‘It’s one of Heather’s picks,’ one of our patrons at the library said to me as she asked about a book she wanted to read. People have so many different ways of choosing a book, some like recommendations, some work through the Man Booker Prize list or such like, some will only read one author, or one genre, and some just like the look of a cover.
I know where Heather’s picks are found. I walk past the display in Indigo bookstore when I’m in the mall. I don’t take any notice of them, because I don’t know who she is. I don’t recognize her face from anywhere. Why would I want to read a book recommended by someone I know nothing about?
I thought I better find out and googled ‘Who is the Heather of Heather’s picks?’ It turns out Heather Reisman is the CEO of Indigo and for an author to get her seal of approval can mean really good sales. It makes more sense to me now why there is a display in her bookstore of books she recommends. It may in fact make more sense than having day time television presenters’ recommendations in a store.
Even after very nearly eight years of living in Canada, I’m still aware how pop-culturally illiterate I am. My eyes brighten at the mention of a trivia night, then I realize I’m not much use on a lot of Canadian trivia. I didn’t know who Heather is. I’m okay on some of the stuff we had to study for the citizenship test which helps a little. Beyond the few names in politics I’m familiar with, and a very few sports stars, there are often times when my Canadian friends talk about a famous person or an old children’s TV show and I have to ask who they are or what that was. Sometimes it’s the other way around, I mention something and end up having to explain what or who I’m going on about.
It’s really discombobulating to be in this position. Sometimes it’s a comfort to be in the company of others whose pasts include Blue Peter, Grange Hill, Top of the Pops, Blankety-Blank and Saturday Night Take Away (just a random selection). It’s the reason I can’t quite give up listening to BBC radio. It’s a cultural creature comfort.
In other ways, being taken out of my cultural comfort zone is good. Some things I think are normal because I’m used to them, and they’re actually a quirky British culture thing. British people, myself among them, can be really guilty of assuming we’re right, and others should learn from us. In fact we can all learn from each other. The church is a great place for people of all different cultures to come together and be united in Christ. I believe Jesus brings out the best in every culture if we truly follow him. He is the source of true reconciliation and unity.
The Heather’s pick thing made me think how it can be great to have someone we respect recommend things to us. It made me think who I go to for recommendations. Heather may not be my person, but there are a number of people who are. I love reading a tried and tested book! The trick is finding the gems among the cacophony of voices coming at us.
Yet there are so many voices vying for our attention on all types of media. Of course, I’m talking about more than just books here. There’s always someone new to listen to, or follow. Sometimes I find myself caught up thinking about the latest theological debate on social media, rather than the life going on in front of me. Some of it is helpful, some of it isn’t. Some of it is just someone else’s stuff.
It can get to the point where we feel ‘tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14). There has to be an anchor to stop us getting swept away in it all, to stop us getting distracted. Interestingly this verse from Ephesians is in a chapter about unity in the Body of Christ. It talks about maintaining unity in the Body of Christ, through apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers equipping everyone in the church to exercise their gifts; to help us grow up to be more like Christ, operating in love (4:16). From this passage it looks like the way to stop being swayed is to live out our relationship with Jesus in the context of church, in relationship with other believers, led by the Spirit. It’s a place where we can be known and get to know. Learning from each other. Equipping one another. Bearing with one another. Loving one another.
I added one: receiving book recommendations from one another… as one elder said to me when I was sub-editing a book once, ‘Forget that, just write three words, Read. The. Bible.’
It’s a good start.