I remember cutting my teeth with reading the original Hardy Boys’ Adventures late into the night. At least it was far enough past my 9 o’clock bedtime to get in trouble. As a kid, I didn’t mind the formulaic plots and predictable escapes. I still hold a place in my heart for Frank, Joe, and Chet with his old jalopy. Fiction isn’t the bulk of my reading list now, but I believe it is still important.
There are plenty of places to get great reading lists. Here, here, and here, are just a few. Unfortunately, we live in a time when just going off the New York Times bestseller list is anything but a good indicator of literature. Our world is full of books that revel in an eat drink and be merry mentality. Plenty of authors are praised for being dark, bleak, and raw. Dust jackets boast of their blunt look at the human condition.
Faced with this seemingly barren literary landscape, some parents just give up, some find shelter in non-fiction, and some have an approved list of solely “classic” works. Reading is one of the most formative things that our children do. Understanding the dangers and the need should prompt a parent to put some thought into it.
God created beauty. The moment of creation was indescribably beautiful, as something came from the mouth of God. But beauty is not an end to itself. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” This statement in the book of Psalms gives us a rationale for understanding how secular works can edify and point a Christian back to God.
We realize that beauty declares a creator. Something as inanimate as light rays bouncing around air, water vapor, and all the impurities of a fallen world gives us the spectacular view of a sunset. There is something inside of us that sees this majestic sight and cries out for beauty. We are designed to recognize order and symmetry and are hard-wired to appreciate these things as good. Why? Isn’t it just light and air and dust? Isn’t it just a happy ending? These fictional books that we read aren’t they just escapist fantasies that we hide in? They can be.
A reading list isn’t about the special books that we can get into our children’s hands that somehow transform them into scholars. A reading list is only as good as it points back to the creator. I have several fictional titles that I want my kids to read one day that are bleak and raw and completely devoid of God. Even these books point out that life aside from Christ is hopeless. Books like this without context can be dangerous, but that is my job as a parent. That is my beauty. I get to point my kids back to Christ.
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