Christians as Readers: What to Read
Welcome back to this series on Christians as readers. Over the weeks, some have asked me to recommend what to read. These are the people that don’t need to be convinced to read and just want to know where to start. This post is for all who have asked.
The choice of what to read can be a bit daunting. There are somewhere around 170,000,000 (that’s 170 million) books published worldwide and an average of 2,700 books published daily (including self-published). I suppose Solomon was right when he said that there was no end to the making of books (Ecc. 12:12). So, for you overwhelmed book-pilgrim locked in Giant Despair’s cave searching for the key to escape in the endless amounts of books piled around you, I am here to help.
What should you read?
Whatever you want.
I know, this wasn’t what you were looking for. However, I wonder if we might be overthinking it. Why do we complicate the process? Reading is supposed to be something we enjoy. Read something that you want to read. Read something that excites you. Read something that grows you. Read something that sustains your interest.
Of course, there are probably things that are best not to read. Use Christian discernment. Hopefully, you know my character enough to know I am not saying read something that will lead you into sin. However, I want to be cautious not to qualify this simple truth too much: read things you want to read.
However, for many people, that isn’t going to be all that helpful. If that’s you, I will outline how I generally organize what I read. But I do so hesitantly. First, this is how I generally organize it. Do not think of my structure as some sort of law. This system is supposed to aid me in my reading, not become some master dictating my reading. I usually follow this pattern, but sometimes I won’t, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for changing things up if it isn’t in my best interest anymore. Similarly, if you want to follow how I organize my reading, don’t take it on as some sort of law to be a great reader. It’s one option among many that should be used as it helps accomplish your end of being a better reader.
Second, I fear that you think this is what faithful reading looks like. My reading plan may work for some of you, but for most, it won’t. As a pastor, my job is to read and study. Thus, I can read more books than most at a time. Or, on the other side, there may be some with much more time for reading than me. Don’t let me stop you from doing more than this!
That said, the best way I have found to select what to read is to choose books based on categories rather than specific lists. I find this method more beneficial because it gives both freedom and structure. It provides freedom because I can mold my reading to fit whatever is going on in my life at the time. It provides structure because it focuses my choice of books between all the good options and helps me not get too heavy in one type of reading over another.
Thus, I attempt to choose books that fit one of four different categories that aid in helping me grow in some way. Here are my categories and each book I am currently reading.
1. Growth in study
The first book is one I pick for something I am teaching. In my line of work, I am almost always studying to teach in some context (preaching, teaching high school, lectures, video lessons, etc.). While my doctoral studies are going on, those books fit this category (and usually a few others). This reading is usually my most intensive reading with notes because I want to use it to produce something else.
Currently reading: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Truman – a book on the philosophies that led to contemporary cultural individualism and subsequent confusion.
2. Growth in responsibilities
The second category of books I look for is those that help me become better in one of my responsibilities. I not only want to be an intellectual but equipped to carry out the tasks that God has put before me. My responsibilities include being a husband, father, fellow Christian, pastor, citizen, leader, etc. This book is with me in bed before I go to sleep. I read it a bit more sporadically but try to read a little each day if I can.
Currently reading: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow – a biography that traces the life of George Washington. I’ve put a biography here because I love seeing how other men took on their responsibilities, and it encourages me to be better at mine.
3. Growth in worship
The third book is a book that I use to help spur me to worship in some way. Here, I try to learn something about God, personal discipline, and corporate worship, among other things. This could be some theological treaty I want to work through very slowly or a piece of devotional readings someone put together. I usually only read this book for about ten minutes in the morning as a part of my reading and prayer.
Currently Reading: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, by Eugene Peterson – a devotional reading going through a section of the Psalms focused on the Christian’s regular pattern of dependence on God.
4. Growth in imagination
The last book is my “let my mind wander” book – a story. This book is almost exclusively an audiobook, as I’m unsure when I would have time to sit and read it. But I have found it essential to have a book going just to get swept away into another land. If you see me with headphones in, I’m probably listening to this book (I know, you thought it’d be more spiritual). Stories have grown my ability to have a vivid imagination and (I believe) my ability to have fun.
Currently Reading: Shadows of Self, by Brandon Sanderson – the fifth book in the Mistborn series (a super nerdy Sci-Fi world-building).
Maybe you will find choosing books by category helpful. If you’ve never tried it before, feel free to steal mine. Or perhaps you can think of better categories. Either way, I hope some part of this helps you in your reading journey.
Thanks for reading.