I few years ago I noticed that my reading habits had slacked off considerably in comparison to when I was in my twenties. Through college and seminary I would have labeled myself as a voracious reader. But when I finished my doctoral studies about six years ago, I noticed that my reading really tapered off. Of course, it might have had to do with the fact that four days after I graduated with my doctorate degree, we went from having one kid to three when the twins were born. Then a couple of years later, number four. Four kids and a full-time church demand quite a bit of time. But I still found myself frustrated with how little I was reading. I finally pinpointed my greatest distraction late at night…surfing the internet. Between the blogs (I subscribe to 57 different blogs!), the instant news, and Facebook, I found little time to read books. In other words, I was still reading a lot, just not books.
So I did what it usually takes to change my pattern of behavior. I set a goal: read 52 books in a year…one a week. Into my third year, I have yet to hit the goal, although this year I am not far as far behind the pace required to reach it. I just finished my 19th book of the year: Radical Together by David Platt. It was a quick and easy read. I read most of it Friday at Mayo Clinic while I was laying on a gurney, hooked up to an IV, waiting for my turn to go into the operating room for a procedure (that’s a whole other story; I’m fine).
Instead of giving the entire list of what I’ve read this year, I’ll mention a few and then share what’s on my nightstand right now. But before I do that, I must mention the fact that all the books I try to read take a backseat to reading the most important book of all, the only book that has God as the Author…the Bible. I try to read at least 50 chapters each week and sometimes up to 70. The Bible stands head and shoulders above all other books and to not give it a considerable amount of attention and time would be a big mistake.
Regarding what I’ve read so far this year, 2011 has been unique in that I’ve read four books by friends of mine, and I’m working on a fifth right now (please don’t take the last half of that sentence out of context, I’m a teetotaler…a few of you will get that lame joke). Darrin Patrick and I became friends back when we were both in junior high. We were from rival communities but played on the same team at summer basketball camp. This was B. C. (before Christ entered our lives). Today Darrin is the pastor of The Journey church in St. Louis and the author of Church Planter: the Man, the Message, the Mission. I highly recommend it for aspiring church planters. I lent out my copy to a friend who took it on a business trip and left it on a plane. Hopefully someone who needed to know the Gospel got it and read the second section of the book, which effectively communicates “the message.” Also, hopefully my un-named friend will read this post and order another copy. 😉
Tim Ellsworth was in my youth group back when I was in college. His Dad was a mentor to me in my early ministry years. Tim also followed me to Union University (at least I’d like to think I influenced him in that direction). Four years younger than me, he started right after I graduated. Tim is the co-author of the definitive biography of Albert Pujols, who just happens to be the greatest baseball player on the planet. Pujols: More Than the Game is a book baseball fans will enjoy and is required reading for all Cardinal fans.
J. Mark Bertrand and I were at Union University at the same time. He went on to get a Master’s degree in creative writing. This year I read two of his fiction works: Beguiled and Back on Murder. If you like a good mystery with a Christian worldview, you will probably enjoy these novels. Beguiled is a collaborative work with a romance writer, Deeanne Gist, so guys, be forewarned. But don’t let the cover fool you, this is not just a chick book. There is far more suspense than romance. The Kindle version of Back on Murder is FREE right now. I downloaded it to my iPad using the Kindle app and read it last week.
Grant Horner is a literature professor at the Master’s College in Southern California. He is the man behind the Bible reading plan I have been using for the past few years (see my blog posts about it, including an interview I did with him). I’m currently reading his book titled Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer. It’s not a quick read because he encourages you to watch many of the films he discusses, which is going to take me a long time if I don’t go ahead and sign up for Netflix. (I will sign up for my free month when I get closer to my two-week summer vacation).
Other books I’m currently reading right now include:
Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis – Probably a must read for those interested in the story of our nation’s formation.
The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson – The Puritans are hard to read, but oh so profitable! Watson is one of the easier ones to read, which is why I’m currently working my way through two of his books.
All Things for Good by Thomas Watson – Ever wanted to take Romans 8:28 and milk it for all its worth? No need to try, Watson’s done it.
Hints for Parents by Gardiner Spring – I’m the kind of guy who actually believes we can learn a lot about parenting from a Presbyterian preacher who was born over 225 years ago. Our generation needs to repent of historical snobbery; we think we are so much smarter and more evolved than previous generations. Reading this little gem reminds me of how much wisdom we can glean from previous generations of Christians, even on such practical matters as parenting. Turn off Dr. Phil and pick up Rev. Spring.
The Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told, edited by Lamar Underwood – A couple of years ago, my wife and my Mom both thought that my interest in hunting was a quirky mid-life fad I was going through and within a few months I would be over it. If I keep reading stuff like this, I’ll be hooked on hunting for the rest of my life.
Worship on Earth as it is in Heaven: Exploring Worship as a Spiritual Discipline by Rory Noland – Just having started this one, I’m very excited about what might come out of this book for myself and our church. One of our four pillars at Harvest Bible Chapel is “Lifting High the Name of Jesus in Worship.” Rory, as the lead worship pastor at the original Harvest in suburban Chicago, has unusually keen insight as to what that is supposed to look like in a church.
I have a few other books I’m working through right now, but seeing as it’s getting late, I’ll stop there. As you can see, I don’t read just one book at a time. I liken it to opening the fridge for a snack or turning on the radio during a long trip, you always want to have some choices. It may not be the best approach, but it’s the one I take. I figure if I don’t pick up a book for at least several weeks, then I need to drop it out of my rotation, at least for the time being.
What about you? What are your reading habits? What are you currently reading? Anything you’d recommend?