Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Fun Night at Barnes and Noble

A good friend and I spent our Friday night doing one of my favorite things--perusing the wealth of literature at the local Barnes and Noble. Usually this promises to be a very enlightening experience for me because of my love of reading. But last night's outing brought a different set of feelings and observations. Here are three things I observed:

1. The amount of books that are strictly marketing/ideological tools. Two books in particular stuck out to me, one about the alleged “presidential race” between Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton sadly sandwiched between books on true survivors of the Holocaust and the people who rescued them. Another was a book about Jack Bauer (fictional federal agent on the television show 24) and the spirituality of that show. The most disheartening thing is not that these books are produced, but that people actually buy them. These books won't be here in ten years, especially when one of them is written about a presidential race that is purely speculative, if not imaginary. Where are the books that speak to the soul, that speak to true events and transcend time? The books of the Harlem Renaissance are still here and widely read because they offer us a window into the African-American culture of that time. Most importantly, authors like C.S. Lewis still change lives because he didn’t get bogged down with matters that were irrelevant to the Gospel and the word of God. Books that speak primarily to culture and are mere marketing ploys do not highlight the beauty of the writing process or the great pains it often takes to produce a work of great literature.

2. The amount of books that are auto-biographical. The rise of the memoir has given a tremendous insight into how our culture thinks. We like to talk about ourselves, and it shows. Everyone has a book out about themselves--from Jenny McCarthy to Bill Clinton, these books show the narcissism that has swept over our generation. If you have done anything of relative significance, or gotten noticed in any way you get a book deal, and with the rise of reality television, the book publishers are on to something. We would rather read about someone else, or see someone else's life than read or see anything of substance. But these books are also popular because not only do they fill us in on gossip, but they feed our relativistic ideologies. If Jenny McCarthy’s life is okay and people like to read about her, then its okay if I sleep with my boyfriend. Popularizing sin under the guise of literature and life experience makes sin seem smaller. And no one is really going to argue against someone else’s life experience.

3. The amount of self-help books. There is an answer for every problem, every ailment, every confusion. If we filled the bookstores with the Bible we would see the entire Dr. Phil movement go out of existence. But people don't want the Bible. They are groping for truth and for answers but suppress the very truth that will fill the void in their soul.

So, as I thought today about my experience last night, I realized that everyone is looking for an answer. The store was filled with people who wanted knowledge, but their hearts are darkened. A trip to Barnes and Noble should cause me to pray for my community. Why? Because they are surrounded by words that will never save them. The god of this age has blinded them and in their blindness they grope for hope. Only Christ can save them. The only book that we should be flocking to in our time of despair is the Bible, the very Word of God. It shatters the narcissism in our hearts, it does not need any marketing plan (despite what the publishing houses say), it fills the void in our souls, and it offers the hope of eternal life that cannot be found in 7 Steps to a Happier Life, Job, Marriage, or whatever else is out there. That is something worth reading.

6 comments:

stellerblue32 said...

i was going to say something deep and theological, but ive got nothing. im sorry. this was a good post though :) i had never realized how much books have changed over the years til now. it saddens me profusely (not quite sure what that means....) ;)

cdt said...

Oh Katie, you don't have to say anything deep and theological. Thank you for being a faithful reader...you and my mom. You should really be friends. :)

I don't necessarily think books have changed, I think there have always been books that are not reflective of the beauty of writing, or the Gospel most importantly. I just think that as our culture becomes increasingly post-modern we will see a rise of literature that has no real meaning, but merely "tickles" people's ears and tells them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Thank you for your comments. You are a joy to be around!

stellerblue32 said...

oh i want to be friends with your mom :) have her come to minnesota for a visit!!

yeah, youre right. but the books that just tell people what they want to hear never last, i think because people keep trying to find things that will make them feel happy or better about themselves, but in the end they realize that its not working. i dont know...i think its that way about a lot of things. i dont know if im making sense..oh well :)

love ya court!

Steven said...

The Self Improvement section is one of my favorites at Barnes & Noble. I'd never really thought about it in terms of replacing the Bible, but I see your point. Many of those books act as substitutes for Christ. But I don't exactly see how the ones on hand-writing analysis, reading body language, and improving communication skills are also substitutes. Am I missing something obvious in that respect?

cdt said...

Steve,

Thank you for your comment. What I was trying to get at was the books that are giving answers to problems (i.e. Dr. Phil, Spirituality, Psychology, etc...) that are only giving people self-made answers as opposed to biblical answers. My main point of the commentary was not to make sweeping generalizations of the non-Christian books at Barnes and Noble, but to actually shed light on how much people are groping for hope and seek it in places that won't help them?

Does that make sense? I apologize for slamming other books that are truly helpful. That was not my intent. I have learned many things from writing style books (textbooks).

Thanks!

cdt said...

Steve,

Thank you for your comment. What I was trying to get at was the books that are giving answers to problems (i.e. Dr. Phil, Spirituality, Psychology, etc...) that are only giving people self-made answers as opposed to biblical answers. My main point of the commentary was not to make sweeping generalizations of the non-Christian books at Barnes and Noble, but to actually shed light on how much people are groping for hope and seek it in places that won't help them?

Does that make sense? I apologize for slamming other books that are truly helpful. That was not my intent. I have learned many things from writing style books (textbooks).

Thanks!