourself in paragraph and sentence, in a world of character and plot.
Have you ever thought about the true lessons we can learn through books? No, not just history textbooks and non-fiction, but even those fantasy and sci-fi books you love? Today, I want to tell you why I believe that some good (and some bad) can be found in every single book, from twaddle to Tolkein. I want to tell you how stories can help us understand God’s world or ruin our perception of it.
1. Morals & Themes
You’ve probably heard of stories with morals, like Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Aesop’s Fables. But have you considered the impact of every book’s theme? Almost every story you’ll read has an overarching theme–love vs. hate, good vs. evil, trust vs. broken promises. As the characters struggle with these themes, you are unconsciously learning something about your own life.
In C. S. Lewis’s well-known series The Chronicles of Narnia, we don’t have to read far to understand its overarching theme. There are two very distinct sides: the good and the evil. Obviously, there’s more to the plot than this, but we find ourselves motivated to cheer for the good side (“for Narnia, and for Aslan!”), and troubled when the bad side wins any small victory.
Can this teach us about our world and about ourselves? Absolutely. In gripping, heart-wrenching stories like these, we learn underlying story “morals” that leak over into our own lives. The theme of a book may impact you more than you think.
2. Characters & Relationships
I think we can probably all agree that the characters in our favorite books are what draw us to them. They’re relatable, interesting, or intriguing. But once we put the book back on the shelf, do we really draw anything from these fictional people?
Jane Austen’s books are always my go-to for character examples, good or bad. In her book Pride and Prejudice, what instantly catches our eye is the family–the selfish, demanding Mrs. Bennett, the flirty, witless younger sisters, and our heroine, the bookish, practical Elizabeth, among the rest. There is much to learn from them!
Because a large portion of our world and of theirs is made up of relationships with other people, we can take a lot from what they have to say. What were the wise decisions that they made? The foolish? What draws us to them? How would we interact with them in real life? Elizabeth and Darcy’s conversations are just a few of the examples we get of interesting relationships–and they’re worth seeking in your next novel!
God made humans so very diverse, and characters give us a unique look into real people’s lives that we might not get otherwise. Books tell us so much about people and how relationships work. They give us insight that we don’t even realize, and we apply it to our lives just as unconsciously.
3. Shaped by Stories
We live in a culture that is different from the ones that came before us, or the ones on the other side of the world. We’re shaped by our culture: in what we wear, what we eat, what we say. In a nutshell, we can easily become what we’re surrounded by.
The books we read define bits of who we are in the same way. That is why it’s important to choose our books wisely. Sad books can leave us depressed, or with heartache. Books about our God leave us worshiping. Shallow books leave us wanting more.
My point is, while every book can give you knowledge, understanding, and perception, not every book will give you the right kind. An overload of one thing or another can change our thoughts for the worse, and so we must be careful what we pick up off the shelf to read. Is it worth the content warnings? Is it worth our time?
If our books shape us so much, we must be cautious. Are we glorifying God in our reading choices, or are we doing it for guilty pleasure?
Whatever your next book may be, I pray that it fills you with hope in God, and not with a longing for the things of this world. I hope that you will find a new lesson on every page–something that can be applied to your life. Happy reading, bookworms!
Lily Wallaker is a 15-year-old girl from Bay City, Michigan, with a passion to spread God’s Word through her writing. When she’s not writing a new devotional, you can find her writing to her many pen pals, playing violin, reading a good book, or playing with her four younger siblings. You can find her at her blog, The Misty Mayflower.