Sand, Frisbees — and Books

Getting ready for your summer vacation? If so, you may soon be listening to this broadcast on a boom box at the beach, or while driving to the mountains with the kids yelling, "Are we there yet?" for the 27th time. Vacations are meant to refresh -- to give us a break from the daily grind. But we need to renew our minds as well as our bodies, and one of the best ways I know is by reading good books -- books that will give you some perspective. So, let me recommend some of my favorites, which you may want to tuck into your beach bag or backpack. First, my all-time favorite novel is Dostoyevsky's classic, The Brothers Karamazov. It's a gripping murder mystery, but it's much more than that. The Russian genius dissects some of the great moral quandaries debated by philosophers over the ages. Among them is his unforgettable dictum: "If there is no God, then everything is permitted." It's a thick book, with some serious ideas, but you'll feel its majesty -- and you won't soon forget its lessons. If you like science fiction, you'll enjoy C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. That Hideous Strength, the final volume, is my favorite. As with Lewis's other works, the story line is built on great Christian themes, and it's thoroughly entertaining. Next, Walker Percy's thriller, The Thanatos Syndrome, is a novel that deals with real life-and-death issues, from abortion to euthanasia. It's a moving story, describing the forces of social manipulation and immorality at work in American society. It's one of the most powerful anti-abortion messages to be found in a secular novel, and it's a page-turner. If you're looking for something lighter, however, how about a few of the Father Brown mysteries written by the great Christian social critic G. K. Chesterton? Follow his clean, clear logic as Father Brown solves his cases, proving that if you immerse yourself in God's truth, you'll become a more rational thinker. If you'd like a more modern novel, try The Stamp of Glory by Tim Stafford, or anything by John Grisham, who manages, particularly in his later books, to give a clear Christian witness in his deft, award-winning style. Now, some of these may seem a little more serious than the usual beach fare, but that doesn't mean they're boring. Great literature deals with themes of ambition, passion, and good and evil. And the difference between great books and merely good books is how they handle these timeless themes. The Brothers Karamazov, for example, speaks of murder and adultery. But instead of using them for titillation, as modern writers do, Dostoyevsky uses them to explore the human soul -- showing human nature as it is. Unlike nonfiction works, fiction trains the moral imagination. The late Russell Kirk said, the battle for hearts and minds is fought in the "land of the human imagination." I think he's right. So take my advice: When you go on vacation, turn off the TV, ignore the newspapers, and leave the Palm Pilot at home. But make sure you have a couple of these great books in your beach bag when you head for the surf. For the truly great books not only nourish your mind, they help to renew your soul.


Chuck Colson



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