I love to read. I used to read a lot more fiction than I do today and I’m trying to fix that. Sometimes I read because it immediately helps me with my job. But always I read because it helps with my psyche. Sure, I read to know I’m not alone (C.S. Lewis), but I also read to know I’m not insane. Other people live on this little planet and thrive and find the whole endeavor exhausting, so that gives me hope. And plus, reading is just fun. But it wasn’t always.
When I was in elementary and middle school, I devoured the Redwall series (my favorite being the Bellmaker), the Animorph series (they all kind of blurred together for me), and Zoobooks. In high school, I let my conversion to Christianity root out my love for fiction (and accident that did not need to happen) and I steered toward theology books more and more as I felt called to the pastorate. I’m sure I grew in Christ because of it, but my imagination stagnated as my mind grew fat with delicious theology.
I hope I’ve balanced out in terms of what I read, even though this year it’s been all theology. I read two excellent books on miscarriage and infant mortality that were great helps to me. I read a phenomenal book on pastoral counseling that has sharpened and equipped me for that branch of soul care that my work calls for. But fiction isn’t that far off on my reading schedule (and yes, I have a reading schedule). The remaining Harry Potter books that I’ve not read (starting from the tail end of book 5) will soon become mine. And I finally want to dedicate some time to Marilyn Robinson’s Gilead and the poetry of John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins (outside of the famous ones that everybody knows).
Each year, I try and become a better reader in terms of volume of books read, quality of books read, and comprehension of books read. In 2014, I read 63 books (10,936 pages). In 2015, I read 61 books (10,951 pages). 25 days into 2016, I’ve read 6 books (1,701 pages). I’ll try and break the 11,000 page mark this year. We’ll see what happens. Life is more than books.
Why am I doing this? It’s not because it’s easy for me. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been and life will probably get crazier. I read at night and when I get a spare minute. I’m a slow reader and am easily distracted so I have to really focus. It’s not because I want everyone’s admiration. I haven’t shared those numbers above since I started this quest and, frankly, there are folks whose ability to read lots and to read well blow mine out of the jungle.
I’m doing this because sometimes you have to make a game out of a good thing to get yourself to enjoy it. Like a parent feeding a baby with an “airplane” spoon full of Gerber’s, I have to distract myself from the fact that I don’t always want to read by challenging myself to read. How many can I read in a month? Can I read two a week? How diversely can I read? Can I read someone I don’t agree with and learn from it?
I’m also doing this because inspiration is overrated and discipline is vital. I rarely feel like marching out to my subfreezing garage to put on the gloves and do 30 minutes on the punching bag. But five minutes into it, I’m in the groove and I forget how warm my bed is and how terrible the act of getting there really is. Likewise, I rarely feel like reading. Netflix is way easier. My phone can charm me for hours if I let it. But if I actually schedule it into my day, I get what I don’t realize I need: the pleasure of reading. At least, that’s what it’s like so far in 2016.
- What’s on your reading agenda for this year?
- What are you reading now?
- How do you handle busy life with reading books?
- What genre do you love to read the most? Is it the one you usually end up reading the most?
- Who’s your favorite author?