Recently, I have been reflecting on reading. This would only make sense since I am reading regularly. It is something I enjoy, plus my job requires that I read, and read a lot. As I consider the discipline and/or hobby of reading, I often find myself thinking of ways I can read better, learn more, etc. Perhaps you regularly find yourself with similar musings. If you do, then here are some thoughts to help you in your reading; be it recreational or rigorous.
(1) “Read much and not many.” This was the advice of Charles Spurgeon. He exhorted his readers to resist the temptation to hasty reading and the accumulation of bibliographic notches on their belts. “Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading,” was Spurgeon’s observation. If you find that you are not learning much when you read, it could have everything to do with your motivation for reading. Are you reading in order to say that you have read several books? Or are you reading because you enjoy reading, because you want to learn, and because you want to feed your soul, regardless of who finds out how many books you have read?
(2) Be purposeful. I learned this from Al Mohler. He observed that we learn more when we spend significant time on a given topic. This is accomplished in reading by developing reading “projects.” Choose a topic you want to read about, begin purchasing good books on that topic, and begin to read through those books. This approach, I have found, is much more conducive to learning than the “I think I will read this book now” approach.
(3) Mix it Up. A few months ago, my wife told me that she was getting tired of a book she was reading. From my judgment, it didn’t have anything to do with the content; she had been really enjoying the book up to that point. I suggested that she try reading more than one book at a time. This practice has a tendency to promote thought, keep the mind fresh, and helps us stay motivated in our reading. It is easy, after spending several hours in a book, to become weighed down in that plot or topic. On the other hand, this dilemma can be countered by reading more than one book at a time. This practice has helped me tremendously. I often have several “projects” going at one time and I rarely get tired of any one book. American history is a refreshing change after pondering justification by faith in all its exegetical depth, and vise versa!
(4) Have Fun. It is also important to always take in some fun reading. Read fiction. Read children’s books. Read the comics. This, like the previous suggestion, will help keep your mind fresh and motivated to keep reading.
(5) Write in your book. Many of us have been through many books. But many of those books have never been through us. That is because we rush through them and never take time to write down our thoughts, to make notes, and to make the book our own. One practice that I have learned from a colleague of mine is to turn the blank pages in the front and back of a book a place for notetaking. In the front of the book, I write down the page numbers of significant portions of the book and an appropriate sentence that explains that portion. Then, when I go back to the book, I can open the front cover and be reminded exactly what the book was about, the insights I had, etc. As Mortimer Adler observed,
There are two ways in which one can own a book. The first is the property right you establish by paying for it, just as you pay for clothes and furniture. But this act of purchase is only the prelude to possession. Full ownership comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it. (How to Mark a Book)
(6) Don’t lose precious minutes. How many times have you been in a situation where you have an extra five minutes while you are waiting for your parents, or your spouse, or sitting in a doctor’s office? These spare minutes pop up quite often and are perfect for getting some reading in. Recently, I have been trying to remember to bring a book wherever I go. Who knows, but I might get an extra five minutes here and ten minutes there. At the end of any given week, we might have accumulated 1-2 hours of extra reading time! Imagine that!
There are many more things I could say about reading, but I hope these few suggestions help you as you pursue to redeem the time by good reading.