We do not read to make ourselves feel good, or to be better than other members at church. We read because it’s good for our souls, and it serve our hearts delight. If you find yourself being discouraged because others read more than you, remember that people have different dispositions and preferences. Some people(me) are just nerdier than the rest, and find constant reading to be a joy. Comparison will not be able to sustain the desire to read more, only joy can. Recognize that the reason you should read more is because it is good, important, and healthy.
I love reading. It is my single favorite hobby to do in life. Those who know me best, will regularly hear me discussing something I am currently reading, or have recently read. As people have come to know me as an avid reader, I often hear the same sentiment- “I wish I read more”. I find myself regularly encouraging others in ways to grow as a reader, and in turn, read more than they do now. Reading is a joyful endeavor, and I love seeing people grow in their love and appreciation for good books. I will share below a number of different pieces of advice I find myself often sharing with others. I hope these serve you well – Tolle Lege!
Learn To Read
This first tip is not meant to be insulting, or belittling. The reality is, most people do not know how to read well. More than simply identifying words and rushing through pages, reading requires prolonged, critical engagement with thoughts and arguments. Every author is making an argument to you, and the reader needs to be able to engage with the authors flow of thought and the development of his/her argument. This takes time, and is a skill worth learning well. Reading is a very active experience. There are also different ways to read a book, at different levels of engagement. You can check out the famous book, How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler, to get you started.
Read What Interests You
Often, when somebody wants to grow as a reader, they think they need to begin by jumping into major works, on subjects they “ought” to be interested in. In my context, I meet individuals often who say they want to grow as a reader, and immediately think that means they should take on Herman Bavinck’s 4 volume Reformed Dogmatics. While such reading might work out for them, often, new readers would be best served starting small, and in areas where they find genuine interest in. Do you like baseball? Read a book on baseball you find intriguing. Do you think history is kind of cool? Go pick up a good book on a compelling era of history. There is no need to get going on a 1,500 page work by a major theologian if you’re going to drop out after 20 pages. Read fiction. Read good, compelling books on the christian life from the best authors (C.S. Lewis, Kevin DeYoung, etc). I constantly find myself reading books on Theology, American History, Winston Churchill, Economics, and the New England Patriots, because that drives my passion for reading. Reading books you are interested in will make you a better reader, develop more interests that you can read up on, and give you momentum for tackling bigger books.
Build Momentum with a Reading Snowball
There is something about finishing books which builds momentum. When you close the back cover on a book you’ve just spent days engaging with, you want to pick up the next one and keep going. I find it helpful, for newer readers to pick up smaller books, which they will be able to actually finish, rather than massive tomes which they may burn out on quickly. As you finish off books that are in the ~100 page range, it will encourage you, and equip you to take on books that closer to ~200 pages. As the momentum grows, your ability to take on more will build as well. I could never have imagined taking on books of 800+ pages when I was in college, but now, they don’t seem daunting to me (in fact, I love them!). Even if you don’t end up reading major works, finishing off books will help keep you in the flow of reading.
Quit Bad Books…But Not Too Fast
What happens if you find yourself reading a book, and it is just absolutely dull? We don’t want to waste too much of our precious time on bad books, and let’s be honest, there are a lot of bad books. One blogger made the sad, but true observation that we will not have time in our short lives to read everything we would like to. Therefore, we need to prioritize what we read, and be willing to move on from bad books that only waste time for good books. I learned a rule on when to quit bad books which I find helpful. The rule goes like this – Take 100, and subtract your age. That is how many pages you must read of a book before you can quit it. This keeps you from quitting too fast(some books just take time to get going) and allows you to quit before you’ve spent too much time on it. At the time of this writing, I now give every book 70 pages before I quit. This rule has paid off both ways, both in keeping my in good books which started slow, and allowing me to ditch bad books not worth my time.
Buy More Books
Some people think the best way to buy books, is only to buy them as you are able to read them. This may be very financially responsible, but it actually limits how many books you end up reading. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, shared his recommendations with a group of pastors at a local conference. He said “if you wait to buy books for only when you’re going to read them, you’re going to miss out on a lot of good books”(paraphrase). I think he is right. If you we’re to tally up the most important books in my life, most of them were books I had owned for several years.