I love to read. For me, reading is relaxing, educational, and often inspirational.
However, I haven’t always enjoyed digesting a good book. My affinity for reading was slow to develop. But when it emerged, it flourished. During my teenage years, I perceived reading to be a nuisance and somewhat of a necessary evil to get decent grades. At some point during my college years, however, I learned to enjoy reading, not just for assignments or entertainment, but for personal growth.
As a minister, writer, and pastoral counselor, I need to read widely to stay current and relevant. More importantly, in my current stage of life, I need books like I need food, to satisfy cognitive hunger and to probe intellectual curiosity. Books stimulate my thinking, exercise my memory muscles, and challenge my presuppositions.
Typically, I read a variety of genres including fiction, spirituality, theology, history, and biography. I concur with Diane Duane who surmised that, “Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.” Therefore, I usually keep from three to five books going at the same time, a discipline that was recommended by Opal Lovett, one of the most influential faculty members from my college years. This practice involves a variety of authors as conversation partners in my internal dialogue.
And I am careful to read books that I disagree with. One of Tony Campolo’s most underrated books contended, They Are the Enemy and They Are Partly Right. Reading an opposing viewpoint challenges me to test my own assumptions and it acquaints me with a variety of perspectives, equipping me to dialogue and debate intelligibly, and not just emotively.
For the past several years, around the first of January, I make a list of books that I plan to read during the coming year. While I hope to read 40-50 books this year, I have already compiled a list of nineteen of the books I want to be sure to read in 2019:
- Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton.
- Eternity Is Now in Session by John Ortberg.
- A Glad Obedience: Why and What We Sing by Walter Brueggemann.
- Were You There: Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals by Luke Powery.
- The Power of Love by Bishop Michael Curry.
- Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus by Bishop Michael Curry
- The Reckoning by John Grisham.
- The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll.
- Letters to the Church by Frances Chan.
- The CEO Next Door by Elena Botelho and Kim Powell
- Farsighted by Stephen Johnson.
- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.
- A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner
- The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives by Peter Scazzero
- An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence by Alan Fadling.
- Irresistible: Reclaiming the News That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley.
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Heart. by Brene’ Brown
- Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss by Jan Warner and Amanda Bearse.
- The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace and Hope in a Health Crisis by Elizabeth Turnage.
I find that it is healthy and helpful to read “outside the box” of my personal ideology. In other words, don’t just read the kind of stuff that reinforces what you think you know with certainty. Dare to read something that challenges you to think about life and faith from a different point of view.
Whether you are a fast reader or a slow reader, a hard print reader or a e-book reader, read for quality, not quantity. Mortimer Adler said it best: “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”
Enjoy a great year of reading in 2019!