David Mathis – Do You Wish You Could Read Faster? Four Reasons to Slow Down

Cut out all the time between plays, and you can watch all the action of a nine-inning baseball game in about 18 minutes. Do the same with the average football game, and your total viewing time is only 11 minutes.

Sounds efficient, but is it all just the same? Is “speed watching” anywhere close to experiencing the ups and downs of the contest over three hours? Would a real baseball enthusiast be satisfied to “speed watch” Game 7 of last year’s World Series, or an avid football fan Clemson’s last-second win over Alabama, or the Patriots’ historic come-from-behind victory in the last Super Bowl?

Collapse whole games into just wall-to-wall action, and you may quickly see what happened, and download the basic data, but you won’t experience the emotional significance of each moment. You will end up missing the vital tension and resolution of those critical plays where everything’s on the line. You’ll forfeit the fullest enjoyment of the game, and miss the heart of what has made the sport so popular and powerful.

To continue reading David Mathis’ article, click here.

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Michael Boling – Time to Get Back to Reading

Books. Ever since I was a child, I have loved reading. With that said, there have been times when I have frankly been burnt out by reading. Perhaps it is due to changing reading interests, a busy schedule, or the pressure to keep up with the steady flow of review copies from publishers. I admit for what is likely a combination of those reasons, I took an extended break over the past few months from reading and doing book reviews. In fact, I cleaned out a good portion of my personal library. Much of what went bye-bye were titles I read once and knew I would not return to either as a resource or for a second go around. Some books while good and interesting are honestly only good for a once through read. Plus we needed the space in the basement for other things.

Lately, I have been feeling the reading bug biting once again. It is always a challenge when you have a backlog of books to read as to what to choose first. There is one non-theological title I have been slowly but surely reading on the subject of interracial baseball prior to the depression. One of my favorite baseball players, Bob Feller, is one of the subjects of this book. It has been quite the fascinating read thus far. This particular books seems like a good choice as any with which to pick up the pace with and complete here in the next week. If anything, that will afford some time to choose the next title. Maybe I will make it easy on myself and grab the next book in the stack o’ stuff. We shall see what happens. Once I decide on the next set of books, I will be sure to share what they are and why I selected those titles.

So back to reading I go and with it, likely a steady (or at least steadier) stream of book reviews and here is to hoping the reading bug turns into an infection, one I do not recover from for a bit.

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Tim Challies – Reading Out of Love for Others

Reading is a solitary pursuit. You grab your book, you kick back on the couch, and the hours roll by. But even though reading is a solitary pursuit, it is not necessarily a selfish one. Reading can actually be an important way to love others. Here are five ways to love others in your reading.

Read to Grow

You can love others by reading books meant to address flaws in your character or conduct. The husband who reads Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say “I Do” is reading to better love his wife. The woman who reads Shepherding a Child’s Heart is equipping herself to better love her children by raising them according to the Bible. The church member who reads Alexander Strauch’sLove Or Die is learning to better love his church.

Likewise, the man reading Hannah Anderson’s Humble Roots is better equipping himself to lead his family with humility, the woman reading Robert Jones’s Uprooting Anger is addressing a sinful temperament so she can respond to her children with patience and grace.

In every case the reading is done privately or in isolation, but it is done with a view to helping others. In this way, the reading is an expression of love.

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Sam Bierig – Reading for the Rest of Us

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Most of us have full time jobs that do not allow for hours upon hours of reading each day. I’m no different in that regard. When you add to the common workweek being a husband, fathering, local church teaching and preaching responsibilities, hospitality, personal discipleship, and studying for an MDiv that has syphoned some 8 years off my life (It’s true!), there’s not a lot of bandwidth left for reading.

I suspect most of you are floating in a similar boat down the same kind of river. The difficulty of our time constraints is only compounded by all the stellar book publishers out there who produce such great content. Moody, Cruciform, B&H, Crossway, P&R, Banner of Truth, Matthias Media, Eerdmans, Baker, Zondervan, IVP, ad infinitum, are all firing books off the press like literary Gatling guns. And praise God for that! But as a guy who is not able to read while at work, it can be daunting to keep up.

My aim in this post, then, is to help you read more books and better books by implementing these six simple tips:

Reading Aloud

My wife and I do not have cable, so we have picked up the practice of slowly plodding through books by reading them aloud to one another. We don’t place elaborate or super intense goals on how fast or how many books we read. We just choose a book, begin reading, and then finish whenever we finish. Honestly, setting audacious goals for reading aloud might end up killing what reading aloud is all about in the first place.

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Aimee Byrd – Why We Should Read Books

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I read a disturbing article the other day that wasn’t really all that shocking, but rather a sad reaffirmation of the signs that are all around me. Fewer and fewer people read books these days. Affirming that we are now part of a postliterate society, Peter Denton laments:

Simply put, we are no longer a country of readers – at least not of more than 1,000 words in a row. Anything longer is skipped over like those Internet terms of service agreements, jumping to the agree button at the end.

Preferring to communicate with images, Vines, and 140 characters or less, Denton points out the irony of how much emphasis and money we put into education, and yet, “We now have the intellectual attention span of squirrels – and it shows.”

For anyone who doesn’t read many books anymore or who thinks we have all we need on the Internet, I wanted to share a few reasons why we should still read books. I’ve gathered these reasons after reading a book, How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren (Yes, that’s how much of a nerd I am):

Because there is a big difference between gathering information and reading for discovery and understanding. Articles, tweets, and Facebook posts can give us some new information. But we are usually getting this information at a level that is easy to consume and purposefully not challenging to our own intellect. But learning is about more than absorbing new information. Information is just the basic building block to stretching our understanding and moving on to discovery. In order to grow in this way, we need more than a 1,000 word article even. We need to read from people over our head and engage in the process of learning from them so that we can then connect that knowledge to other ideas for new discoveries. It’s all very exciting, but the shallow waters of the internet will never get you there.

Difficulty does not mean we should stop. The Internet is physiologically changing our brains. I am going to repost an article on Thursday about this challenge. It’s becoming harder for us to focus on reading a whole article, much less an entire book. But we don’t have to give in to that. We need to exercise our brains to keep the firing paths moving for endurance in our attention spans and capacity to think deeply. Just like a constant diet of fast food makes us flabby, so too a constant intake of social media to the neglect of books and thoughtful meditation will make our brains flabby. So if you find it difficult to read more than five pages at a time or you find yourself falling asleep as soon you crack open a book, that is a sign that you should be putting in the work that it takes to be an active reader. It doesn’t mean that books aren’t for you. The rewards are always better when we prep a meal with fresh ingredients than when we are in a hurry and hit the drive-thru.

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Albert Mohler – Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books

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I cannot really remember when I did not love to read books. I do know that I was very eager to learn to read, and that I quickly found myself immersed in the world of books and literature. It may have been a seduction of sorts, and the Christian disciples must always be on guard to guide the eyes to books worthy of a disciple’s attention—and there are so many.

As Solomon warned, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). There is no way to read everything, and not everything deserves to be read. I say that in order to confront the notion that anyone, anywhere, can master all that could be read with profit. I read a great deal, and a large portion of my waking hours are devoted to reading. Devotional reading for spiritual profit is an important part of the day, and that begins with the reading of Scripture. In terms of timing, I am somewhat unorthodox. My best time for spending time in the Word is late at night, when all is calm and quiet and I am mentally alert and awake. That is not the case when I first get up in the mornings, when I struggle to find each word on the page (or anything else, for that matter).

In the course of any given week, I will read several books. I know how much I thrive on this learning and the intellectual stimulation I get from reading. As my wife and family would be first to tell you, I can read almost anytime, anywhere, under almost any kind of conditions. I have a book with me virtually all the time, and have been known to snatch a few moments for reading at stop lights. No, I do not read while driving (though I must admit that it has been a temptation at times). I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. (Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here). I remember the books; do you remember the games?

A few initial suggestions:

1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and it also keeps me working across several disciplines.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead — not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies.

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Nick Batzig – Redeeming our Reading

Reading1 Dr. Joel Beeke once said, “Before I read anything, I pray that the Lord would give me the grace to discern whether or not I should spend time reading this particular book. My life is too short to read things that will not maximally help me grow as a Christian and as a pastor.” By way of contrast, others have suggested that we should read everything we can get our hands on. John Calvin made that memorable statement, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master…” On the one hand, we only have so much time in our lives so we should only want to read those things that will help us grow spiritually the most; but, on the other hand, we should want to read everything that we can because we can learn something from anyone. So–given the fact that our lives are short and that there are things we know that we would be a waste of time for us to read–are there guiding principles to help us know what we ought to read as we seek to grow spiritually and intellectually to the glory of God? Here are a few personal commitments that I have found helpful in seeking to redeem the time in the realm of reading:

1. Read the Scriptures More Than Other Books. We need spiritual discernment to know what to read. This discernment is found exclusively in the Scriptures. The more carefully we come to know the Scriptures, the more prepared we will be to know what we should read, and how to process what we read to the glory of God. One of the chief ways the evil one keeps us out of the Scriptures is by making the reading of non-inspired books seem more advantageous in our thinking than reading God’s Word. I have noticed that some of my more literary friends are not as conversant with the Scriptures as they are with other Christian and non-Christian literature. I know this, because I will sometimes cite a lesser known Proverb to which they respond, “Where’s that in the Bible?”

There is a danger in reading theological works more frequently than reading the Scriptures. Satan loves to save the best and most potent errors for theological works. In many conversations with seminarians or congregants in which I have raise the warning about not reading certain theologians until we have spent much time in Scripture and in the older Protestant theologians, I have been repeatedly met with the rebuttal, “But, didn’t Calvin say, ‘All truth is God’s truth?’ If we can learn true things from this or that theologian–despite the fact that he might have some problematic areas–shouldn’t we read him to learn the truth we can from him?’” Interestingly, immediately after making the statement, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master…” Calvin added the following caveat:

…and while he recognizes and acknowledges the truth, even in their religious literature, let him reject the figments of superstition, and let him grieve over and avoid men who, ‘when they knew God, glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.’ (On Christian Doctrine, 2.14)

The only way we will be able to “reject the figments of superstition” and “grieve over and avoid men” who live in intellectual and moral idolatry, is to know the Scriptures. It is by the word of God that we are to test all things. This must be the first rule of knowing what to read. We don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the money; we learn the counterfeit by studying the true. There are dangers in reading theologically questionable material. We must spend the majority of our time in the Bible. This is the place of safety by which our hearts and minds will be protected from error.

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Keith Mathison – Confessions of a Bibliophile

Confessions-of-a-Bibliophile-02_620 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a bibliophile is “A lover of books; a book-fancier.” Although this is a helpful definition, I’m not entirely sure I want to refer to myself as a “fancier” of anything. I’m from Texas. We either like something or we don’t. We don’t “fancy” things. It’s…unnatural.

However, I do love books, or perhaps, I should say more precisely, I love to read. Always have. When I was a child, I devoured books. Tom Sawyer, the Hardy Boys, anything I could find. When visiting relatives, I would read whatever they happened to have on the shelves, whether Reader’s Digest or Dr. Seuss. I enjoyed them all, but I was especially in love with offbeat stories.

It was not only children’s fiction that interested me. My family owned an old set of the World Book Encyclopedia. I used to sit and read the articles in those volumes for hours on end. When I was maybe ten or eleven, I found an old copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t remember what the first story in the book was, but it was odd, and that appealed to me. Looking back now, as interesting as Poe may be to a person attracted to offbeat stories, I wouldn’t recommend reading his complete works straight through. Side effects may include nightmares.

Sometimes I have read books for the wrong reasons. During my first semester of college, I ran across a three-volume work titled The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a harrowing, often firsthand account of the Soviet Union’s concentration camp system. When I took it to the counter to check it out, the librarian said to me in a rather obnoxious way that no one who started that book ever finished all three volumes, and then he informed me that I would never finish it either. I took that as a challenge and proceeded to plow through two thousand pages of dense narrative on a very unpleasant subject. Although I finished it simply to prove someone wrong, it turned out to be a great book.

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Erik Raymond – How to Read More Books

reading “How can I read more books?” I’ve gotten this question a number of times since I’ve started posting more book reviews here on the blog. Here are some of my thoughts to this question.

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.)

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William VanDoodewaard – Reading as Parenting

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When we think about parenting, the word “books” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But reading to our children is a fundamental aspect of parenting little people, though we rarely talk about it in the context of raising children.

Most of us are already reading to our children. It is something that mothers in particular already do, whether it’s the classic bedtime story or another scenario. Thinking carefully about reading to our kids can help us do it better in a way that will help us and them better steward the gift of intellect that God gives each one of us. John Stodt said that “the secret of holy living lies in the mind.” Books help us steward our children’s minds because it is what we know and understand that drives and directs how we feel and what we do. Reading out loud to our children is a potentially a powerful parenting tool when it is done intentionally and biblically. Here are five reasons to read out loud to our kids.

1. Reading builds relationships and memories. Obviously, if we are reading to our children, we are with them: cuddled on the couch, sprawled on the lawn, buckled in the car. We are together: the children hearing mummy or daddy’s voice, and all of us listening to the same author speak to us collectively. From the time I was newborn to the time I moved out of the house, my mother read out loud to me. For hours every day, my mother, siblings, and I were physically close, thinking the same thoughts. My five siblings and I have the experience of going to Narnia together, meeting John and Maggie Paton together, touring the pyramids together, all with Mum as our guide. When we are together, now all adults, someone can say, “I’ve been having a Charlie Bucket week,” and the rest of us understand. We pass on most of the stories to our children, welcoming them into this aspect of the family; even though the cousins all live far from each other, their parents take them in their minds to the same places that we all hang out. Such ties and memories last a lifetime.

2. Reading to our children helps us understand them. Not many of us read children’s literature when our children aren’t there; it’s when we are reading aloud that we are able to enjoy the stories and people in our kids’ books. Well written children’s literature understands the way that children think, and helps us remember what it is like to be a child: how fun, confusing, cozy, or scary it is for them. Have your read the story about Alfie and Bonting? Four year-old Alfie finds a stone in his back yard, puts it in his pocket, fingering it. By the end of the day, he decides that the stone has become a real friend, and he adopts it. Do you remember how things like stones can be friends? Or do you remember what it is like to be mothered? In The Railway Children, the children have done something very embarrassing and they have to confess it. “Mother was extremely angry. She was seldom angry, and now she was angrier than they had ever known her. This was horrible. But it was much worse when she suddenly began to cry.” After they sort things out, and everyone apologizes and is forgiven, the children have a talk by themselves. One of the girls says, “I should like to look at her if it wasn’t so awful. She looks so beautiful when she’s downright furious.” We quickly forget what it was like to be on the growing up side of things. Reading these sorts of stories to our children helps us parent better as we are better able to comprehend their world, or comprehend the world from their angle.

3. Reading to our children develops intellect. It’s an established fact that children whose parents read to them in the preschool years have clear academic advantages that last far into their formal education and work life. Reading with our children does not only teach them facts. It also stretches their minds, helping them to develop the capacity to reach mentally, to ponder things that are beyond them, to remember stories that moved them, and store facts that might be useful. Reading quality books out loud to our children stewards God’s gift of intellect in them and prepares them to do the same when they leave home.

Reading instills the habit of listening in our children. A child who can sit on a couch for an hour listening to their mother read will have far less trouble sitting through a service. They will also have an easier time listening to what is going on, because they are in the habit of listening to the person with the book.

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