This past year I have attempted to become more intentional with my reading. In previous years I have read a lot but I would not say that I read well. My reading lacked a detailed attack plan. As a result, sometimes reading happened and other times it did not. What’s more, I felt as though my reading was more chosen for me rather than me choosing it. I read what I thought I needed to read for my job. Over the last few years I have been slowly making adjustments and feel like I am in the best place that I’ve been since I first became a Christian. I am reading more and enjoying it much more. With summer here, and summer reading listing abounding, here are some personal discoveries that were helpful to me.
PICK OUT BOOKS FOR EACH MONTH.
I created a simple excel spreadsheet that includes a bunch of books that I think I should read or want to read. Towards the end of each month I pick out books from the list and put them under the upcoming month. This process of assigning myself books has been very helpful for me. After ordering the list I put a (tentative) start date and due date in a column and then keep track during the month. It is important to remember that you have to be reasonable here. Since most people don’t read books as fast as Al Mohler it does not make sense to set yourself up for failure and say that you are going to read 100 books in July. Make a reasonable plan and chart the course.
VARY THE BOOK SELECTION A BIT.
This has been new for me. I used to read what I thought I needed to read to keep up with current trends or to do what I needed to do work-wise. Now I have tried to make each month have at least one biography and one fiction book to go along with the theological reading. In time I would like to add some books on history because I know this is not a particularly strong suite of mine. This variation has been surprising for me. Several years ago my wife bought me one of Marilyn Robinson’s books, Gilead. I never read it because I didn’t have time to read a book “like this”. But now with these changes I have read two books by Robinson this year (including Gilead) and have really enjoyed them. If I had not made myself read them then I would not have read them. And, if I’d not read them then I would never have found the pleasure that I found in reading them. The variation has been real good for me.
READ FOR PLEASURE.
I always thought something was wrong with me because I would hear others talk about how they loved to read. I didn’t love to read as much as I loved to get information. After reading a couple of books that pointed out how we tend to miss out on the pleasure of reading because we are hounds for information, I began to wonder if I could change this. I decided to treat the book like Jacob treated a wrestling match with the angel, “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” I’ve grabbed some books that people say are really good and, with trust in their recommendations, would read them through. Over time I’ve found that I really enjoyed the books. Reading became pleasurable. It actually worked. Now, I’m enjoying reading more and as a result, joyfully reading more books. (books on pleasure: Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I also have found Tony Reinke’s book Lit! to be very helpful for cultivating an appetite and plan for reading.)