Republished with permission from Craig’s blog, Theology for the Road.
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance” (Confucius).
For the longest time I hated to read. Yes, “hate” is a strong word but that is how I felt about reading. I even hated reading my Bible (heresy, I know!). Don’t get me wrong. I loved my Scofield Study Bible that I used for 18 years. I just didn’t like to read—period. I remember crying as my dad (who was himself a reader) would have me sit down and read my Bible. I dreaded the reading plans he made for my three siblings and myself. I was always behind in grammar and reading in school which was a result of my lack of desire to read.
Where it all began
Then one day things changed. I went from hating reading to loving reading. During my senior year in high school my youth pastor decided to meet with me every Monday for the whole year to mentor me since I wanted to go into ministry. I will never forget that first meeting. He took me to a fast food restaurant. He sat me down and plopped down three books on the table. My heart sunk. He told me to start reading them and we were going to discuss them together along with other things. At this point I had no choice. I had to read them and there was no saying no. I went home and began to read them. Call it divine intervention or what have you but all of the sudden I began to love reading—and I found that I couldn’t stop.
Today I have a good sized theological library for someone who is not in ministry. I have purchased books while I was in and out of school. I found books for free at different places and this last year I was able to use this blog to acquire more books which I in turn reviewed. I also won a number of books by entering giveaways.
Some year-end reading reflections
I know to some I read a lot and to others I read less than they do. This year I read 53 books and reviewed 24 of them. Here are some of my reflections from a year of reading:
- The more I read the more I want to read. The more I read the more things I find that I want to read about so I find a good book to read about something that was mentioned in another book I read. I love to learn and books are a good cheap way to educate oneself. Leaders are learners and learners are readers—period.
- The more I read the more I can read. This applies to both the kinds of books you read and the number of books you read. There are some books that you cannot just jump into and expect to get what is going on. Some books require a base knowledge in order to make it worth reading them. For years I wanted to read books that were above my knowledge base and I regretted it much of the time. This year I read a few books that I know I got more out of because I had already read some others that were at a more beginner level. Granted, there is wisdom in reading books above your knowledge base but you can go too far.
- The more I read the faster I can read. This is nothing new to those who read a lot. If I am reading a book on a particular subject that I have a good grasp on or have read several books on it already then I can generally read through the book much faster than if it were the first book I have read on that subject. This year I have finally reached this milestone in a number of areas.
- The more I read the better I can read. Like with anything else the more you do it the better you do it. Reading is no different. I know I was not a good reader in grade school because I didn’t do it often enough. I struggle to read fiction because I almost never read it. I excel at reading theology because I read it all the time. Just because you can read one genre well does not mean you can read all of them at the same level (this includes speed).
- For all of the time and days I did read there was a lot of time I could have read that I didn’t. I have had some people ask me if I have a full-time job or if I go from work to reading. Yes I have a full-time job and no I don’t start reading until at least the kids are in bed (between 7-8) and I have finished anything I have to around the house. I do spend time with my wife and kids. I do watch shows on my laptop (sometimes 2-3 hours at a time if we have to catch up!). I do things around the house on the weekend. But I know for a fact that I could have read another 10 books easily had I used some of my time better.
I could say much more, but those are some of the highlights of what I learned this year. There are also things I have observed about people who don’t read at all or very much. The biggest complaint I hear is ‘Where do you find time to read so much let alone at all!?’ For starters I don’t have cable TV. I do watch a select few shows with my wife on the laptop but I never watch 2-3 hour sports games. Take out watching t.v. and you have a lot of time. I am by no means condemning watching t.v. or paying for cable. I just choose not to spend my money on it and I know it is too much of a temptation for me to waste too much time watching it. As the old saying goes—we all have the same amount of time to spend but we all spend it differently. I spend my free time reading. Also, I don’t think people realize how easy it is to start reading if you take it in small chunks. Give yourself a goal of reading one book a month. If you read 15-30 minutes a day you can easily do that. Not everyone can read as much as the other person and each person has to find their level of reasonable consumption. But I believe every Christian should read.
Perhaps the most revealing thing I learned this year was this—the more I read the more I am amazed at the Bible. I don’t read the Bible the same way I read other books. By that I mean I read my Bible slower. I tend to get more out of it when I do that. What really gets me is that no matter how engaging a book is that I am reading, which may keep me up until 1 a.m. in the morning, the Bible still fascinates me even more. You can’t make this stuff up and the world keeps copying its story line.
Looking to reading in 2012
As I mentioned before I read 53 books (last year I read 26 books) and reviewed 24 (the previous year I reviewed 3-4 books). This year I plan to read 65 books and review at least half of them. I am part of a reading group that will be reading through G.K. Beale’s new book A New Testament Biblical Theology over the course of about three months. I will most likely be blogging through this books as well on my own blog. You can join in here. At least once a week I will be posting notable quotes from books I have finished that I either reviewed or didn’t but wanted to share something from them. I will continue to bring new books to your attention whether or not I have my own intentions of reading them. I am also going to try to initiate some author interviews for some books.
So how was your year in reading? Do you have any favorites of last year and any you look forward to reading this year?