Enjoying The Indoors When The Outdoors Blaze
Emotions fill the air, colors fading our interior vision as the real world fades to black. Oh, what a wondrous feeling of fantastical frivolity! Words pop off the page, allowing us to understand and experience each and every mixed emotion we have never seen with our own eyes or grasped with our own hearts. By doing so, our eyelids spread wide and intake the breath of the world, digging into meaning, getting our hands dirty and allowing us to bask in the beauty of God’s wonder. What, then, should each individual partake in over the summer to fully seize the day? Perhaps each of us should read a few classics, a few fantasies, or maybe even something more grounded in reality. This, my friends, is a list giving each of you a few options in a select bunch of genres so you may grow uncomfortable and shift your perspective over these next few months of leisure.
These are some stories that diverged from the rest, changing the course of literary minds all across the world.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
There is a high chance that, as Christians, this story was banned from your household as a child. This, by all means, is not something I do not understand, as some of the imagery used is quite dark, but it is all written under the guise of something more. Through largely Christian means– albeit superstitious at times –Van Hellsing strives to finish off the great evil known as Dracula. In his attempts to save the world, relationships are budded through religious means, demonstrating God’s power over all evil, both imbued in objects and in spirituality. According to many adults, this story is dark and evil, and the movies just may be, but in Stoker’s original, Evil is brought down with godly power and the love of good.
- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Many of us know Lewis for his writing of one of the most influential Christian fantasies ever, The Chronicles of Narnia, but this is no fantasy. Under many worldviews, it could be considered as such, but through the eyes of the Christian man, a largely spiritual world is sitting just beneath our noses. In this, Lewis presents us with evil, demons attempting to tempt men and women to sin, and in doing so, gives us a perspective of how spirits bring us down. This, I believe, is a very influential read for those dealing with the struggle of constant temptation; whether it be in word or in sight, touch or in thought, this book is for you.
For those who wish to run away, these are worlds where you may leap above the clouds and breathe in the ocean waves.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
London is often romanticized, but now imagine it upside down, invisible, fractured in space and time, and mixed with magical bird eggs and odd festivals. A more lighthearted read, this one is, and it is the perfect picture of an ordinary man in an extraordinary world. This book shows angels, insanity, reacquired life, and many other ideas quite well with excellent prose, hilariously charismatic characters, and new experiences. If all you want is to laugh, dig your fingers into the page due to tension, or to leave our world behind, jump into the London under London, meeting, maybe, your own joy on the way down.
- Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
From a storytelling, plot-constructing, world-building perspective, Sanderson is currently unmatched in the fantasy market. If you desire to live in a world nothing like your own, with characters real and compelling, experiencing new emotions on the deepest level possible, pick this one up. In a world drenched in ash and mist, empowered individuals called mistings, or the more powerful Mistborns, are rare, but oftentimes rule the world. In a systematic power struggle, watch morally complex ideals battle to save reality. This trilogy made me cry multiple times, not just due to its pain and sadness, but also Sanderson’s ability to simply portray beauty so incredibly. The ending made me bawl through sheer awe and nearly nothing more. If your mind desires to be twisted into a graymatter pretzel, dive into the unique worlds of Sanderson’s Cosmere.
On a note much more tangible, or maybe less so, you may find yourself intertwined with the spirituality of thought. If this is true, take a gander into these books while the heat sears your driveway.
- The Unseen Realm by Michael Haiser
From a purely theological lens, this book totally rocked my world. By changing my view of the old testament in its entirety, Haiser throws theological curveball after curveball, switching your preconceived notions to something much more Hebrew. In doing so, one may view classic stories like Moses with the burning bush, or Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre in a completely different light. This, I believe, is a book every Christian should read. It touches more often on the supernatural than many books do, not simply wandering around complex theology and the applicable implications of morality, but also how God showed Himself to those before the New Testament. In charismatic prose, Haiser displays a wondrous understanding of our God and His word.
- Simply Good News by N.T. Wright
Many of you may have read this story, as North Central’s God And The Gospel class displays it as a required reading. However, for any who perhaps skipped over it due to the lack of enjoyment that often accompanies classroom requirements, this story is just for you. Simply Good News took my understanding of my faith and Jesus and reinforced it just enough to get me thinking even further. Even if some of the ideas are basic in complexity, each one is foundational and many of us forget our basis. We, as Christians, must do more than “know” what we believe, but instead we must understand it in order to live it. This, along with The Unseen Realm will change how you think of both the Old Testament and the New. Never again will you need to question how to think of Jesus, as how to celebrate him is beautifully shown within the text here.
For all those who want to see your same world through another’s eyes, dive into the world of false reality.
- Emma by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is quite a renowned author, penning iconic stories such as Pride and Prejudice and many more for her time. Having ridden off of the high that was Shakespearian literature, this book and many of her others are packed with fantastic, meaningful dialogue, allowing you, the reader, to fully delve into the psyche of the characters. Dealing with pride, love, self-esteem, and much more, this book is my all-time favorite book. At one point, the love was so poignant I was giggling to myself and shaking my legs. Romance has never been so beautiful, and social constructs have never been so lovable. Learn about independence, both in men and women, and how it can be handled healthily and less-so in this wonderful story.
- The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
In a simple story not drowned in symbolism, Hemingway paints a picture of, well, an old man and the sea. Here, he captures a fish, and it is detrimental in a way. Some say it endorses the idea that a man is not a man until he has done something stupid for no reason at all, but others say it pushes an idea of self-confidence and determination. Piggybacking off such an idea as this, we can dive into the more positive thematic understandings of this book. A man refuses to give up, and in our world now, this sort of worldview is needed. Everyone is bogged down by depression and painful experience, and with this many often do not want to keep going. Yet, this book shows our willingness to keep fighting is what brings us forward, and an idea of perseverance for our own sake brings about what this world desperately needs now.
Maybe reading is not for you– or maybe it is, as these words are currently swimming in your irises –but there are amazing books here to allow you to live, or escape living, in safe and thought out ways. Let your body rest for a while, lie down and sniff the pages. Let the smell of ink on paper lull you to sleep, mind dancing with God’s implanted emotions, allowing self-understanding, whether it be intentional or not. By the end of these stories, maybe the world will seem a little bit brighter around you, no matter how painfully dull it has all seemed before.