Reading can be good for the mind, good for the heart, and good for the soul. A well-written book that is well-read can be used by God to grow an individual. Reading then, is one of the most worthy investments of our valuable time.
However, good reading takes good practice. Each of us had to be taught how to read and then needed to put forth the effort to practice in order. Those who read best are those who had the most, not because quantity defines quality, but because immersion is the best method of learning. In fact, one could read only a few books a year and still be investing a significant amount of time in reading, therefore quantity is not the only measuring rod. Because reading takes intentional practice, there is a necessity to be intentional in receiving lessons about how to read. Today, consider the following lesson in order to improve your reading: read great books.
I hear the laughs from others as they read those words, likely accompanied with an exasperated uttering of the words, “Obviously.” Yet, if it were so obvious, why are so many people disappointed in the books they are reading? I suspect that most people’s claim that reading is boring is because they have not endeavored to search out those great books.
Now, there is an important distinction that must be clearly defined. I did not say read good books but am encouraging people to read great books. Hundreds of thousands of books are being published every year, while even the most productive readers will likely read no more than 8,000 books in his or her lifetime (1). Generally speaking, readers do not have the time to waste on good books (let alone mediocre ones) and therefore must focus on the best.
The obvious question that must be asked then, “What is a great book?” While the question is obvious, the answer is not. The first obvious point that must be made is that all reading must begin with the pinnacle of all books, the Bible. There is no book that has the capabilities of Scripture to inform and transform lives. Therefore, apart from reading it, all other reading is useless.
However, one must consider what great books are worthy of attention outside of the Bible. Part of the answer is subjective based upon preferences and priorities. Another portion of the answer is dependent upon the genre. However, there are four basic factors to be considered, including the following:
The Quality of the Writing: Writing that lacks care and thought is distracting and takes away from the intention of the book.
The Quality of the Presentation: Related to the first point is the quality of the presentation. By this, I do not refer to the cover or font type (although sometimes those can add value to books) but to how the material is being presented. One’s care with words, for example, can create a book worthy of attention over and over again.
The Quality of the Truth: Of high importance is the author’s presentation of the truth. Granted at times reading books that offer the truth in a biased manner or deny the truth at all can be beneficial, as long as a person knows what the truth is. However, the best books are those that present the truth without bias or misinformation.
The Quality of the Motivation: Finally, the ability to motivate readers to take action upon what he/she reads must be included in the definition of a great book. This point must be weighted though with the understanding that it is God who motivates.
There are additional points that others may want to consider, but these four points form a foundation before adding one’s own preferences and thoughts.
Certainly, there are times when a person will be required to read not-so-great books. However, there is no person whose complete reading list is dictated for them. Therefore, each of us has the freedom to choose a good number of books in our own library. Therefore, to be motivated to read more, read great books.
(1) This number is an above average scenario based on a person who may read 100 books a year and live long enough to have a reading life of 80 years. Few people can/will read 100 books a year, and few people have 80 years of life in which they are capable of reading at a high functioning level. So this number is simply meant to show how even in a good scenario, it is not feasible to read even a fraction of a percentage point of the books available to us.