2 Tips for Reading More Books

Reading, like exercise, is something that many people do sporadically, a small population is obsessed with doing it, and almost everyone grudgingly admits to needing to do more often.

With search engines, online encyclopedias, and every kind of website imaginable, information is constantly at our fingertips. But with all of these tools, I still believe that books are one of the best forms for acquiring new knowledge.

But wait, you say, YouTube videos or internet articles can communicate the same knowledge in a more succinct fashion, right?

Well, yes and no.

You see, there is a cost-benefit ratio for using the internet, and one of the internet’s great benefits is also one of its great costs. The ease of accessibility enables us to gather information faster than ever before, but that same accessibility also allows us to shift to a new piece of information just as quick. The internet’s information can rapidly expand our knowledge, but it often does so to the detriment of our ability to focus.

And when it comes to concentration, the book has few rivals. It takes immense focus for a writer to coherently compose a comprehensible collection of words (you’re welcome for the alliteration, by the way). And likewise, it takes the reader a degree of focus to unravel the message that the author pieced together using words.

If you do not typically read books, you probably know the intimidation factor all too well, as even small books can sometimes feel like an impossible undertaking.

If you fall into this category, or perhaps you like reading books but want to read more, here are two quick thoughts to help you dive in.

1. TURN OFF THE TV

To be fair, television isn’t the only reading-killing culprit. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other such websites and applications are now just as prevalent as TV.

Many Americans devote large amounts of their free time to these forms of entertainment, and while there is nothing innately wrong with them, they are far easier to consume than even the most simply written books. Like the internet, visual media requires less focus to comprehend than written media; therefore, our attention will almost always tend toward the former.

If you truly want to incorporate more books into your life, turn off the television first.

If you use the TV for white noise, play music instead or learn to embrace silence.

Video will almost always hold our attention more than written words, so when you pick a book up, make sure the screen is turned off.

And for the sake of brevity, I will refrain from discussing on social media… perhaps another post at another time. 

2. START SMALL

Runners obviously do not start out with the ability to run marathons. When many begin their training, they can only run in short sprints before stopping to catch their breath. But over time, their bodies learn to adapt, and they are able to run distances that they once thought impossible.

For many of us, reading books proves to be as difficult as running a marathon. Fortunately, the brain, like any other muscle, can be trained to focus on long form reading with enough time and discipline.

Practically, this means if you can’t remember the last book you finished, Augustine’s City of God is probably not the best place to start. Begin with something in a more modern style and with fewer pages. Then work your way up to more complex works.

This also applies to the amount of time being given to reading.

At first, you may find reading for an entire hour to be boring and undoable.

That’s fine.

Start by reading for fifteen minutes. Once you enjoy focusing on a book for that time, up it to thirty and keep going.


So there you have it.

If you want to read more books, cut the visual distractions and begin with doable goals.

Remember that you will almost never simply find the time to read; instead, you must make time to read.

But as with most difficult tasks, it is worth the effort.

 

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Incarnation, Devotions, & Reading (Dec 23, 2016)

The Fullness of God Dwelled in a Womb

An excellent devotional from Jared Wilson.

10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017

Great thoughts!

Less important than how you do family devotions is that you do family devotions.


Dad, take responsibility for family devotions. Lead your family by leading them to the Word and leading them in prayer.

Drop Everything and Read

Reading is not an activity for when everything else is done. It’s an activity to put in our schedules first. We must guard and protect this time to nourish our minds and our souls.

Birth of Jesus – Gospel of Luke Ch 1-2

A fantastic start to their new series covering the Luke’s Gospel… and just in time for Christmas!

Light for Those Who Sit in Darkness

This Christmas may God cause our hearts to explode with real joy over the salvation that comes through Jesus. If that is going to happen, we first need the courage to reckon seriously with the darkness within us. And if we do this, then we’ll truly appreciate that “a light has dawned” among us (Matthew 4:16).

Reading, Indecision, & Ancient Pastors (Dec 9, 2016)

Here are a few articles from around the Internet worth reading this week.

2017 Christian Reading Challenge

I’m excited for this. I began following Tim Challies midway through 2016, so I missed his 2016 reading challenge. But my wife and I are jumping on board this year!

Those Books Won’t Read Themselves

So how about this for an early New Year resolution: In 2017 read some books, because books are good, and teach us many things. (And they are far better when physical objects than Kindlefied files – though if you’re going on a beach holiday you may take your Kindle.) Read broadly, but wisely – you don’t have to read stuff that does your soul no good. Read for information, and for pleasure, but not competitively. And don’t feel guilty about all the books you haven’t read, or those you only skim through, because of the making of many books there is no end. And read your Bible!

You Could Be Doing So Much

This is my last one on reading for the week. I promise.

I’m Paralyzed by Indecision – What Should I Do?

A great episode of John Piper’s podcast, Ask Pastor John.

1500-Year-Old Pastoral Wisdom from John Chrysostom

Chrysostom argued that if a preacher “is overcome by the thought of applause, harm is equally done in turn, both to himself and the multitude, because in his desire for praise he is careful to speak rather with a view to please than to profit” (5.2). Similarly, Chrysostom used the analogy of a skilled painter who “ought not to be dejected, and to consider the picture poor, because of the judgment of the ignorant” (5.6) to make the point that pastors shouldn’t be undone by the criticisms of some. Even outside of the context of preaching, a pastor should be indifferent to “slander and envy” (5.4).

How to Read a Book

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Amazon

 

Read page. Turn page. Repeat.

Sounds simple, right?

Nope. It just so happens that most of us don’t know how to read a book.

Fortunately, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren are there to help.

Summary

How to Read a Book by the two men mentioned above has the difficult task of addressing a problem that few people think exists. Their purpose for the book is not to teach speed reading or similar skills; rather, they aim to instruct readers in how to best gain understanding through the reading of books. As the subtitle states, the authors hope to guide readers in the intelligent reading of books.

They do this primarily by breaking reading into four levels: elementary (this is the most basic stage of reading words on a page), inspectional (which is all about developing a book’s main idea through skimming and superficial reading), analytical (which dives deepest into a book, gaining as much understanding as possible), and syntopical (which is comparing a variety of books to gain an even greater understanding of a particular topic).

In the appendices, there is also a list of recommended books, spanning millennia and genres, and self-assessment tests and exercises for evaluating one’s competency within each of the four levels.

Notable Quotations

[Television, radio, and magazines] are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think. (p. 4)


Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keep you awake—not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author. (p. 49)

The Audience

I honestly can’t think anyone, who is able to read, that would not benefit from this book.

We often seem to equate skilled and mature reading with enhanced vocabulary, but the authors argue that there is much more to it than that.

If the goal of reading is to gain a greater understanding, then we should constantly press ourselves to read books that are just beyond our comfort zone.

How to Read a Book puts the tools in your belt for tackling books that just might presently seem too difficult for you.

Why You Should Read This Book 

This purpose of the book fits well with Proverbs 3:13, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.” The Bible beckons Christians to learn, to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

Proverbs 1:7 states that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Because it is impossible to know the God of the Bible without also fearing His holiness and omnipotence, true understanding comes through knowing God.

Convenient to the discussion, God chose to reveal Himself to us through a book, the Book. Therefore, learning how to better read books will help a Christian better understand the Book, the Bible, which leads us to knowing God more.

Before you pick up another book (the Bible excluded, of course), read this one. It’s that helpful.

 

Introduction

You should read books.

Reading is one of the most complex activities we can set our minds to do. It engages your eyes, even as the real work happens when the imagination is sparked within the brain. Kinesthetic learners are able to highlight, underline, and scribble barely legible notes in the margins. Even the auditory ones among us have a home among books thanks to the rise of audiobooks or, you know, just reading out loud.

Indeed, I am convinced that no other medium stimulates the mind like reading a book. This, of course, still does not mean that all books are worth reading. But thankfully there are more books worth the time than we will ever be able to read in a lifetime.

Next week, I will begin a new series that will provide short, quick posts about books that are worth the time it takes to read them.

These are not necessarily book reviews.

Rather than reviewing, I aim to give a few important reasons for why you might give hours of your life to reading a particular book. After all, that’s the primary information that I scan book reviews for anyway. I’ll try to break this down into a few bullet points, such as a summary, a couple of notable quotations, who should read the book, and why they should read it.

I pray that these suggestions are beneficial and wish everyone happy reading.

 

COPYRIGHT© B.C. NEWTON 2016