To be sure, most every reader has a selection of “beach reads” ready for vacation. I have been little different down through the years.
In part, because the whole purpose of a vacation is to get away, relax, and clear the mind, I have always included adventure and thriller fiction novels on my list. These allow my mind the opportunity to escape and focus on things other than the everyday matters with which I must deal on a regular basis.
I am often asked who my favorite authors are. In this particular genre, at least, they include the likes of authors such as Steve Berry, Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler, Ian Fleming, Raymond Khoury, and James Patterson, to name but a few.
Through the adventures of their various protagonists, I have travelled the world vicariously. Along the way, I have fought off man-eating beasts, salvaged long lost treasures, defeated sinister villains, won the hearts of fair damsels, and generally saved the world!
As of late, however, I have become somewhat convicted about my summer reading lists. The simple truth is that there are so many classics of yesteryear that I have not yet read that I can hardly justify reading many more modern tales, no matter how inviting, until I have checked off some of their more worthy predecessors.
Accordingly, I have now spent the better part of June and July of this year plowing through such adventure classics as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (first published in 1719), James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans (first published in 1826), and Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (first published in 1844).
And what I have discovered in the process is just how rewarding this venture has been. For I have found the same, if not a deeper, level of reader satisfaction in these older works as in any of the newer ones.
And I have found something more as well. Early western novelists, such as Defoe, Cooper, and Dumas, did not have modern technology and machinery with which to wow their readers. There were no airplanes, no trains, no automobiles, no machine guns, no computers, etc...
They had, therefore, to develop intricate plots, exotic settings, and, above all, rich characters who were deep in quality, complexity, and value.
What is more, they used these articulate creations to communicate and underscore fundamental truths about the world and the nature of we who inhabit it. In short, their purpose was not merely to entertain; but also to educate, and above all, to inculcate.
For their finely crafted tales serve to underscore the fundamental values that have made men and women worthy of admiration and emulation ever since our species first began to relate tales of heroism to one another.
In this regard, Defoe's book is actually the story of a man who comes to know and rely upon the God of the Bible as his protector and provider. Cooper's work is a gentle reminder of the temptation to confuse man's will with the will of this very same God. And Dumas' work is a cautionary tale about the seductive, though ultimately destructive, power of revenge when undertaken by a mere man, given that revenge is the purview of this God alone.
Albert Camus once said that a novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images. If this is true, then the classics of western civilization’s fiction are images worthy of our inquiry and investigation. And for this reason, therefore, as you prepare to go off on vacation, I ask not, “What’s in your wallet?”, but rather “What’s in your book bag?”
NOTE: And excellent blog post on the value of reading fiction for believers can be found here: https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-fiction.html.