While most of us did not start reading as an infant, many of of us did have the privilege of having been read to, sometimes while we were in our mothers womb. I can’t remember a time that books were not a part of my life and they have affected me deeply in the years since I learned to read. Interestingly, the value placed on reading varies greatly around the world. Having traveled some, I have always been interested in the reading habits of different people groups and cultures. I will never forget taking the subway in Moscow and being crowded in like a sardine and yet almost everyone had a book in their hands. In Liberia, the value placed on the books I brought as gifts was almost incomprehensible. You would have thought that I had gold in my bag, not books.
In America these days, the pace of life, the volume of information and the plethora of technology and devices all compete for our time and resources. It is not uncommon to meet people that have not read a single book in the last year and some in several years. This lack of reading and the commitment to deep and lasting learning can produce a shallow Christian walk if one is not careful. I am convinced that reading is a spiritual discipline that must be nurtured, just like prayer, fasting and Bible memorization and is one that can produce lasting change and joy in a person’s life. Here are five ideas to jump start your reading and to help develop this discipline in your life:
1. Plan time to read – don’t just wish you had time to read, be intentional and write it into your weekly planner. Commit to a specific time of day if it helps you. I often read before bed and plan to get in bed earlier than I plan to go to sleep.
2. Develop a reading list – random reading may be fun, but does not engender growth. There are a number of great Christian blogs that promote reading and do excellent book reviews including Challies.com and Hearts and Minds Book Notes by Byron Borger. Be purposeful in the books that you chose and read in areas that will stretch your thinking and broaden your perspective.
3. Carry a book with you at all times – Given that I have teenagers, I often think that my number one job is taxi driver and I never know when I will have unexpected times to wait for a bus to arrive or a class to finish. Those precious moments need not be wasted if you keep a good book handy. If you travel on airplanes at all, you will likely have opportunities to wait that you had not planned for. Nothing will help you de-stress better than a good book that you are in the midst of reading.
4. Keep books near you – proximity is everything. I like to keep books on both my night stand and the end tables in my living room. Surround yourself with books and you will be far more likely to pick one up and devour it. I have discovered that keeping books near me is a lot healthier than snack food and has helped me to develop the habit of picking up a book rather than the TV remote – though this is always a temptation.
5. Commit to reading a book from cover to cover – while it is always good to have lots of books available to read at any time, the discipline of reading one book at a time from cover to cover is essential to spiritual and intellectual growth. Most non-fiction authors write their books in such a way that one chapter builds on another and no good fiction writer would keep you reading their captivating story if the chapters did not relate to each other. Be careful not to let the temptation of having lots of books at your disposal distract you into reading bits and pieces of lots of books and not ever reading a whole book all the way through.
When you are done reading a book, be sure to reward yourself by taking the time to share your book and what you have learned with someone else. Take the time to journal about the book, join a book club where you can talk about a book or simply find a friend who you can loan the book to and talk about it later. Whatever you do, commit now to developing this habit of the mind that will become a joy to your soul.