Books for Lent
by maggi dawn
Lent is not far away now: it begins on Wednesday. One of the most common practices is to read a book through Lent, a few pages a day. For regular readers who always read on their commuter train or before they go to sleep, it might give you a chance to read more slowly and contemplatively. And for those who can get through an entire year and wonder at how they haven’t got round to reading a whole book, it breaks a book in to bite-sized pieces and helps you recover a lost habit.
Of my own books, Giving it Up is written specially for Lent, with a bible passage and two or three pages of reflections set for every day. Accidental Pilgrim (Kindle Edition here) is a memoir in which, weaving together history and literary nuggets with my own experiences, I explore the idea of pilgrimage: what is the difference between a tourist and a pilgrim, can you be a pilgrim in everyday life or a literary pilgrim, and how can you have a pilgrim soul if you aren’t able to make a lengthy journey away from home?
There are a great many books written specifically to be read through Lent, and you only need to google “Lent” on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to find them. But a Lent book doesn’t have to be a book written especially for Lent. One of the many other books on pilgrimage, for instance, might be a good choice. Cycling Home from Siberia is the kind of book that opens your eyes to the wider world, conveys a sense of place and experience so that, like Xavier de Maistre, you might see the whole world without ever leaving your room. Along the Way is the moving story of two famous lives, built around their own pilgrimage along the famous Camino in northern Spain. Wilderness is, of course, the opening image of Lent, and should your Lent turn out to be a personal desert, Paula Gooder’s A Way through the Wilderness is a book about finding spiritual sustenance in times of crisis.
Another choice might be to read what is often described as the greatest novel in the English language – George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which traces the stories of a whole town full of people, artfully placing the reader inside the story while also lifting him up, now and then, to the elevated seat of the narrator. Virginia Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen, described Middlemarch as “a work intended for full-grown readers” – far more than a novel for entertainment, it’s one of those books that sneaks up on you and reads you while you are reading it.
Whatever you choose, now is the time to order something! Add your own suggestion of a Lent book in the comments if you like.