What will you read in 2018? That may not be a question you’ve spent much time thinking about, but I would encourage you to do so. Sadly we have moved into a time in modern culture that seems almost post-reading. Tweets, texts, social media posts, even blog posts that are built around bullet points all illustrate a public who’s attention span has waned. Could this mean that deep, meaningful and reflective reading may be, for some, a lost art – if it was ever a developed discipline?
I know, I may sound like an old grump who is a throw back to the days of the newspaper (which I’m told young people do not read), but I believe what we read matters. It helps us think and develops in us the capacity to respond to life from a reflective platform. Reading allows and encourages us to expand our horizons, improve our vocabulary, and deepen our understanding of life’s issues. Just last week I enjoyed seeing former President Barack Obama’s reading list from 2017 – a practice he has posted each year since 2008, as did former President George W. Bush. I would hope those who lead us build time into their schedules to read, not just have their favorite media outlet reinforce what they wish to see or hear. (But that’s another matter!)
For the past several years I have set an annual reading goal, which I track through the app Goodreads, an easy to use smart phone application that keeps track of what I have read, what I’m currently reading, and what is on my “want to read” list. This app will also allow you to follow friends and see what they may be reading.
As in the past, last year’s reading list was a combination of professional books (theological, biblical, and leadership focused), pleasure reading (mostly novels), spiritual practices (devotional reading, self-care), and personal interest (hobbies, etc.). By regularly adding to my “want to read” list I was never without a book. In fact I usually have at least two or more books going at the same time – fellow readers will understand.
If you not a reader, or too busy to read, why not try an audio-based reading system? I was given a subscription to Audible for Christmas, and I’m almost through reading my first book with that service. You can combine audio reading with exercise, household chores, or just chilling out. Podcasts are another alternative to the written word, and something I have enjoyed for the past several years as a means of learning. In fact, I often get books for my “want to read” list through the podcast sessions I listen to. Friends who read are another source of book recommendations. If someone takes the time to recommend a book to me, and tells me why they enjoyed it, I will almost always put it on my list. I find it helpful to know what others are reading, especially as a pastor. That’s why I read the Harry Potter series, some of the Left Behind series (couldn’t do it all!), and the Twilight series that were so popular with folks in the churches in year’s past.
My practice most days is to begin my day in some devotional reading. I will spend time in the Bible, usually with the text I’m preaching the next Sunday, allowing it to read me as much as working with it for the sermon. I will also read from the Psalms (or Proverbs recently) and perhaps a chapter of another book in the Bible I haven’t read in a while.
I have also recently seen the merit of keeping a devotional book by a contemporary author as part of my morning reading. Usually this involves reading just one chapter. I used NT Wright’s Advent devotional book in December and I’m currently enjoying a collection of sermons (As King Fishers Catch Fire) published by Eugene Peterson.
Depending on that day’s schedule I will return to reading either in the evening, sometimes over my lunch (it’s better than the news!), and on occasion I will block out some time for professional reading in my schedule. I do not think pastors or other professionals should feel bad in doing this (as I once did – thinking it too passive), because it builds depth into our lives that replenishes our reservoir so often taxed through public sharing.
The public library is a great source for books and other reading material, available today through multiple mediums. There’s is another app I keep on my smart phone. My Kindle e-reader is another good way to take books with me. I tend to be an underliner and note taker in the margins of books I read, but have found the highlight feature on the E reader to be helpful for later review. As you may have guessed, when it comes to reading mediums, in my opinion there’s just nothing quite like turning the pages of a good printed book you are holding in your hands. As I tell our children – when I’m old just put me in the corner with a book in my hands and I’ll be content.
So what’s on your reading list for 2018? Or, what was your best read in 2017?
Here are a view of my best reads from last year, & some I’m looking forward to in 2018:
2017 Good Reads:
- Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (John Ortberg)
- The Frozen Hours: A Novel of the Korean War (Jeff Shaara)
- The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Fleming Rutledge)
- Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (N.T. Wright)
- The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (Doris Goodwin)
2018 Reading List:
- Grant (Ron Chernow)
- A Brief History of Ireland (Richard Kileen)
- Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory (Tod Bolsinger)
- The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (Timothy Egan)