Monday, November 1, 2010

Reading Rhythms

I love reading. Always have. A recent conversation with some great ministry friends forced me to think about my own reading habits and rhythms. I currently try to read a book a week (and if you check out my 2010 book journal, I'm a bit behind on that schedule). Here are a few reading practices I try to keep:

Figure out the time you focus best. Beyond all comprehension, I seem to be a morning person. I'll get up between 6:00 and 6:30 and try to read or study before my son wakes up, typically around 7:00. I can't really get much reading done after lunch, unless it's in a really short chunk to just get my mind focused. I'll also read in bed sometimes, but that usually leads to falling asleep with a book for a pillow. Discover the times during the day that allow your mind to focus and retain what you've read, then schedule reading during those times.

Have a specific attainable goal in mind. This can be anywhere from "I will read 50 books this year" to "I will read for the next 15 minutes without distraction" to "I'll finish this chapter today." It always help to have a bit of structure, as opposed to haphazardly picking up a book and hoping you finish it some day. There's a deep sense of satisfaction knowing you accomplished your goal--just make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew.

Read creatively. Listen to an audiobook in the car during your commute. Set a book next to the toilet. Keep one in your purse or car for moments when you have unexpected time to kill (doctor waiting room, a friend is late for a coffee meeting, etc.) Read a book aloud with your spouse. Find a good reading list from various websites or blogs and follow along. Join a book club, or just get a friend to read the same book with you.

Read a variety. At any given time, I'm reading 3-5 different books in a variety of categories: theology, ministry, fiction, classics, pop culture, etc. Read from authors you don't agree with. Read from authors you've never heard of, but have been recommended to you. Go to book stores and pick up random bargain books that look interesting. Read short books and long books. Read poetry. Read graphic novels. Read memoirs. Read business books, science books, how-to books, biographies. Read from the full spectrum of books, as opposed to just "theological books I agree with" or "Christian historical romantic fiction." Click on the books label on this blog to see what I've been reading.

Know when to stop. I rarely don't finish a book I've started, so I try to choose the books I read wisely. That said, I've made it a practice that if a book is downright terrible, I'll quit reading it about a quarter of the way through. If I've read your first 25% and it sucks, I doubt the other 75% is going to get any better.

Any other reading advice? What books have you read this year that you'd recommend?


  1. I've always got a book next to the toilet at home, and at church!

  2. This is great advice. Thanks Joel. I so desperately want to create a strong reading habit. Especially one I can pass on to my son. I definitely need to make some attainable goals. I can only remember a handful of books that I've read from cover to cover. Most of that is due to long flights or complete isolation.

    By the way, can't wait to hang out this week.

  3. Jay, the book in the church bathroom is a great idea!

    Jesse, see you tomorrow!