Books are vehicles of inspiration. They have the potential to carry readers to whole new worlds. Thanks to local libraries and apps like Libby and Overdrive, we can now access millions of books in print, digital and audio formats for free!

In 1873, poet Emily Dickinson wrote a letter that included the following poem. It portrays the power of literature and poetry to propel us to far off lands. (A few pre-reading definitions: a frigate is a large ship; a courser is a horse.)

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away,

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears a Human soul.

As a young person, I enjoyed reading, but I didn’t fall in love with novels and poetry until Warburg College, where I studied British literature. After that season of life, I took a pause from doing much leisure reading; consuming just a handful of books a year was pretty typical.

I always missed spending time in book world, though. I longed to hop aboard a frigate and set off for uncharted literary territory on a more consistent basis.

In 2018, I set the goal of reading 52 books. As I conclude that endeavor, I’d like to share a bit of my travelogue in the hopes that it will be an encouragement to you to take steps to incorporate more reading into your life this year.

I read a lot of shorter books as I built up my mental muscle strength.

After a steady word diet consisting mainly of newspaper articles, Instagram feeds and work emails, my ability to focus for sustained periods of time needed to be strengthened in order to reach my goal of 52 books. I ended up reading many shorter books (under 200 pages) and young adult fiction over the course of the year. If you, too, are going to be retraining your brain to consume more books, I recommend this strategy! Show yourself that you are capable of focusing for long stretches on the same task (reading). Perhaps reward yourself when you do with another trip to the library!

A variety of genres made the year exciting.

Outside of a long stretch of reading young adult fiction by Kate DiCamillo (Kate, if you’re reading this, are you looking for a new best friend and/or president of your fan club?), the rest of the year was all about variety. Non-fiction books about spirituality, memoirs, young adult fiction and graphic novels kept me entertained week after week. How fantastic that we’re not limited to one genre of reading material! I’m not necessarily planning to read 52 books again this year, but I am looking forward to continuing to make book selections from all sorts of categories.

This year provided the perfect opportunity to read important classics I had missed and revisit old, beloved favorites.

Until this project, I had never read “1984,” “The Secret Garden,” “Fahrenheit 451” or “The House on Mango Street.” I had also never reread any of my highlights from childhood including Bridge to Terabithia, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and The Giver. Just because you’ve read a book once doesn’t mean you can’t read it again. Re-reading a beloved text might even serve as a great kickstart as you get back into the book reading habit.

Reading is a great joy and a free way to travel to new places. Let’s make it a priority and regular rhythm of life.

Holy Everything is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor serving at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod Office in Rochester. Visit her blog at emilyannecarson.com.

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