The request by a Facebook friend for recommendations of classic fiction to read this summer catapulted me back to high school, and Peter Prole, the English teacher (he was from England, so the title had a double entendre) who dragged us into James Joyce. Classic yes, but a conscious choice for relaxing by the pool? Hardly. Mark Twain or Wallace Stegman might be better picks. Fiction has been important for me, and I still need reams of it through the year to maintain balance. But the request also made me think of enduring non-fiction I’ve read, and to which I return. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret is one of these, as is Pascal’s Pensees and most everything of Annie Dillard’s. Others rush for consideration when someone asks for a recommendation: how does one choose among so many friends? But what gifts, and how books like this so enrich life.
Already this profane world was beginning to fade out: soon it wold vanish altogether. This landscape was still laved in golden sunlight, but already something was evaporating out of it. I know nothing, nothing in the world, equal to the wonder of nightfall in the air.
Those who have been enthralled by the witchery of flying will know what I mean–and I do not speak of those who, among other sports, enjoy taking a turn in a plane. I speak of those who fly professionally and have sacrificed much to their craft. Mermoz said once, ‘It’s worth it, it’s worth the final smash-up.’
From Wind, Sand and Stars, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Known for writing The Little Prince, Saint-Exupery was a pilot who delivered mail between Chile and Paraguay. He also flew mail runs from France to Africa. His writing, in books like this or Night Flight, offers sublime descriptions of the elements around him interspersed with penetrating insights about human nature.