Why do you read? Sometimes I read to be entertained. Sometimes I read because I should. Sometimes I read because I want to think. Or, rather, I want to be thought-full. To me, great books are ones that both entertain and teach. The best kind of teaching comes from books. This is not the kind of teaching that tells you, “two plus two is four.” What great books offer is an opportunity for your mind to envelop a thought, idea, or perspective and chew on it for awhile. Your brain picks up tidbits of story and puts them together to form knowledge. A good book gives this to you, and you hardly even notice because you’re distracted by the story.
My Name is Asher Lev is one such great book.
My biggest complaint about many of the books I had to read in high school is that they were AWFUL. This isn’t to say that the writing was bad, but that they were filled with stories of horrible things. Asher Lev is my big “I told you so!” to high school literature.* The story isn’t fanciful and full of hearts and flowers- bad things do happen. The story isn’t comprised of events, but of a character’s thoughts, feelings and observations. Events, both good and bad, shape the main character, Asher Lev, as the book follows him from a young age through to adulthood. The author, Chaim Potok, doesn’t tell you what to think, but rather gives you space to ponder. And he leaves you wondering, too. While the book concludes, it is the first of a series of books about the gifted Asher Lev of Brooklyn. A practicing Jew who painted a crucifixion.
So, I hope you read it. I hope you ponder. Life. Art. Relationships. Family. Value. Community. Whatever your mind latches onto within the words that Chaim Potok so thoughtfully placed together.
*I guess there were a few books I liked in high school. My teachers were excellent. I just prefer not to read about some things. I won’t go into details because I’m sure you had to read them, too 😀