Why I travel as much in books as I do on planes

granada-alhambra_19-137430When it comes to traveling, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

The experiences that you gain stay with you for life. The dingiest of hotels, the smelliest of trains and the most bizarre experiences become part of the fabric of who you are, growing only more legendary with time.

It seems strange then, that I’d even consider comparing my ‘book traveling’ with my ‘real traveling.’ But I can. As a traveler, I’ve stood before the Eiffel tower, seen Mount Everest and floated in the Dead Sea, but each of these things had one thing in common: I experienced them as me. And I’ll tell you something, being me is pretty ordinary. I’ve done it my whole life; it’s not very magical.

That’s why when I travel through books I travel as much as I do on planes. In books I’ve raised my children in Paris and lived in war-ravaged Kabul. I’ve been an early Australian pioneer, and I’ve risen from the deepest slums of India. I may not have lived their lives in reality, but through them, I’ve experienced much more than I ever could have on my own.reading_28819

And the marriage of the two is perfect, because as I walk down the cobblestone streets of Düsseldorf, I feel the shadow of a woman over me. As she glances into a shop window, I sense her fear that the Nazi’s grip is growing tighter and it becomes more than just a town, and I am more than just me.

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What Happens when Morality and Books Collide (and you couldn’t see it coming)

shock-and-awe_2666361I’ve always loved reading, and I’ve tried to be discerning with what I read. I grew up largely on Christian fiction, the occasional bestseller and my high school reading list. When I became a teacher six years ago, I set out to become ‘well read’ in secular fiction, so that I knew what to recommend to my students. I began devouring popular books, and, last year, read a book a week for the entire year.

My endeavor, however, had a frequent downside. Too often, I’d find myself gripped by a novel only to discover an increasing amount of content that I didn’t feel comfortable reading. I felt a conviction that this content was not something that I, as a Christian, should be reading; but I was loving the book! On occasion this battle ended with me tearing the book to pieces; making a bold personal stand within myself.

I was sick of the battle between my moral standards and my love of reading. I scoured the internet for a source that would help me discern what sort of content was in a novel before I started reading it. There was nothing to be found.

Now there is.

My new website, www.bookclassifications.com , exists to assist the discerning reader in discovering what level of content may be in a book before they start reading it, or pass it on to their child.

I’d love for you to check it out, share it with friends and family and like us on Facebook!

I buy books like they read themselves…

booksThere are two things that I find almost impossible to resist at the shops: Shoes and books.

I’ve had to be stern with myself about the shoe thing. I’ve learnt (I think) to stop buying shoes that are so uncomfortable that I can’t walk in them (even if they are, oh-so-pretty) and I’ve learnt that there are only so many pairs of shoes that you can wear in one year.

The book thing, though, I still struggle with. When I was young I read a lot about children at the turn of the century who saw books as rare treasures, and I think that contributed to my love of them. There is something so precious and alive about a good book. A childhood book can stay with you forever like nothing else can. (I am of course talking about real books here. Don’t even get me started on E-books!)

Suffice to say, I have a large book collection and recently I had to pause and take stock. How many books have I bought on a passionate whim and never read? As I counted them up, I realized there are quite a few. Many of them, still on my ‘to be read’ list are pictured above.

So I’m going to try to stop buying for a while, until I’ve actually read what I have!

Do you have a stack of books that you ‘just had to have’ at the time, but that you haven’t read yet? What are they?

The Barr Smith Library Reading Room

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I love the Barr Smith Library reading room.

I never managed to study in there, though. Instead I’d have to hole up at some 70s style desk, in a dank corner, behind the stacks on level 2, because the beauty of the reading room made study impossible. Sometimes I’d sit in there though, pretending to work. I was always amazed by the air. Unlike the rest of the library, dull, stuffy and smelling of old books (surprise surprise), the reading room seemed to have the natural airflow of a European cathedral.

The reading room embodies my romantic ideas of universities; the paradoxical mix of tradition and history with freedom of thought and inspiration. I love that as I sat there my feet would rest on an old pipe that ran beneath the desk as a testament to a bygone era (someone once told me, the pipes used to carry hot water to keep the students’ feet warm). The old wooden desks, with inkwells in the corners, were inlaid with bottle green leather, and I’d smile as I looked at the various etchings and carved graffiti that I romantically imagined predated the war era (but that were probably circa 1990s).

The Barr Smith reading room made me feel like I was a part of something great; that I was one in a long line of scholars who had and would change the world. It almost whispered to me, ‘Seize the day girl; make your life extraordinary.’

Swimming to the Surface – Kristin Billerbeck

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I think I like Kristin Billerbeck – but I’m not sure. She’s one of those authors I find difficult to pigeon hole. This is the 4th book of hers that I’ve read.

I really enjoyed What a Girl Wants. I found it refreshingly down to earth and honest, and I’ve re-read it a couple of times. I then bought the two sequels to it, and they didn’t impress me so much.

What I love about Billerbeck is that she writes about real-life issues in a down to earth, honest and often humorous way. What I find difficult, is that she manages to combine that with something superficial and cliché, almost reminiscent of a television drama. These things are somewhat paradoxical, which is why I find her hard to pin down.

This novel, Swimming to the Surface, deals with a real and somewhat confronting issue: A woman who has become disillusioned with the Church because of the way in which they dealt with her in the breakdown of her marriage to her legalistic, mentally unstable, and, as it turns out, homosexual husband. These are heavy topics that do make for a fascinating story. But, somehow, Billerbeck still manages to give the plot a sense of story-book perfection, with many scenes that, to me, seemed unrealistic and cliché.

From what I’ve seen, this book has had quite good reviews, but to be honest, I’m not a fan.

Oh, and it’s the first book I read as an e-book. Probably didn’t help!

The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel

Photo Credit: Book depository

Having completed a self-imposed challenge to read 52 books last year, I’ve slowed down a lot this year and hardly read any. I have, however, finally got around to reading this one.

As a high school teacher in a Christian school I often get teenagers asking me questions about faith – and they’re not stupid either. Some of the deepest questions I ever hear come from students amidst the flurry of essays, lessons and lunch-breaks.

While I may ‘know whom I have believed,’ these kids have genuine questions that need genuine answers. And I believe that this book gives them. From the historical and scientific accuracy of the Bible, to the legitimacy of the claims of Christ, to the medical, historic and circumstantial evidence of the resurrection, legal journalist Lee Strobel takes us on the journey that he took as an atheist attempting to discover if there was any legitimacy to this man who has changed the world.

It’s easy to read, academically and scientifically thorough, and builds an indisputable case that not only did the man Jesus live, but that He was exactly who He claimed to be, and that He still lives today.

Definitely worth a read, no matter what your faith-stance is.

Among other places, this book can be purchased at http://www.bookdepository.com