DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

One Word At A Time

Written by: on November 19, 2019

We live in a world consumed with knowledge. According to Berrett-Koehler Publishers there were over 700,000 books self-published in 2015. In 2013 over 300,000 books were published by traditional publishers. To date there are well over 1 million books self-published every year. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked by a book seller.[1] The importance of knowing where and what to spend precious reading time on is a valid concern. According to google, self-publishers sell around 250 copies total of the book they publish. Needless to say, being an author seems a bit less prestigious for some reason. But yet, there is still an innate drive for individuals to put their thoughts into print.

Despite the enormous abundance of printed material there is something magical about a bookstore. Especially a well-stocked used bookstore. As a person that loves books not only for their content but for their appearance and feel I found Pierre Bayard’s book How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read intriguing. As both a professor of literature and a psychoanalyst it is apparent that part of the purpose of this book was to challenge the reader to look at books as more than information, as well as, to give the understanding that books provide a broad understanding of culture. Maria Popova in her critic while discussing the books states it this way. “Literature becomes not a container of absolute knowledge but a compass for orienteering ourselves to and in the world and its different contexts, books become not isolated objects but a system of relational understanding.”[2]

Though I think Bayard’s tongue and cheek humor was wasted on me I did appreciate his approach when he discusses the value of maintaining a proper perspective to reading. “For there is necessarily a choice to be made, given the number of books in existence, between the overall view and each individual book, and all reading is a squandering of energy in the difficult and time-consuming attempt to master the whole.”[3] How many individual books does a person have to read before they lose the big picture of why they were reading those particular books in the first place? Is it possible to be so enamored with the microscopic the we lose touch with the whole? The constant diagnosis of the meticulous can become a form of depersonalizing the process.

I find it easy at times to lose myself in a book, as well as, find a sense of personal identity in the things I read. “books – whether read or unread – form a kind of second language to which we can turn to talk about ourselves, to communicate with others, and to defend ourselves in conflict. Like language, books serve to express us, but also to complete us, furnishing, through a variety of excerpted and reworked fragments, the missing elements of our personality.”[4] Books in many ways have an ability to level the playing field through allowing the reader to draw and relate to another person’s experiences, as well as, perspectives.

In the movie InkHeart Brendon Frazier plays the part of Mortimer Folchart who unknowingly has the gift of being a Silver tongue. In the opening part of the movie he is seen reading to his daughter the story of Little Red Riding Hood as he reads a red hood appears out of nowhere and his wife is found to be missing. As the movie unfolds the audience becomes aware that as a gifted Silver tongue reads a book out loud something is drawn from the story into reality and in turn something from reality is sucked back into the book. Part of what Bayard unfolds is the concept of “our inner books.” They “act as a filter and determines the reception of new texts by selecting which of its elements will be retained and how they will be interpreted.”[5] Bayard reveals that as a person reads, parts of the book becomes part of who they are in such a way that it is specific only to the individual. It is so specific that it would take a great deal of time for the inner books of others to melt together.[6] This very concept may in some way explain the reason why an individual can read the bible through year after year and see things they haven’t seen in prior readings. How do our inner books affect how we read and understand scripture? Could it be that the Holy Spirit uses out inner books that are created over time to unfold the truth of scripture in a more meaningful way?

I wonder just how much of myself I have left behind in the many books I have read. For those who inherit my library they will find a piece of my thoughts, opinions and disagreements with most every book. As a person who reads with pen in hand each page is an opportunity to circle and underline new ideas, intriguing statements, as well as, thoughts of contention. Margins provide space for insights, comments and notes for further study. Inside the cover are page numbers of quotes and illustrations I plan to use. Truly a part of me is in every book. As I go through life it is obvious that the books are part of me as well. Their influence is subtitle at times, some more than others but, they are there in one form or another.

 

[1]“10 awful truths about book publishing”, last modified September 26,2016, https://www.bkconnection.com/the-10-awful-truths-about-book-publishing

[2] “How to talk about books you haven’t read”, brainpickings, last modified June 15,2012, https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/15/how-to-talk-about-books-you-havent-read/

[3] Pierre Bayard, How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (New York, Bloomsbury, 2007),8

[4] Bayard, 128

[5] Bayard,83

[6] Bayard,108

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

9 responses to “One Word At A Time”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    1) I love InkHeart! So good!
    2) Yes to all the notes and questions in the margins. It would be fascinating to hear my children’s thoughts as they sift through my shelves of books after I die.
    3) What is it about humans that compels us to write and share our words with others, especially when there are SO MANY WORDS already in print? I wonder if we embraced more indigenous customs, through the art of oral, community story-telling, if that itch to print would be lessened, and our connection with each other increased?

  2. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    You’re in good company. This article suggests the best “single alteration in people’s behavior [that] might best improve the lot of mankind” is to read with a pen in hand.
    https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2014/12/03/weapon-for-readers/

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    I have asked that question myself. If we lived in a more community minded environment where we interacted and communicated on a deeper level would we still see people self publish their books. I often question whether a self-published book should be taken as seriously as one that is traditionally published. I have over the years been asked to read more books that were self-published than I care to admit. Some of them by friends and colleagues. In every case the authors were more concerned that you like the book than whether you actually got anything out of it and weren’t looking for constructive feedback. Sadly they were found seriously lacking in content. In each case I tried hard to appreciate the voice of the author who in several of the cases I knew had no other way to voice their story.

  4. mm Dylan Branson says:

    “Books – whether read or unread – form a kind of second language to which we can turn to talk about ourselves, to communicate with others, and to defend ourselves in conflict. Like language, books serve to express us, but also to complete us, furnishing, through a variety of excerpted and reworked fragments, the missing elements of our personality.”

    Love this quote from Bayard. I find that the more I read, the better I am at learning to express myself. Books give us a schema from which we can view various subjects or interpret the world around us. A few of my friends and I have read through various books together and I find that when a connection is made to it, we all look at each other speaking the “secret language” we have because of these books. They influence the way we see the world and can help make sense of the world around us and of ourselves.

    About two years ago I was going through a rough patch with people at my previous church. I remember feeling so angry and bitter toward them and it consumed me for a long time. It wasn’t until it was recommended that I read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground that I learned how bitterness can consume a person’s soul. As I finished the last line of the book, I put it down with a new sense of awakening from where I had been. I finally had words to put to my feelings that I didn’t have before.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    We probably all know (and maybe envy a bit) those among us who have never had an unpublished thought. Your opening calls to mind that part of us that desires to leave something significant to prove to later generations that we were here. Personally, I could probably start a small library with all the books I started to write and never finished! Which makes me wonder, how much of writing a book (with the expectation that someone will actually read it,) is just an exercise in narcissism? How do we know that what we produce will truly make an impact on the larger story of humanity? Melville’s “Moby Dick,” for example, was initially a commercial flop. He died believing this great work was a failure. It was not until decades later that his novel would be received and recognized as the standard of great literature. Maybe that’s it- to have the audacity to believe that what we have to say is worth say, even if no one else thinks so!

  6. Nancy Blackman says:

    Greg,
    I’m so intrigued by your question of “how many individual books does a person have to read before they lose the big picture of why they were reading those particular books in the first place?” I, too, am an avid reader and have been all of my life. As a kid I read voraciously to escape and to encourage my imagination. I don’t think I have ever felt like I ever lost the big picture. Because you also mentioned that you love books and bookstores (my two favorites thus far are Powell Books in Portland, OR and The Strand in NYC), has there ever been a time when you experienced this? If so, what was happening that caused you to lose sight or lose your way?

    I also am intrigued with the idea that your personal identity is connected to the things you read. How has reading a multitude of books shaped your identity? What is your favorite book?

    I inherited a few of my father’s books and I treasure them so much.

    Love the sentiment that a part of you is in every book you’ve read. I never thought of it that way!

  7. mm Greg Reich says:

    Nancy,
    A good example of people losing the big picture when reading books would be individuals who read everything they can on the book of Revelation trying to dissect it to find every secret. They spend time and energy looking for things that don’t often exist missing the ultimate message that God wins as well as the fact that there are 65 other books in the bible worth reading. They can tell you everything about Revelation but have a hard time fitting it into the overarching narrative of scripture. I find it interesting that people burn so much energy trying to figure out something that Jesus himself confesses he doesn’t know.
    Many of the books on leadership and coaching I have read over the years have shaped my outlook and approach to life and business a lot. I would say other than the bible the book that has enlightened me the most would be “The DNA of Relationships” by Gary Smalley. It is a book that focuses on our core fears and how they affect our relationships. I use my understanding of core fears and how they affect our lives everyday working with clients. Another would be “Surprised by Hope” by NT Wright. A jewish historical view of the promise of resurrection upon the return of Christ. I am not sure if I have a favorite in the nonfiction genre. But I have several I have read more than once. Other than my enjoyment of Emerson and Thoreau I would say in the fiction world “A Man called Flint” by Louis L’aMour. Western fiction was a great escape as a kid and something my great uncle Sam started to get a rebellious kid to read. I have a lot of fond memories with him surrounding L’aMour westerns. Sam is why I own a complete hardback edition of L’aMour books all 110+ volumes. I rarely read fiction anymore but when I do they are an old standby.

  8. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Hi Greg, I had no clue that those were the number of books being published. Wow! That’s super eye-opening and a little disheartening. Seems that people so want to be seen and heard. It just doesn’t happen like that so much in our lifetimes. For 99% of us (or more), our sphere of influence is simply a tight nit group of family and friends. That’s ok though! As long as we can keep our focus so-centred. And, how are our lives impacted beyond what is read? I noticed an article Shawn shared (up there a ways)…what kind of an impact do books have on us. What is happening within us as we read, how are we transformed and how does the word come to life beyond the covers and pages? Reading with a pen in hand…is going to take a bit longer than a quick scan through 🙂 God bless you Greg. Thankful for your care and thoughts.

  9. mm Steve Wingate says:

    I’m sorry to be late to the game. “How many individual books does a person have to read before they lose the big picture of why they were reading those particular books in the first place? ” How many more conferences do I have to attend where I succumb to buying books that I’ll never read!

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