Wednesday, October 16, 2013

how to read a Christian book (1) getting going

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's forgetting. Your name. What I did on the weekend. The experiences of last year. Gone, every one.

I used to read Christian books and forget them. In one sense, that's no big deal: we all forget, and it doesn't mean we haven't learned anything. But I also wasn't absorbing what I read: crystallizing the key points, tasting the sweet, going away informed and transformed. That takes a different kind of reading.

Over the years I developed a method of reading that helped me remember what I read. I thought this was idiosyncratic, something that would work only for me, until I read Tony Reinke's Lit!. To my surprise, a number of "my" techniques jumped off the page. If they're good enough for Reinke, they're good enough for me, and they might work for you too.

So here they are: 11 ways to read a Christian book, absorb it, and remember what you read. (If you're an e-book reader, adapt them for the screen; you can highlight and make notes there too.)

Make time for reading
When I had babies and thought I'd never get time to read again, John Piper taught me that if you read for just 15 minutes a day, even if you read slowly, you'll get through 20 books a year. Tim Challies points out that, even if you only read in the bathroom, you can get through a book or two a year. At least that's a start! Carry a book with you (much easier if you have an e-reader) and pull it out when you have a spare moment. Read while you eat lunch. Read in the doctor's waiting room. If you haven't done much reading, start with a book you think you'll enjoy on a topic that interests you.

Learn - or re-learn - to read a book
There's nothing like reading online to ruin your ability to read a book. Reading books can sometimes feel like an outdated skill, something you were forced to do at school and happily gave up once you left. I've noticed that when I do a lot of online reading, my brain learns to skim, to dip in and out, to jump from one idea to another. I don’t take time to think through and apply what I read. My reading becomes fragmented, shallow. To read a book, I have to retrain my brain, to coax it into a slower, more reflective style of reading. The good news is that our brains are very adaptable. We can learn new skills: it just takes practice.

You can read the other 9 tips at The Briefing, or wait for next week - I'll publish it in bits on this blog.

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