Wednesday, December 2, 2009

how I read Christian books

This one's left over from all those EQUIP book club posts last month - I couldn't quite fit it into my post on reading the Bible. So I thought I'd save it for this blog! Enjoy.

My guess is that most of us would like to read more Christian books than we do. Perhaps we'd like to read more books than we do! We know Christian books are good for us, but like 5 serves of veges, it's hard to fit them into our daily diet.

So how do you fit Christian books into your life? How do you choose which books to read? How do you remember what you read? Is it okay to scribble all over your books, or are books best left pristine and unadorned? These are the questions I'd like to chat about today.

How I read Christian books when I'm too busy for reading. I keep Piper's goal in mind. He says that if you read for 15 minutes a day, even if you read slowly, you'll get through 10 good books a year. When I first heard this I thought, "Piper really doesn't get how little time mums with young babies have." Now my kids are older, I aim for 15 minutes, although I often can't manage it. To keep my reading ticking over, I put a topical book, with a pencil inside, on a shelf near the loo (TMI!). At times, I've just aimed for 5 minutes a day after I read the Bible - see theological reading for mums and other busy people. I try to remember that something is better than nothing, and if it takes me months to get through a good Christian book, so be it.

How I stay disciplined about reading. The secret is to carve out a regular quiet time for reading. For me, on the days I manage it, this is after my kids get home from school: we chat about the day, I get them a snack, then I have a cuppa and read while they have their (limited!) screen time for the day, before the evening rush begins. I keep reading fun and comfortable: drinking, eating and reading go really well together! I have a few different books on the go to keep it interesting. I only read novels just before going to sleep (mainly!) or I'd never read anything else. One great way I've found to stay motivated about reading is to read a book with a couple of Christian friends and discuss it when we get together - like an informal EQUIP book club.

How I choose what to read. At the start of every year I create a reading plan (I depend a lot on recommendations*) - and get through just over half of it plus extras, if this year's list is any indication! I try to include something from these categories, chosen because they're helpful in themselves or important in my life: the cross, old Christian classics, biography, biblical womanhood, marriage, parenting, and household management. In reality, what happens is that I mainly read about topics I'm thinking and writing about, but the books on my list keep me reading more broadly. I've always got a novel on the go for variety and relaxation - some "worthy", but most fun! I'd love to read more poetry, but I'm not sure how. Any ideas?

How I remember what I read. I have a lousy memory, and can easily read a book then forget it all. The best method I've found is to write a short summary of each chapter at the head of the chapter as I finish it. This gets the book clear in my head and fixes it in my memory. When I come back to it I can see at a glance what's in each chapter, and the small space keeps my notes short. I also pencil significant points, or page numbers indicating significant passages and quotes, in the back of the book, and I'll often write a short review in the front as I read. The only problem is that I can no longer loan out my books or I'll lose my notes! - so I'll buy more books to give away. My friend takes notes and quotes down in a journal. It can also be helpful to read a book through twice: once quickly, once slowly.

What are your favourite ways to keep reading and remember what you read?

I've been encouraged and inspired by Piper's How do you remember what you read?, Meet John Piper and The Pastor as Scholar; Challies' 10 tips to read more and read better and Random thoughts on reading, and Bruce Ashford's On disciplined reading.

*For lists of good books to read, see my some books to read before you die and good books on biblical womanhood, Piper's What are some books that Desiring God recommends, Challies books I recommend, Titus2Talk Books for her, GirlTalk reading, and the books on EQUIP book club.

images are from megan.barton, db+photography, and mickiky at flickr


Valori said...

Hey Jean -- just checking in to say "Hi!" since I haven't written you in awhile! I usually read a part of a good Christian book during my quiet time, along with the Bible and Carson's For the Love of God -- some days all book, some days all Bible, some days both, some days something completely different! Also, I had cut fiction out of my life for awhile because I couldn't seem to put it down in the middle of the day (lack of self-control). About 4 or 5 years ago, I started the practice of reading a fictional work (usually a classic because I love those) each evening for about 15 minutes. I honestly can't believe how many books I've read in that way! Plus, that practice has the added benefit of helping me turn my mind away from all the to-do's still floating around in there! Hope you are well!

Jean said...

Lovely to hear from you, Valori! I love the way you manage your reading - they are excellent ideas you've shared, and well worth imitating! I like the way you vary your reading during your quiet times, and the way you read a little of a Christian book most days.

I also had to stop reading novels for many years (except ones I'd read before) because I couldn't put them down. Now I have kids, there are so many distractions in my life that this is no longer a problem, and like you, I can enjoy them for about 15 minutes in the evening.