The Best Kind of Book
By Alicia Reese
February 8, 2023

What kind of books do you like to read? Or listen to? Books and reading have always been a big part of my life, but I will admit, there are certain books that appeal to me more than others. I yearn for those books that I don’t want to put down. Ones that I stay up much later than I should to read, telling myself, “just one more chapter…”

As I have gotten older, these books, the best kind of books, have seemed harder to find. Mainly because I never really know which book will be this "best kind" until I begin reading it, but also because I always have a stack of books that I should read. It’s hard to find the time to read as much as I’d like, and even more difficult to strike that balance between reading books I should read and ones that bring me joy. The best kind of book is both one that is enjoyable to read and that feeds my life-long learner cravings.

I have started to realize a pattern of “criteria” that can help me find these books. There are two must haves:

1) there must be a human story unfolding; fiction or non-fiction, either will do, but I want to be drawn into that story, made to care about what is happening and what is going to happen.
2) I want to be challenged to see a new perspective, asked to think critically, and/or forced to wrestle with something; morally, theologically, and/or personally.

In this way, the best kind of books are akin to church, or at least what I believe church should be: a place of comfort and challenge.

Although human experience differs greatly from one person to the next, I do find comfort in knowing another’s story. It feels connective. Reading a book may be a solo activity, but I have never felt alone when reading. I may not always be able to fully relate to or understand the story and experiences of the book’s subject(s) but it is an honor to be witness to it, to be a part of the story in a small way and to make it a part of my own story in another way.

This is what it means to be church to me, a place of comfort and connection, where sacred stories can be told and heard. Sharing our lives in community. Practicing love and understanding. The hope is that these stories shared in community are dissimilar enough to invite us to new perspectives, ways of thinking and being, that challenge us to grow, to be changed in some way, so that when we step back out, we emerge transformed, and with a recommendation we are excited to share with others.