Thursday, April 02, 2009

Two Books Diverged in a Yellow Wood

I am currently reading “The Shack” and “Valis” at the same time. As a result, my mind is kind of splitting in two.

I’m not very far along in The Shack yet, but I’ve heard enough about it that I kind of see where it’s going. And I’m about halfway through Valis. So both books are incomplete, though it is interesting to anticipate how each is presenting the theme of God communicating with people, albeit in dramatically different ways.

In The Shack, God initiates an encounter by putting a note in a guy’s mailbox. In Valis, God initiates an encounter by sending a beam of pink light that is comprised of pure information directly into a guy’s mind. The Shack refers to God as “Papa;” Valis names God “Zebra.” The crisis in The Shack is the murder of a daughter; the crises in Valis involve drugs and cancer and mental illness, to name a few. So they are actually pretty good books to read together.

But the reason my mind is splitting in two has to do with the level of mental energy each book absorbs. So, if for some reason I am not fully engaged with Valis, and a sentence slips by without me, I’m lost. There is naught to do but go back and re-read it, because the writing is so thick and every word important. It is the kind of book that I have to set down every now and then in order to process the paragraph I have just read.

On the other hand, The Shack is very easy to read, since it is pulled along by the plot (at least so far). I mean, sometimes I may even doze off for a page and when I wake up I find that I’m able to just continue on, filling in the gaps as I go. I’m waiting for the juicy, “controversial” stuff to happen, which might be a bit more engaging, but so far I’m not seeing what all the buzz is about. It is a good mystery novel up to this point, to be sure, so we’ll see what happens with it.

Both of the books are great; I enjoy both ways to read. The complex, heady stuff in Valis charges me up in a very powerful way. And the catchy, surface level storyline of The Shack is fun to read, and makes me want to see what’s next. So I decide which book to take up and read based on what mood I’m in!

If I’m kind of tired and want a good story to occupy my mind, I read The Shack. If I’m clicking on all cylinders and want some intellectual stimulation, I pick up Valis.

Anyway, this post is pretty narcissistic, isn’t it? Let’s see, how to redeem it?

Oh, I know…

So how many books do you have going at the moment? Do you like to read just to occupy your mind, or do you like to read to stimulate your thinking? Or both?

What’s the best “just occupy your mind” book you’ve read? What’s the best “stimulate your thinking” book you’ve read?

There, now this post isn’t all about me!


Kory Wilcox said...

Two books going right now:

"Introducing the Bible" (William Barclay; for upcoming lay leader course)

"Picturing the Gospel" (Neil Livingstone; author was one of my area directors when I was involved in InterVarsity in DC).

Both. I am finding I should always have a book that can occupy my mind, or I risk burning out on reading altogether.

Most memorable for mind occupying: "Myst: The Book of Ti'Ana" (Rand Miller)

Most memorable for stimulating thinking: "Why the Rest Hates the West" (Meic Pearse)

Anonymous said...

I'm a third year M. Div. student. I'm reading WAY TOO MANY books at one time...

Kevin Shelton said...

Ah VALIS... what a book... brings me back...

I'm reading "Born of a Woman" by Spong and "Watchmen" together now... 'tis a most interesting conglomeration of ideas within my head...

I hope you enjoy Valis Andy (I've yet to read The Shack). Just remember "All Hail King Felix!"