Reading is the single most important activity for any active learner and child of God. That’s a bold statement, but whether it be reading the Bible, books, blogs, or brochures reading is sure to engage, challenge, and inform us. The Bible is God’s way of communicating to us. Cultural stories and books teach us about the people around us. Articles force us to think discerningly. News stories not only keep us updated but force us to critically evaluate what is going on around us from a Christian worldview. Books, both Christian and non-Christian, have the propensity to impact our lives. Therefore, reading should be one of the prominent charges of our lives.
One of my goals is to challenge others to not just read, but read more and read more engagingly. One of the common questions asked is, “How can I read more books in a year?” My answer to that might sound surprising to people who seem to struggle with managing their time enough to read a book or two a year. First, begin with the Scripture. If you aren’t reading the Bible, then reading anything else is useless. This is because the Bible is the sole authority for truth, and thus anything else we read must be read in light of what we read in Scripture. With that in place, one of the critical ways to read more books in a given time period is by reading more books at one time.
Many of us are systematic and thus we read one book, and when we read that book, then we move onto the next book. That process slows reading down. Instead, have several books going at the same time. For myself, I usually have about ten or so going at any given time spread across several categories. Those categories are divided up as follows: theology, biblical studies, Christian living, history, cultural studies, literature, and fiction (I differentiate between literature and fiction somewhat; I see fiction as more general while literature compels me to read more of the classics that I have missed or read but have forgotten).
There is logic behind this. Setting these areas forces me to read more broadly so that I am not always reading the same type of books. However, there is another type of impact that is not made obvious. Each of these types of books requires a different level of engagement. I read fiction for the fun and have no intention of retaining much of it. Therefore I can read quickly without note taking. Often times my Christian living books require more interaction as I seek to look at principles and thoughts that compel growth towards Christlikeness. I make occasional notes of profound thoughts, interesting interactions with passages that I can utilize and will spend much more time simply reflecting upon what I read. Theology on the other hand, is often very heavy and I am reading to learn. Some of the concepts are difficult. So reading is slow and laborious as I interact not just with the text, but with a Bible wide open. Such a reading plan helps me because I tend to use my downtime to read and that downtime can come at any given time: Mid-afternoon when someone is late for an appointment, at the end of a long day when the kids are in bed, or early in the morning as I’m doing my devotional. The acuity of my mind at the time will determine what kind of book I pull out. Most often at night, you will find me reading fiction, literature, or history because I’m worn out and don’t have the energy to strain over a text. In the morning I pull out whatever book I am reading alongside my devotional. This same process can work for you as well.
Would I urge everyone to maintain a constant flow of ten or so books at one time? Probably not. But three or four is not unreasonable. Mix it up though with a broad range of reading levels and engagement. At minimum I would urge you to include the following:
- Light and Easy: A book that is easy to read when you are tired and simply need to wind down some. It could be a fiction book that is simply enjoyable or some sort of history book in which you don’t necessarily need to study the information, but simply want to learn more.
- Growth-oriented and Medium: Include a good book that causes spiritual growth in your life. These don’t have to be difficult books. Pick something written clearly that causes reflection on your spiritual life.
- Challenging and Heavy: Finally, choose something that requires more effort. We all need to be challenged some. It may be theologically deep or an apologetics book.
With these three levels, you have a variety of books that will suit you at any given time. When you finish the book in one category, then insert a new book. This way you have a constant flow of books and reading materials. So load up on some books and get started. I suspect that you will be surprised at the difference this concept makes in your reading life.
Don’t know where to start or looking for recommendations? Feel free to use the ‘Contact Me’ button at the top to e-mail me for some recommendations.
Photo ‘Stack of Books’ courtesy of user Karthik R and Flickr.