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Lisa M. Hendey contemplates the value of reading for pleasure.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. (Dr. Seuss)

A few mornings ago, after my normal morning routine of quiet time and reflection, I picked up a book in my voluminous “to be read” stack. I’d received The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom a few weeks before its November launch date. But somehow in the rush of the holiday season, I hadn’t found the time to pick it up and read it. “I’m too busy to read right now,” I’d told myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I read every day. Typically, I’m working my way through one spiritual classic and one self-help non-fiction book a chapter at a time as part of my daily quiet time. As an author and blogger, I’m blessed to have more books mailed to me each week than I could possibly keep up with. I often get first peeks at books that are as yet unpublished. I count dozens of prolific authors as friends. Their craft blesses me and inspires me along my own writing journey.


The Stranger in the Lifeboat


But when I sat on Wednesday morning in my pajamas with a cup of coffee and Albom’s novel, I felt guilty. The book is a quick read with an early hook, a brisk pace, and a format that keeps you engrossed. I avoided my usual bad habit of reading the last chapter first so as not to spoil myself. About halfway through, I decided that since it was raining outside, I’d skip my normal walk and just keep reading to the end.

The payoff was immediate. I’d been so wrapped up in the plotline that I hadn’t noticed the few hours that had passed (I read slowly when I’m savoring a book). Instead, I mentally cast the big screen adaptation and read a few reviews of the bestseller.

Tempted to chide myself for spending that time reading instead of sending out the Christmas cards which now will probably be next year’s greetings, I began to ponder a question:

Is reading self-indulgence or sustenance?


To be honest, for me it’s both. I’ve pondered the number of hours I spend each week watching movies or programs. But often when I’m watching something, I’m multitasking by doing laundry or chores. If I’m sitting still watching something, I’ve got an embroidery project on my lap, happily stitching while I binge.

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One of my hopes for 2022 is to discover new places and people and ideas that broaden my perspective and fill my heart. #catholicmom

When I read as I did on Wednesday morning with Mitch, my focus is singular. I can become so obsessed with a good work of fiction that I tend to limit myself, only starting a new book when my calendar is relatively clear. The need to read “just one more chapter” can be so compelling that I drift into an alternate reality and my husband ends up eating cereal for dinner.

But honestly, there is really nothing like a good story. The feeling of an actual book in my hands, the turning of the pages, the falling in love—or hate—with a character, the twists and turns and tears spilled across paragraphs–these things fill my soul and transport me in place and time. Especially over the last few years, this kind of escapism has been therapeutic.

So I’m glad I spent Wednesday with Mitch Albom and the characters in that fictional lifeboat. One of my hopes for 2022 is to spend more mornings that way, to discover new places and people and ideas that broaden my perspective and fill my heart.

Is reading self-indulgence or sustenance?

For me, it’s both.

Purchase The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

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Copyright 2022 Lisa M. Hendey
Image: Canva Pro

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