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In praise of Rabbit Trail Reading

My friend Persis wrote yesterday about "rabbit trail reading." I love how she describes this process. You do need to read the post, but in a nutshell, it's basically finding good books by following rabbit trails. Like Persis, I have found some of my favourite books from reading the footnotes. My habit has become to actually begin reading a book by first checking out the bibliography if there is one. I love it when books have a bibliography because not only does it tell me what has influenced the writer's views, but it gives me ideas for more books on the subject at hand.

There is a time and a place for reading what we are told we must. As a student, I read books because my professors say I should. This semester, my Penteteuch prof has provided a generous list of recommended reading, which he encourages us to make use of. These years of seminary, where I read a lot because I must have been very productive. At the same time, my reading has yielded a wonderful selection of books from the footnotes and bibliographies. That is what the summer reading is for: to follow those trails.

Every New Year's day we take down our Christmas tree and put everything back to its normal position. This year, we decided to move a book case to the other side of the room. That meant taking all of the books out. We took the opportunity to re-evaluate whether or not to keep them or give them away. We gave away quite a few. And this is after I already had two boxes from when I moved the other book cases upstairs to my study in September.

We had company for dinner that evening, and I showed one of my guests, also a book lover, my boxes and invited him to take what he wanted. As my guest sifted through the books, I took note that many of the books were ones that I know I bought because "everyone" was talking about them. On occasion, doing that has introduced me to good books, but in the past couple of years I've had occasions where the books were actually quite mediocre and in some cases, badly written and poorly edited. The books I have found via the rabbit trails have been more enduring. I have had good experiences when friends recommend books, but followng the suggestions of the masses is not always a positive experience.

One of the benefits of reading good books is how it helps us make connections between the various things we read, think about, and experience. Reading with a rabbit trail fosters that practice. Following rabbit trails can have us reading books which are challenging. We may read something which makes us a little uncomfortable. That is okay, too. If we're looking for comfort reading, we're better off reading Christian romance novels, where nothing is a surprise.

We can tend to read in a bubble. As I read people's "favourite reads" posts, I took note that some people had similar titles on their lists (and interestingly, from a common group of publishers). What I loved was reading lists that contained books I'd not heard of before. I read one list where I was not familiar with one title. We need to read because it attracts our attention, not because we want to follow along with the crowd. When I see everyone saying "read this!" my passive rebellion kicks in and I resolve to never read it. Yes, that is cutting my nose off to spite my face. I look at it this way: if such books eventually show up in my rabbit trails, I'll give them a try.

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Reader Comments (2)

Here's to rabbit trail reading! Making connections is one of the best parts of reading.

I used to jump on book bandwagons but not so much now. I sometimes wait on those books to see if my interest is still there after the hype has died down.

January 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPersis

I love Rabbit Trail reading! I have found many of my favorite books this way. I became a book reviewer this fall, so I've been reading more of the "hot" books than I ever have before. I've noticed that there is a real trend towards people hyping books regardless of the actual quality of the book, especially as many join launch teams & hope that by promoting another's book they might get the return favor some day. I'm trying to stay neutral & offer reviews that show a book's real strengths and weaknesses rather than just jumping on the bandwagon.

I also try to read "off the beaten path" because I love recommending great books that others haven't heard of or might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Thanks for giving me a new way to describe my quirky reading habits :)

January 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Lundgren

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