Monday, August 4, 2014

Two Book Reviews

Book One – Book of Mormon

Guess what, guys? I finished a couple of books recently. On Sunday, July 27, I finished my second (ever) cover-to-cover read of one of my favorite books: The Book of Mormon. It took me over two years to do it. Yikes. I probably shouldn’t advertise that fact, but it’s real, and I try to be too.

I started it back in May 2012. The challenge came from the Murray YSA stake to have The Book of Mormon read by September in time for stake conference. I accepted this challenge because of its uniqueness. 

They gave us a card with a square for each chapter. The directions say, “Get a clean paperback copy and as you read it, highlight in different colors:
- Each reference to Jesus Christ (any of his names or pronouns referring to him)
- His words (spoken by Him or by prophets when they say, ‘thus saith the Lord’)
- His attributes
- The doctrines and principles contained in the Book of Mormon
At the bottom of each page, count the total number of items references and mark it.”

What a task, huh? Reading The Book of Mormon with a special focus on Christ? I can get down with that. So obviously in the past two years I went many months without reading at all. I was very inconsistent, but I did do the highlighting, and I enjoyed it a lot. I used the color blue for his name and pronouns, orange for his words, green for his attributes, and red for doctrines and principles. And I finished the book two years and three months later.

I wanted to take a minute to bear testimony of this book. I love its teachings. I love how Christ-centered it is. I love reading the chapters of his visit to the American continent. I love reading how he interacted with people. I love the way I feel when I start my day off with this book (I’ve read a chapter a day this whole summer!). If you haven’t read it, and you want to, please do it! Make the time, even if it’s just five minutes a day. It’s so worth it. It is strengthening. It bolsters faith. It builds testimony. It is awesome.

Book Two – Jane Eyre

Now, the other book I’ve been reading this summer—or for about six weeks or so—is Jane Eyre by none other than Charlotte Bronte. I had a hard time putting this book down after the first few chapters or so. I stayed up late more than once reading.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to read books with excellent character development. If the character is evolving, sharing his or her thoughts, or responding to experiences, I am likely to enjoy the book. I don’t need a lot of action. I don’t need sci-fi, or even suspense. I do like to know what will happen with a character. I think anyone who has read Jane Eyre knows what a strong female character she is, and what a woman she is to look up to.

I wanted to write a few things that I appreciated about Jane’s character. I love how well-balanced she is, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. She faces challenges like anyone else, but she deals with them in admirable ways. I love that Jane is so self-aware. She knows what her strengths are, and she isn’t sad about her weaknesses. She is willing to set aside her pride in order to gain or regain emotional or spiritual peace; she forgives people for this reason. How many of us need to do that? She loves deeply. She has such integrity, and a strong moral compass. She does what is right, even if it goes against what her heart wants. I love how composed she is in circumstances where people treat her unkindly. She doesn’t react or retaliate, or often even make any visible acknowledgment of what she heard. She doesn’t speak unkindly of those who do of her. Jane accepts people in their entirety. She is analytical of other people, notices their character flaws as she would her own, sees their strengths just as clearly, and chooses to love them completely. Although she sometimes expects that good things won’t last for her because of the patterns in her life, she appreciates them while she has them. And she doesn’t dwell on the negative or choose to be miserable because of those things. Jane is intelligent, always seeking knowledge, and she knows when she is on the same level as those deemed to be socially superior to her. She expresses her opinions and is passionate, but shows restraint when necessary. Jane is sometimes frank, but never unkind. I’m so impressed with what a beautiful person Charlotte Bronte wrote, and I can only hope to follow Jane’s example.

I rediscovered another thing about myself as I finished this book: I love a good happy ending as much as the next person. There is something about a realistic, gritty, unfinished ending that I appreciate in books and movies. I love reality, and I don’t frequently like things to turn out “happily ever after.” But I was reminded with this brilliant piece of work that I actually can appreciate those endings, especially if the characters deserve it! And heaven knows, Jane deserves it. 

Something that I both love and hate about literature is how much I connect to it. The experiences that characters go through often feel very familiar to me, particularly their suffering. I am a very empathetic person, and a deeply feeling person. I connect to characters as if they were real people, and my heart breaks for them as if they were my close friends or family. And so it was with Jane. I shed tears when Jane had to make a very important, heart-breaking, difficult decision. How many of those types of decisions do we face in our own lives? I know I’ve made very similar sacrifices to the one she made, having been faced with similar decisions. After one night's reading, I wept the next day as I talked of Jane’s struggles because they were so like my own. I think that’s why I enjoy reading; it is cathartic and helps me to make sense of my own feelings.

If you are looking for a good book with some mystery, some romance, and some excellent character development, devour all 527 pages of the Barnes and Noble classics edition of Jane Eyre. It's $5, and so worth it. I am only sad that I went 27 years without having read it. 

1 comment:

{larissa} said...

Your BOM challenge has inspired me. I want and NEED to do this. Would you mind giving more detail about how the card and highlighting thing worked?
Would appreciate an email if you get a chance