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The Houghton Reads Journey

April 30, 2018

“The person you become in the next five years will be largely determined by the people you meet and the books you read,” pronounced Akash Desai ’01 to the Houghton students at a recent Guest Executive Dinner. This advice came as one of several points Mr. Desai made under the general theme of “Things I Would Tell My 18-year Old Self.” The students are used to getting advice about business and entrepreneurship from experienced alumni. The point about reading books seemed to surprise them.

That very same point warmed my heart. I knew I had met a kindred spirit: someone who freely chooses to read books even when they are no longer required on a syllabus; someone who experiences the joy of lifelong learning; someone who wants to be taken into the ever-enlarging world into which reading invites us; someone who sees that reading books is for life in the ‘real world’ and not just for passing exams.

Shortly after this lecture, I met with one of the college volunteer boards. As part of the sharing within the board, the chair invited each member to share a favorite book with others in the group, something that had been helpful to each person on their particular journey. The range of books was interesting – one on living purposefully and attentively, one on walking through significant life change – and reflected the range of life experiences in the group.  Once again I was moved by the evident appreciation for the gift of books that meet us where we are and take us to places we long to be – sometimes places we expected to find ourselves, but sometimes places that surprise us.

Somewhere between college and middle age, books move from being ‘required’ to ‘elective.’ They are not something to be completed so that one can do something ‘fun.’ Books are part of the fun.

Over the next few months, we would like to invite you to be part of a new online venture called Houghton Reads. Each month, this newsletter will provide a link to a book review by someone in the Houghton community – sometimes a faculty or staff member, sometimes an alumnus, etc. You are invited to comment on the book review or the book, as well as recommend books that you have found enriching and enlarging. The selections can be fictional or non-fictional, theoretical or practical, or on anything that invites us to see a larger world or to walk creativity and effectively in the various worlds in which we find ourselves.

This first month’s selection honors one of our own alumni authors Richard Mouw, class of 1961. The book, Adventures in Evangelical Civility: A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground, is a memoir reflecting Mouw’s own journey of seeking to live in a way that fully honors his identity as a Christian believer, while at the same time inviting mutually enriching engagement with the larger human community who individually and collectively bear God’s image. Adventures in Evangelical Civility tells Mouw’s own story but in such a way that the reader is challenged to think about one’s own journey toward the Christian liberal arts ideal of being both fully Christian and fully human. It is the vision of church father Irenaeus when he spoke of “the glory of God is man fully alive.” I dare to think it is also the invitation of our Lord in John 10:10 when he said “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

If you want to read ahead for next month’s Houghton Reads, see “The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place” by Andy Crouch (2017).

We look forward to your participation in the Houghton Reads journey.

Grace and peace to you today,

Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976