The best ideas I have come from the best books I read.

When I think back over the last year, I can’t communicate that enough.  The best ideas that have changed my walk with Jesus, my marriage, my fathering, my vocation, my habits, and my worldview have come from the best books I have read.  And that is huge for me because I hated reading.  I could not stand it.  I learned how to skim over what I needed to know in order to make it through requirements, but I did not enjoy reading.

From what others tell me, I loved to read when I was younger.  It was probably because it was an option rather than a mandate.

I like to want to do something rather than have to do something.

The further you go in school, reading is assigned rather than selected.  Maybe its the pioneer spirit in me, but I lost interest in mandated reading.  Education didn’t allow me to quit though.

College showed me the need to read, seminary taught me how to read, and adulthood has caused me to long to read.

When I completed my last phase of formal education, I had this foreign opportunity which I felt as if I had never had before: I could read what I wanted to read.

I have reached the place where I love to read.  I used to act like I didn’t have enough time, but Tony Reinke challenges that notion for all of us in his book, Lit:

“First, most people can find sixty minutes each day to read.  It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t: fifteen minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes at lunchtime, and another thirty minutes in the evening.  No problem.  At this pace, you can devote seven hours to reading each week (or 420 minutes).

“The average reader moves through a book at a pace of about 250 words per minutes.  So 420 minutes of reading per week translates into 105,000 words per week…Assuming that you can read for one hour each day, and that you read at around 250 words per minutes, you can complete more than one book per week, or about seventy books per year” (130).

When seen in that light, reading doesn’t seem like it is that much of a far-reaching goal for many of us.  Honestly, we must address distractions more than anything else.

“What competes for your reading time?  What is less important than your reading?  Nothing squanders time away more than pursing things without a purpose.  And given that the average American adult (18-34) invests only 10 minutes each day reading, yet watches 116 minutes of television, I think many of us have time that we can spend differently” (134).

How to Discipline Yourself to Love Reading

I do think reading comes naturally for some people, but I believe that many of us must discipline ourselves to read before we find ourselves loving to read.

Here’s a few points for you to consider that might help:

  1. Commit to read from 2 books everyday.  I have a to-do list system that I live by, and in it, I remind myself of daily reading.  Everyday, I read from the Bible and my book of the week.  Having a Bible reading plan helps navigate what to read and having a set book for the week helps me get after it.
  2. Create a deadline for book completion.  Every Tuesday, a to-do list item of a book completion is looming for me.  I don’t make it every week, but it keeps me disciplined and into books.  Given those stats above, there is no reason that I can’t turn off the TV and attempt to read one book a week.  You don’t have to have a weekly goal, but make a realistic goal of how many books you think you can read in a month.  If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time.
  3. Diversify the types of books you read.  I find myself gravitating to certain types of books and neglecting other genres.  Seeing the need to change, I have utilized a rotation of choosing books regarding loving the Lord with my heart (family), soul (sanctification), mind (theological/apologetical), and strength (ministry).  This rotation keeps me from not pigeon-holing my reading and makes sure I am working on all areas in my life.  I am now adding fiction and biographical volumes to that rotation.
  4. Create a reading order.  Know what the next 5 or 52 books you want to read are.  Put them in order on your shelf.  Have them ready to go.  Think through the rotation you want to read, identify some areas in your life you need to work on, and make the list.
  5. Summarize and archive most important points.  I highlight while I read, and after I am complete, I archive the most pivotal quotes for me.  It helps me process and plan what I need to do as a result of that book.  It also is a great way to keep up and remember what you read later.  Some people have a notebook, use Evernote, or archive them in some other way.  I have begun to archive my notes on my blog and it is a great way for me to go back and review while encouraging others to read.

Knowing that I need to read, I disciplined myself to read.  I have now gotten to the place where it is a habit.  I long for it.  When we had a crazy week a while back, I commented to my wife, “I need more books right now.  My brain needs feeding.  I just feel stupid.”  She laughed, but I marveled at how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go.

I will leave you with this quote from John Piper concerning reading:

I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book or article I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.  -John Piper

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.