Although my affinity for reading was slow to develop, when it emerged, it flourished. During my teenage years, I perceived reading to be a nuisance and necessary evil. 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 argued 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 invites a variety of authors to be conversation partners in my internal dialogue.
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 eighteen of the books I want to be sure to read in 2018:
1. Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson
2. Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
3. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
4. I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me by John Ortberg
5. Gift and Task: A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections by Walter Brueggemann
6. Surviving the Bible: Devotions for the Church Year 2018 by Christian Piatt
7. Smoke of this Altar by T. H. Williams
8. The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg
9. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
10. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
11. The Brain Warrior’s Way by Daniel and Tana Amen
12. Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons by Frederick Buechner
13. A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner
14. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero
15. As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God by Eugene Peterson.
16. Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
17. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor
18. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene’ Brown.
Reading books written by authors who write from diverse perspectives stretches my thinking and expands my capacity to relate to variety of people. I find that it is intellectually healthy and pastorally 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.
Perhaps Mortimer Adler was right: “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.”
Happy reading in 2018!