I love to read. I only wish I had learned to enjoy reading at an earlier age.
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 appreciate the gift of reading, not just for assignments or entertainment, but for personal growth.
These days I find reading to be relaxing, educational, and often inspirational. Like Walt Disney, I have discovered that, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
In my work as a pastor, I need to read widely to stay current and relevant. More importantly, 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. And I usually keep from three to five books going at the same time, a discipline that was recommended by Opal Lovett, one of my favorite faculty members from Jacksonville State University. This practice invites a variety of authors to gather around the table in my internal chat room.
I also intentionally read books I disagree with. Rather than making me combative, the practice of reading opposing viewpoints challenges me to test my assumptions and it familiarizes me with a variety of perspectives. This discipline equips 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 twenty of the books I want to be sure to read in 2020:
1. The Church of Us vs Them by David Fitch
2. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
3. Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson
5. Preaching from the Old Testament by Walter Brueggemann
6. The Walk: Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life by Adam Hamilton
7. The Guardians by John Grisham
8. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer and John Ortberg
9. Irresistable: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley
10. A Time for Every Purpose by Doug Dortch
11. Pastor Paul by Scot McKnight
12. Truth and Hope: Essays for a Perilous Age by Walter Brueggemann and Louis Stallone
13. How Your Congregation Learns by Tim Shapiro
14. How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going by Susan Beaumont
15. Uproar: Calm Leadership in Anxious Times by Peter Steinke
16. The New Testament in its World by N.T. Wright.
17. Quietly Courageous: Leading the Church in a Changing World by Gil Rendle
18. Embracing God’s Future Without Forgetting the Past by Michael K. Girlinghouse
19. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris
20. Does God Really Like Me?: Discovering the God Who Wants to Be With Us by Cyd Holsclaw and Geoff Holsclaw
Whether you are a fast reader or a slow reader, a hard print reader or a e-book reader, read for quality, not quantity.
This year I invite you to join me in adopting the philosophy of Fran Lebowitz: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
Enjoy a soul-stirring and mind-bending year of reading in 2020!
(Barry Howard serves as the pastor of Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He enjoys reading, writing, and playing golf.)