I love reading even though I don’t read nearly enough. This is partly due to my lack of priorities and partly due to my lack of speed reading skills. My reading habits are constantly evolving. For the better, I hope. I used to read two or three books at a time, all in different genres, but I soon learned that, because of my single-track minded male tendencies, I gleaned only part of a book’s message. Furthermore, I almost always lost interest in one of the books, dropped it completely, and, more often than not, never revisited it. Sad but true. Perhaps someday I’ll finish all the books I started. Perhaps. Anyways the latest reading pattern I adopted goes something like this: classic, modern novel, classic, modern novel, etc. I’m trying to muster up the discipline to work more philosophical/theological and nonfiction/biographical books into the cycle, but so far fiction dominates.
While my list of favorite works consists mostly of the great literary classics (a subject for a future post), I do enjoy some of the modern novelists such as James Grippando, Tom Clancy, Jeffery Archer, Robert Ludlum and yes the master of them all, John Grisham.* In terms of worthwhile themes and excellent writing skills John Grisham trumps all the modern novelists that I have read.
I would like to establish some credibility before continuing my review of Grisham for whatever its worth. To date I have read ten of his books: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Broker, The King of Torts, and The Last Juror. I recently purchased The Summons and The Rainmaker, so those are on the “to read” list. To call myself a fan would be a bit too strong, but I am an admitted “enjoyer” of his writings for the three following reasons, the purity of which I’ll leave for you to decide.
1. Portrayal of humans and human nature: Grisham has a good understanding of the unregenerate heart of man and accurately captures the emptiness of a godless, self-centered lifestyle. Most of his books deal with the political and legal system, and generally he portrays the majority of the system as filled with pragmatic and self-serving people. Normally the protagonist ends up disillusioned and cynical about life and searching for something better. Although Grisham hardly ever gives the answer to the problem, he describes it in a painfully depressing yet real way.
2. Cultural education: I consider Grisham’s books worthwhile reading if only for cultural education one receives by them. A lot of his books take place in the Deep South, and, even though this area is relatively unfamiliar territory to me, I have gleaned lots of appreciation for the culture, and other cultures just by reading the books. For example, I just finished The Pelican Brief which was set mostly in the heart of New Orleans. I never really had an interest in New Orleans, but after reading about the cafes, the seafood restaurants, the marshlands of the delta, the French Quarter, Tulane, the Cajuns, and just the general atmosphere of the place, I would love to visit see the place for myself.
3. Dark humor: This may not be the purest of reasons, but I enjoy (sometimes too much) Grisham’s cynicism and dark humor. His description of people and places are so real that it’s laughable at times. Why this is I am not sure, but I once heard somewhere that comedy is basically just reality. Perhaps this explains my finding humor in his writings. Many times the situations would be much more humorous if they were less serious. And real.
Despite these reasons, however, I hardly ever read two Grisham books consecutively. Mostly because I soon tire of the depressing subject matter. I normally read one for a break after consuming a particularly heavy or lengthy classic. But that’s a subject for another time.
*Disclaimer: By no means do I endorse all these authors and all their works as worthy of regular consumption. I wholeheartedly believe in choosing and reading all literature with great discernment.
Personal News Bulletin: The weekend in KY was splendid. Great times. — On Thursday I biked to work and back. Pedaled a total of 36 miles. Great fun but tiring. — Last evening I hung out with my co-worker Henry Shetler Jr. and his youth group since our youth didn’t have anything planned. Great food and v-ball. — Tomorrow night Dad preaches at a local church that I don’t know much about. Should be great broadening my horizons.
Until next week.