(I wrote this piece for the October 2022 newsletter of the California Association of American Mothers, Inc.: https://www.americanmothers.org/)
One of the countless things that I owe to my excellent mother is my love of reading good fiction. She read bedtime stories to me every night through sixth grade, and I have been reading them to myself ever since. Reading out loud as a family is a wonderfully enjoyable and valuable thing to do; reading to ourselves can also be a great source of joy.
Our lives as mothers can be difficult and exhausting. A good book to look forward to at the end of the day can provide us with a healthy “escape” from reality—the sort of escape that helps us return refreshed to life’s daily challenges. Good fiction can also help to develop our compassion: as we get used to putting ourselves in the place of the main characters, we find it easier to see things from other people’s point of view. Good stories likewise help to sharpen our moral discernment and are often more effective at showing us good versus evil than a treatise on ethics.
Speaking of ethics and serving as a bridge with my last several newsletter pieces, a terrific author is Jane Austen. The everyday dramas in her six finished novels turn on the importance of cultivating the virtues and avoiding the vices all while delighting and entertaining her readers. I just finished reading Jane Austen’s Genius Guide To Life by Haley Stewart, and I highly recommend it as an orientation to the enduring value of Austen’s novels. Another great place to look for reading recommendations is Honey for a Woman’s Heart by Gladys Hunt.