If you’ve stumbled across this blog than chances are you have at least a passing interest in reading so I’d like to put in my two cents on how you should spend the limited time you have this year. I successfully finished reading 25 books in 2016, more than half of which were work-related. Several of these I actually read with my ears instead of my eyes. I know what it means to have a limited amount of time to read and the importance of being choosy.
We may have differing interests when it comes to reading, so rather than go into specific topics, let me instead divide up all literature into a few broad categories.
- The Classics: Whatever subject you are interested in, there is someone who wrote the first book of its kind. There will also be other books of the category that were game changers, or perhaps discussion changers along the way. These books, referred to as evergreen by publishers, are, or will be considered classics, and it is important to be conversant in this literature… so whatever your topic (sports, history, science fiction, poetry, romance, etc.) be sure to make room in your schedule for reading some of the classics.
- Contemporaries: Once you start to get some of the classics under your belt, you will begin to make the discovery that today’s bestsellers are essentially just the next statements in a multigenerational conversation that started with the classics. Some people argue that there is less value in reading these books and sometimes cite Ecclesiastes which says: That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. The problem I have with this is that conversations do change over time as one piece of timeless truth interacts with other pieces of timeless truth in new contexts revealing new inspiration. (The Sadducees may have used this same reasoning for only reading and teaching the first five books of the Bible, neglecting the prophets, and disbelieving in the resurrection.) Indeed, if we want to be super-critical, we could say that everything that happened after the third chapter of Genesis is simply a continuation of the original conversation!
- As a third category, which may contain books from both the above categories, it is important to be sure to read from one or two books or kinds of books that you may not agree with. One of the best classes I took was on John Calvin, where we read through his own writing. It was not a required class – on the contrary, Calvin’s theology was not looked upon well in my particular professional circles… but I had decided, if he really was that wrong, I wanted to know why and why he wrote what he did. It was eye opening to gain insight into the motivations of someone who was a part of the overall theological discussion, just listening to understand rather than to get to or prove my position as being right. It challenged me and helped me understand more what, and why I believe the way I do. That said, it is important to be careful in reading these kinds of books so that you are not led astray easily. Take everything with a grain of salt and recognize that there is a larger conversation taking place of which each author is only playing a small part.
- Finally, I encourage you to read the Bible. So much of literature finds its base of conversation in the stories and writings found there. There are many “Read the Bible in a year plans”, bible apps for your phone, and many different translations and paraphrases to choose from (with or without study notes). I’ve got my own favorites, but I encourage you to pick one that you can get into yoruself. Whether you read a book a day or a verse a week, I think the important thing is that you get into that conversation because, through the Bible, you will begin and continue to have a conversation, not with distant and dead authors, but with the Living God. This reading will open your eyes and ears to new and old ideas that keep popping up in all the other conversations around you.
So, read a book, take your time, choose wisely, and be sure to include the Bible as part of your mental conversation with the saints and sages of the world.
What are you reading this year?