On Reading

I find it difficult to read Christian books.  I know they are an amazing resource and some have really helped me to grow in my faith, but somehow a mindless novel is more appealing at the end of the day than delving into something that requires concentration.  I recently read a couple of blog posts on reading and thought I’d share a few thoughts from them that I found helpful.

I currently have a large stack of books I thought would be good to read and were at such bargain prices at various sales that I couldn’t resist buying them.  The vast majority of them are, however, untouched or returned to the shelf after reading only a few chapters.  Every now and then I look at them, feel slightly guilty and make a note to get on with reading them!  An enlightening idea for me has been that I don’t need to feel bound to reading all these books from cover to cover – here are some ideas:

  • read about a subject that currently interests you
  • read with a purpose in mind: what do you want to learn from this book?
  • skip sections or chapters if they’re not helping you reach that purpose
  • stop reading if you’re not finding the book helpful
  • have several books on the go at any one time, so you can move to something else when you get mentally tired of a subject

Another difficulty I have with reading Christian books is that by the time I come to the end of them (if I make it that far!), I can’t really remember much of what I’ve been reading.  As I’ve been reading, I know there are certain points that have challenged or helped me but because I haven’t read it all in one sitting, I never seem to grasp the overall picture or the main ideas.  One of the best ways to keep track of what you’re reading is to mark your book as you read it.  Highlight (or mark with a pencil) sentences that you find particularly helpful.  Write short summaries of what you’ve just read and further thoughts you’ve had.  If you then type these up at the end of the chapter or end of the book, it’ll give you a great summary of what you’ve been learning to review.  It also means you can easily find that helpful idea you remember reading in a book somewhere by searching the document.

I was also rather challenged to realise it’s not that difficult to read at least a few books a year.  Tim Challies points out that even if you only read a page a day of an average Christian Living book, you’d get through at least two a year.  He suggests taking advantage of the time you spend in the loo and brushing your teeth!  Tony Reinke calculates that if you read 15 minutes each morning, lunchtime and evening, you can get through a book every week.  Breaking it down like that makes it seem achievable to read 50 books a year.

I’ve just selected some tips that I’ve found helpful, but have a look at the posts I got them from to get some more suggestions:

  • Tim Challies gives his approach to reading and shares some insights
  • Tony Reinke provides some ideas on finding time to read in the first of a series of posts
  • Tony continues with ideas on reading with a pen in hand,
  • and finishes with explaining why it’s helpful to read with a purpose in mind

Apparently it gets easier the more you read, so I’m hoping to make the most of my time and grab a few moments each day to read some of those books I have.  How about you – do you have any tips you can share?

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