We recently decided to take up and encourage one another through one of the new year reading challenges. Not that I need help adding books to my overwhelming reading list, mind you. No, I likely read that many books and more in one year. My problem is more one of organizing — reading intentionally. I want to be deliberate in what I read, but to be honest my method of choosing literature looks more like a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation.
I have already found that the reading challenge helps organize my reading in the following three ways:
- By pulling books off of my already too-long list and inserting them in the appropriate slots, I know those titles will get read.
- Thinking deliberately. I have an opportunity to make mindful choices between books and to give a thoughtful “pull off the shelf” to that one that comes first in priority.
- Reading widely. Most of the books on my list already represent a wide range of topics, interests, subject areas, and genres. But without a defined reading plan I tend to stay in an unintentional reading rut.
That is the organizing side.
But how did those books get on my list in the first place? Of making books there is no end. How do we decide what to read?
Here are 3 considerations when choosing literature:
1. Do the books we read undermine or undergird our faith?
Choosing such books requires discernment — and that is a personal, from-the-heart decision. Our level of discerning good and evil will dictate what books will be “safe” for us to read.
My reading list isn’t going to look like yours nor yours like mine. But, then, that isn’t the point. The focus is on Christ — are the books I’m reading bringing me closer to Him?
2. Are we avoiding superabundance?
…[P]erhaps the fundamental error in determining what books children shall read lies in the very popular notion that to read much, and to derive pleasure and profit from our reading, many books are necessary. And the greatest obstacle in the way of forming and directing a proper taste for good reading is to be found…not in the scarcity, but in the superabundance of reading matter. — James Baldwin, 1902
It is all too easy for me to get into the habit of marking a book off of my list and moving on to the next one. But in doing so, I lose the benefits that come from reading in the first place. Rather than letting my focus become the number of books I read, I’d much rather choose those precious few that I can read slowly and mine — and read again.
3. Do the books we read serve a purpose?
Cultivate the mind? Improve talents? Impart knowledge? Share as a family?
Time is so precious that there is never but one moment in the world at a time, and that is always taken away before another is given. Only take care to gather up the fragments of time, and you will never want leisure for the reading of useful books.
In what way can you spend your unoccupied hours more pleasantly than in holding converse with the wise and the good through the medium of their writings! To a mind not altogether devoid of curiosity, books form an inexhaustible source of enjoyment….
A taste for useful reading is an effectual preservative from vice. Next to the fear of God implanted in the heart, nothing is a better safeguard to character than the love of good books. They are the handmaids of virtue and religion. They quicken our sense of duty, unfold our responsibilities, strengthen our principles, confirm our habits, inspire us in the love of what is right and useful, and teach us to look with disgust upon that which is low, groveling, and vicious….
“Value of Time and Knowledge” by Hawes
There are all types of books available and all kinds of reasons for reading. And while there is certainly nothing at all wrong with reading for the simple pleasure of reading, I want to be purposeful in my choices. There is only so much time!
There may be other considerations you and your family will want to focus on. But hopefully if nothing else these three ideas for choosing literature will give you a start on reading deliberately!
Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke
First, what you are not going to find in this book: a list of dos and don’ts when it comes to choosing literature. What Reinke aims at is a deeper Scriptural-based understanding that will ultimately help us choose books wisely. The first half of the book lays the predicate for this. The second half helps us get the most from our reading.
The 2016 Reading Challenge
The reading challenge we are using this year. Part of the fun is moving those books you’ve always wanted to get to into those slots!