At the beginning of 2018, I decided I was going to read 10 books this year. The tricky bit was, I wasn’t sure where to start.
As someone who lives in a ideologically diverse household, I don’t choose all the books that end up on the living room shelves. After finally finding time at the beginning of this month to sit down and peruse the shelves a bit, I picked up one of the books that I hadn’t purchased myself. It had been recommended to me before by a few friends and for whatever reason, it just piqued my curiosity that day.
It was C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
As a child, I was a big fan of C. S. Lewis’ fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. I read and re-read them several times as a child, and watched the movies a fair dozen too (much to the chagrin of my parents).
The Narnia series is undoubtedly heavily based in Christian theology, something that was clear to me even as a young person not acquainted with the Church. But I managed to separate myself from the fictional tales which I loved so dearly, and the philosophy in which they were based that I felt so uncomfortable with.
Until now, I had never delved into Lewis’ non-fiction works. Despite all reservations, I decided to read the book. To my greatest surprise, I adored it.
I learned that C. S. Lewis was once an atheist too, and his book Mere Christianity is a great introductory course into Christian theology, but also his own personal history with the subject.
Although I found myself disagreeing on some points here and there, the book wrapped me in a blanket of familiarity, with C. S. Lewis’ classic writing style and humour paving the way for an breezy and insightful read. Instead of rejecting every point on the basis that I simply didn’t want to believe it, I found myself weighing the logic and insights that he provided on an issue I had once felt so sure of.
For the first time in a long time I felt immersed in a book, completely unable to put it down. In fact, instead of giving into the temptation to toss the book away every time I disagreed on one point (as I figured I would do eventually) the challenge it served to my own way of thinking is what kept me pushing onward. Sometimes I wanted to keep reading just to find out how much I really hated his argument, or if it seemed more reasonable once he had worked out the details, than it had at the outset.
My commute to work went from a dull, social-media scrolling twenty minutes, to an engaging philosophical discussion between me and a treasured childhood author.
I finished the book in record time, and its absence has really left a hole in my life.
The other day I found myself drifting back to the family bookshelf, seeking out other titles that jumped out to me immediately as points of disagreement.
That’s when I decided to take this pledge.
Instead of reading just any old 10 books, this year I’m going to read 10 books that challenge my perceptions on an issue, or my greater worldview in some way.
Not just about politics, but history, philosophy, religion, or even art. I’ll think about my most devout opinions, and find a book that challenges something about them.
What this doesn’t mean is that I’m about to snuggle into my reading chair with Atlas Shrugged, or bring Mein Kampf on the bus with me. I’m not really looking for dogmatic or blatantly antagonistic works here.
I want thoughtful, well written books. Ones that are well argued, and have held up over time. Niche books too, or books that articulate an opinion or point of view I’ve never even heard of before.
I want to do this firstly for my own benefit. You can never read too much, especially about topics you know little about. But I also want to do this for the benefit of my family, friends and colleagues as well.
I’m hopeful that this exercise will give me new insights into the other side of arguments I’ve had, or help me understand and empathize better with different view points.
So if you’ve got any quality book recommendations for this young, left-leaning, Canadian, monarchist — I’m all ears.