If you’ve read Intersections previously or know me personally, it should come as no surprise that I am a reader. An avid reader. I love books and am constantly reading something. I have for as long as I can remember. On the blog, I write reviews every summer to highlight some of the most impactful books I’ve read over the course of the year. I quote them often. And I am periodically asked about the books I read and which I would recommend. I believe it was Howard Hendricks who said that one of the greatest things that can shape who you are is the books you choose to read. I am living proof of the veracity of this statement.
In light of how I love books, I wanted to spend a few posts and discuss how I choose the books I do, how I interact with them and their content and offer some suggestions on how to get the most from them. Full disclosure – I am a devoted follower of Jesus and primarily a non-fiction, spiritual topics reader. While I do read across the spectrum of topics, genres and themes – and believe that good reading habits apply to all sorts of books – the majority of the reading I will be talking about in the next few posts will center around books of the faith – those written by fellow followers of Jesus describing some aspect of how to know and love Him more. Of course I read the Bible regularly, but it is in a category all by itself. How to read It is a topic for its own blog series at a later time.
1. I talk with people about books. A common question discussion starter for me is to ask people what they are or have recently read that they found particularly interesting or helpful.Especially those whom I respect and look up to. (It doesn’t always have to be a book either. In today’s world, what we read online can be just as impactful.) When I go into people’s houses or offices and there are bookshelves, I inevitably find myself walking over to have a look. The books I am reading percolate in my head and heart for a while. They change my vocabulary for a season as I absorb and interact with their content. So it is only natural that the books I am reading enter my conversations. It is a great way to move from talking about nothing to talking about something, revealing something of who I am and what moves my heart, while sometimes opening a beautiful window into who someone else is and what moves their heart.
2. I keep an active “To-read” list on Amazon. As different books come across my radar through my conversations and interactions with other readers, I make a note of them. Then I research the book on Amazon, read reviews for it or peruse it at Barnes and Noble. If I want to stay aware of it, I put it in my queue on Amazon. It allows me to remember those books I want to read later, when it is time, when my heart is receptive to its content (more on this later), when I have the intellectual space to spend with its content. The recommendations I receive from others about the books they’ve read are too important to me to lose track of on the back of an envelope or receipt. (Often, my normal note-taking material.) And there are many wonderful books out there that will never appear on best seller lists or get highlighted at a store. The only way I will find them is through the recommendations of others (including Amazon’s recommendations) – and the only way I will remember them is by listing them somewhere. Amazon is my tool to do so.
3. I often map out my reading months in advance. This practice came from my time in Europe, where my access to English books was limited. I visited America once a year, so my trips to the bookstore while stateside needed to be well planned out. I would spend months sometimes researching what books I thought would be most beneficial, which authors I needed to read to be current, what topics I would enjoy or find useful. Evenings on Amazon, doing research, is sort of fun for me. (nerd alert) As such, I spent time thinking about my reading months ahead of time. While I have relaxed this a bit now that I live back in the states, I still think through my reading ahead of time. I typically buy my books 3-5 at a time and spend a few months working my way through them. Towards the end of that time, I begin researching what direction to take my reading next.
Life is too short to read bad books. And there are so many of those out there. I don’t leave what I will read to chance, so I am intentional – inviting others into the process of helping me choose which direction to take my reading time.