I’m moving again, and I must once again face the massive stacks of books I have accumulated over the years. For a once-voracious childhood reader, I barely make it through ten books in a year, but I buy or borrow far more than that during the same amount of time.
My attempts at purging books have resulted in little more than getting them sorted into neatly labeled bins. Books on Christianity are divided into “Intellectual faith,” “Personal faith,” and “Faith and sexuality/gender.” Other bins have labels like “Secular self-help” and “Woke novels I bought at that college student’s garage sale.”
There are at least seventy-five books in my closet I have not read, and, if I’m being honest, probably will not read. In the tradition of Andrew Knot, I thought I’d review some of them anyway.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Of course I’ve read The Great Gatsby. What kind of English major hasn’t read The Great Gatsby? I know all the symbols, like the green light, the eyes on the billboard, and the repetition of the Lana Del Rey melodic theme throughout the soundtrack.
I read the book up until the part where Nick and Tom go to a party in the city. I kept nodding my head while reading it, thinking, “Yep, the Baz Luhrmann movie is just like this.” I love that movie, and to be perfectly honest, I think it communicates the story well enough on its own. But I talk to people about the story and its themes as if I made it through the whole book. Yes, that makes me a poser. No, I’m not going to read it.
I do have a shirt with The Great Gatsby cover art on it because it’s a rad graphic. A coworker once noticed it and said, “I like your shirt. Have you read The Great Gatsby?” I no longer talk to that coworker.
Desiring God by John Piper
Maybe if I desired God more, I would have the motivation to read this book. I borrowed it from a now-ex boyfriend at the same time he borrowed a Donald Miller book from me. The fact that he liked John Piper and I liked Donald Miller is a pretty good indicator of why it didn’t last between us. He never gave back my book either, and I’m sure he never read it.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Every employee at my first job was given a copy of this book at orientation. Every employee put it in a box under their bed and never looked at it again. Maybe someday I will become highly effective. Today is not that day.
Various Nonfiction Books I Was Supposed to Read for College Classes and Now Hang On to Out Of Guilt
Somehow I answered an essay question about the Yugoslav War without ever having read the book on the Yugoslav War. Surely I’ll pick it up sometime for some light reading, to learn those things I feel like I’m supposed to know. The Yugoslavs’ story deserves to be heard, right? But so does this Dean Koontz suspense paperback I found in a Little Free Library…
Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy
Yes, I bought a book on procrastination. No, I haven’t got around to reading it. No, I don’t see anything ironic or joke-worthy in this scenario.
Novels with Helvetica-Looking Titles
If the title is in a sans-serif font with one word per line on the front cover, you know it must be good. Eventually I’ll get around to reading the “luminous” words of All the Light We Cannot See (by Anthony Doerr) or the “painfully beautiful” prose of Where the Crawdads Sing (by Delia Owen). My mom buys these books, stores them in untouched piles in her room, then eventually reads them and loans them to me, and I get to put them in an untouched pile in my room. It’s a family tradition.
The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense by John Bevere
This is a book about bitterness, which I definitely don’t experience except toward the guy who never gave me back my Donald Miller book. I bet this book would do a great job of freeing me from that deadly trap, but for now I am still a captive.
The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor
Somehow every person alive at Calvin College seemed to revere this lady I’d never heard of. I could fill a warehouse with all the class printouts I received of her stories, featuring characters with names like Joy-Hulga who used the N-word and sometimes got shot for very unclear reasons.
I found a book of all her works at a secondhand book store and decided I should complete my education in the ways of Flannery, forgetting that I find her works exhausting and weird as hell. Still, I envision the Sophisticated Future Laura who could wax eloquent on the theological frameworks present in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” and so the book remains on my shelf.
I think that’s a part of my heartbreaking difficulty of getting rid of books. When I pick up a book in my closet, read the back cover and flip through the pages, I envision not just what the book holds but who I will be after I read it.
Of course I want to become a Jesus Feminist (by Sarah Bessey) who spends my life Knowing God (by J. I. Packer), and pursuing The Will of God as a Way of Life (by Jerry Sittser). I want to live A Praying Life (by Paul E. Miller) and be able to explain The Case for Christ (by Lee Strobel) to non-believers, understanding The Science of God (by Gerald Schroeder) and working bravely through theological quandaries like Where’s God When It Hurts? (by Philip Yancey).
I want to learn about our country’s Founding Mothers (by Cokie Roberts) and the New Gospel for Women (by Kristin Kobes Du Mez). Someday I’ll know The Meaning of Marriage (by Tim Keller), speak The Five Love Languages (by Gary Chapman), and participate in The Redemption of Love (by Carrie E. Miles). I’ll be a better Christian, a more loving partner, a more effective employee…someday.
Until that day, I pack the books into their bins and load them into another UHaul to live in another closet in another home in another city. Who knows who I will become in that new place. I’ll have plenty of authors to guide me.
Laura graduated from Calvin in 2015 with a degree in art and writing. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband Josh and dog Rainy. She works as an IT support analyst and enjoys painting, rock climbing, and exploring the city.