Reading is an important building block in my life. It’s part of my relaxation and leisure time, it’s part of my role as a pastor, it’s part of my development both personally and professionally. Reading, forever and a day, has always been part of my life and I can’t really think of a time when I haven’t read. Maybe late high school and into university, but that’s about it.
Each year I have a certain number of books I seek to read. This number of 26 (equivalent to one per fortnight) hasn’t changed since I was 24 years old. Some years I don’t make this target, most years I exceed it. And I don’t say this for boasting sake, but I say it for goal-setting purposes. I know I won’t be able to finish a book each week. I know I won’t be able to retain as much information as I would like if I read more non-fiction than I already do. I know I prefer to read physical books over audiobooks and ebooks. I know certain things about my reading habits, now having analysed my last 15 years of reading.
However, over the years I have learnt certain aspects to reading that has helped me know myself more. This includes these three tips below. Perhaps they’ll be helpful for you as you think about your reading too.
1. Choose Books You’re Interested In
If you’re not interested in the topic or theme of a book don’t waste your time. There are too many books out there to waste time on ones you’re not interested in. For example, I’m not particularly interested in reading about military battles, so I don’t really read anything military related. I’m interested in sport biographies, particularly cricket and basketball. I’m interested in Christian history. I’m interested in junk-time crime thrillers. None of them may interest you, you may think they’d be so boring. Stay away then. Pick books you’ll be interested in, it makes reading easier.
2. Stop Reading The Book If It’s Terrible
There is no need to finish a book if it’s not happening for you. If you are finding a book isn’t meeting your expectations then just stop and leave it. You don’t have to finish every book you pick up. Last year I tried to read a very popular leadership book by one very famous and highly recommended leader. I got about 60-80 pages in and pulled the pin. I found the writing terrible, the examples used were lacking depth, and it just didn’t seem like a book worth the expectations. It was time to finish up.
3. Use A Pencil, Mark-up the Margins, and Dog-ear the Pages
A book is to be read, and to be used. Show me a book in perfect condition and I’ll show you a book that either hasn’t been read, thought about, or digested.
A book is one of the cheapest development tools, particularly if we’re thinking non-fiction, and so we should mine the gold as much as possible. What other lifelong development tool is available for $15-$25?!
When reading non-fiction I like to use a pencil to underline important sentences and paragraphs. I’ll also dog-ear the page so that I know there’s something important in the book that I can go back to and make reference to or re-read later. I also make notes or comments in the margins that spark thoughts or memories or questions. Sometimes I even write short notes at then of chapters. Doing this slows my reading down, but it also allows me to think through the various issues and helps me learn more from the book. At the end of every read I usually copy those underlines and dog-eared paragraphs into a searchable digital format.
I get it. I enjoy reading. I enjoy learning. I think it has a place and priority in life. You may not. I get it. However, if you want to get more into reading or would like to improve in it then that’s a few random reading reflections for you. Any you would add?