You’ve heard it a thousand times, the phrase “get lost in a book.”
As in, “Oooh, I love to lose myself in a good book.”
What does it mean to “lose yourself” in a book?
It means to be so interested in the book that you don’t notice what’s happening around you. The book commands your complete attention, and everything else just sort of fades into the background.
What’s the best part about this?
For me, it’s that I literally forget myself for a while.
I’m a very self-focused person. I think about myself a lot. How do other people see me? Does this outfit make me look like I’m trying too hard? Does this email newsletter make me sound smart? Yada-yada, on and on forever. This has NOT been good for me, mentally or spiritually.
Self-care and self-love. I’m not fundamentally opposed to these concepts. (I don’t think we should neglect or hate ourselves.) But, for me personally, what I call “self-care” quickly turns to self-indulgence. Like immediately.
Reading a book is a blessed break from the habit of me-me-me thinking.
When I lose myself in a story, everything takes a backseat, including…me.
This HAS been good. Taking the focus off myself and putting it…um, anywhere else!
C. S. Lewis said that we read books because:
“We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. In love we escape from our self into one other. This process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; ‘he that loseth his life shall save it.’”An Experiment in Criticism
What “old paradox” is Lewis talking about? He’s quoting the words of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew 16:25:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
I’m not going to get theological, but I feel like the simple, humble act of reading a book is a small reflection of this great gospel-command. It’s not the fulfillment of the command, no! It’s a shadow of it. It’s one small way that I can lose myself, or, in other words, take the focus off myself and put it elsewhere.
Here’s another paradox: The more I focus on myself, the less content I am with life (it’s just not enough). The less grateful I am for what I have (I need more). The tighter I hold to what’s mine (Share? No way).
Reading connects me to people, places, worlds, and conflicts that are beyond the scope of myself. It’s an expansion and an enlargement, as Lewis said. Instead of thinking only of “my story,” the one I’m living in this moment, the one in which I’m the main character, my eyes open wider, and I see that “my story” is one of many stories, past and present, and those stories—even the ancient ones, foreign ones, fictional ones—resonate deeply with me, and I am not alone, not the first nor the last to experience and feel these things. I remember that I am profoundly connected.
Ironically, it’s only in the self-forgetting that I make those gains.
I have not mastered this. Who has? I remain largely self-obsessed. But…when I’m losing myself in a great story, not quite so much. 😉
Books to lose yourself in
Here’s my megalist of immersive, unputdownable books to get lost in.