Saint Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rambling on Books and Reading

Rambling on Books and Reading
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011


    One of my favorite hobbies is reading and collecting books. I have no idea how many books I own at this point but it must be well over 2500 volumes. The subjects range the gauntlet. Many of them pertain to the Catholic faith, or other religions. I have a ton of history books, some I may never read, but you never know when you may need a biography of a famous person like Robert E. Lee, Stalin, Bob Dylan or an autobiography by Michael Caine. That is the danger of the Goodwill bookstore! A hardback for 3 bucks, can’t beat that. And the stacks get higher and higher! A friend once told me that my purgatory is going to be having to finish every last book in my library. I’ll be shutting off the lights for sure. All of these books leaves me in a precarious situation. Which book should I read next? Or rather, what book should I add to my book rotation, since I often read 5,6,7 at a time.

(A trip to the Bookmine in Jacksonville is always fun!)


    I find that having books in my rotation classified into categories allows me to somewhat keep my attention focused in certain areas. These areas fall into a variety of subjects, the first falling into the Catholic area of focus which covers 1.Spiritual Life 2.Theology 3.Church History 4.Biography. 5.Liturgical Then I have my categories which include other religions or faiths so that I can learn what they believe. These include books on  1.Theology 2.Biography 3.Spirituality. Then I have another class which falls into the secular category, but which are not always isolated from the other two areas of study previously referenced. Here I usually read books in two categories, 1.History/Archaeology 2.Biography. Science, biology or math have never been favorite subjects of mine, so I have only a few books that fall into those categories, which can be used for reference, of course. I doubt it, but better safe than sorry right? I have only a few books which fall into the fiction category, and I spend little time reading fiction. I am one of those people who reads to learn something, not for a good fictional story. Plus it seems that real life stories are more interesting that fictional ones. I guess I am a product of the modern generation when it comes to fictional entertainment, I would rather watch a Blu Ray.

    So how do I choose which books to read? Well, when I get the system figured out I will let you know. Currently I always have something pertaining to the spiritual life near my bed that I can pick up and read, including the Scriptures. I like to always include some sort of a Thomistic theological work in the rotation. There is always a certain period of history I am interested in, so I usually have 4 or 5 books I am reading on that particular subject so I can get different perspectives. For example, right now I am engrossed in the history of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Russia. So I have 4 books that I am reading together on the subject, and several more waiting in the wings. After those two areas I have other books that I read for apologetics, or books that help me to understand other faiths, so that I can talk intelligently to folks who may hold those beliefs. Currently I like to read primarily about the Orthodox faith as well as Protestantism. I must admit however, that after reading and engaging in years of apologetics, my appetite for books on Luther and Calvin and Co. has dwindled recently, and I have focused more on those Churches in the East who at least have valid sacraments. Finally I read what I call fun books. These are books that really have no rhyme or reason as to why I am reading them. These are few and far between, but sometimes I will run across something that just strikes me as interesting. For example, I was watching a movie the other day that had Michael Caine in it. I thought to myself, this guy is a pretty good actor, and hes been around a while. I wonder what his story is? The next day I am in the Goodwill bookstore and what do you know? A nice hardback of a new autobiography by Michael Caine. Who would have thought? So now when I am sitting around bored I pick it up and read chapter out of it.


What it boils down to I suppose is prioritizing what books you are going to read. Books that are for spiritual enrichment or ones that will help you understand your faith better, are the most important. These hopefully bring you closer to God. But I find that knowing the history of the Church to be beneficial as well, so I can understand those who lived the Catholic faith before me in other areas of the world. This hopefully also helps me to live a more holy life, so I believe that these types of books are not void of spiritual value. Finally there are books that I read because they are interesting and fun. You never know when you are going to be engaged in a discussion about movies, and my Michael Caine trivia may pay off! That doesn’t mean however that I would quote him in a Catechism. OK, enough about the YouCat. I digress. I did title this post rambling on books and reading right? I think I have adhered to the lietmotif.

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