So many books – so little time! How do you choose what to read?
We read for many reasons – entertainment, keeping current, and education being among them. As Christians, some of our reading is intentionally spiritual. That is, we engage in the discipline of study to fortify our faith with a growing understanding. God can certainly use Time magazine or a popular novel to inform us. But given the “so little time” reality, it makes sense to be intentional about one’s spiritual study. How do you do that?
I would offer three suggestions. Start with the Bible. It is totally unique in its authority, reliability, depth, and relevance. Find some patterns of daily reading that work for you. It’s absolutely crucial for Christian formation.
Second, make a plan. Rather than just picking up the latest best seller – Christian or otherwise – make a list of books or authors that you would like to cover in the next ten years. It’s fine to read some at random, but again, given “so little time,” it’s well to make a plan. You’ll be surprised by how many you can cover in ten years. As you plan, get some counsel on authors who are worthy of your time. Ask the well-formed Christians you know what authors have shaped them. Then form your list according to your own passions and hunger to learn. You’ll read more of what you really want to read than you will read of what you think you ought to read.
Third, give special attention to those authors that you find most deeply nurturing. It’s well to read broadly, but it’s also well to read several worthy authors deeply. When you read virtually everything by a single author, you are shaped not just by the topic of a particular book, but by his or her whole frame of thought. As I survey my shelves I realize that I’ve done this not so much by design, as I have by naturally returning to those authors who most deeply fed me through the years: Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, John Wimber, C.S. Lewis, John Claypool, and Tom Smail. Many other authors have shaped me with a book or two, but these are the authors to which I’ve eagerly returned time and again, and thus through whom large parts of my thought patterns have been formed. Who is that for you?
What a feast of possibilities! Where will you start?