At the outset of a new year, I offer you a more lighthearted, overly long post. Enjoy.
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is weariness of the flesh.” ~Ecclesiastes 12:12 (ESV)
“When you come bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”
~2 Timothy 4:13 (ESV)
There are at least three truths we can glean from these two texts of Scripture. First, there are no shortage of books to read in the world, far more than we could ever read in a lifetime or ten. Second, reading, and more specifically studious reading, is a difficult pleasure. It requires time, energy, and focus. It takes as much from us as it gives. Third, prison may be the best place in the world to actually get reading done. So unless we find ourselves incarcerated like Paul, we will always struggle to find time to read.
It is often hard to get reading done, to finish books. The problem is not desire, or access to books, or cost (you can buy almost any work older than 100 years for about $1 on Kindle). It is time. We just don’t have the time. We have jobs, a spouse, kids, grandkids, church, sports, the playoffs, household chores, maybe exercise, and the need to sleep a few hours each day. Still, we recognize that there is much to learn and enjoy in books. They can challenge and encourage, shape and sharpen us for Christ. Fiction books also can provide wonderful entertainment and insight into our world.
If you want to read more this year but don’t want to go on a crime spree to free up some time, here are some tips:
Keep Track. Five years ago, I started keeping track of how many books I finished in a year. It wasn’t what I expected. I found that even though I considered myself an active reader, I only completed 15 books that year. Since then, I have found that keeping a book log helps me see my reading trends and and set goals for next year. Keep track of the books you finish. Make a list on paper, or create a Google Doc, or appoint a prominent shelf in your home where you put only books you have completed, displaying them like dog-eared nerd trophies. Maybe even give each book a score or write a few notes on what you learned.
Set a Goal. Last year I finished 50 books and I’m on track to do it again this year. But I got there gradually. In 2016 I read 22, then 29 in 2017, then 40 in 2018. Each year I set to read more. Figure out what you can do. A book a month is 12 books. Start there, or round up to 15. Set a challenge.
Make a list. Have a list of books you want to read, so you can always move on to the next. Have something waiting in the wings.
Read multiple books at a time. Some of you will hate this idea, but hear me out. I find it is key to help me stay interested. I usually read about four or five at a time. Two are fiction, three are nonfiction and/or ministry-related. Also, one of them is usually an audiobook (more on that later). If a book gets stale, I don’t stop reading it, but I give more attention to another. That being said…
Don’t start until you finish. I often lose interest in books about halfway through. It doesn’t matter if it is 200 pages or 1200, I usually hit the middle and start wanting to move on to something else. If I’m at my four- to five-book limit, I don’t want to add any more new books and I don’t just want to quit. When that is the case I won’t let myself start that next book until I finish the current one. Sometimes I even buy the book I really can’t wait to read and put it on the nightstand so I have extra motivation to finish my current book.
Get a plan. I did some math. The average book is about 200-400 pages long. I figured that If I read about 50 pages a day combined between all the books I am reading , it would add up to about 350 pages in a week. That is about the length of a book. This is also the benefit of reading multiple books at a time. I can read ten pages of this book, 15 of that book and it just needs to add up to about 40-50 pages a day on average. If you want to read 25 books in a year, cut those numbers in half.
Read with your Ears. I love audible books. I think it ‘counts’ as reading, though I use it almost exclusively for fiction. Instead of listening to music, listen to an audio book while you run, mow the yard, fold laundry, or drive to work. Audio books are expensive if you buy them straight up, so borrow them from the library or if you buy a Kindle you can often add the audible version at a super cheap price.
Make use of slow months. I finish more books in May, August, and December/January than any other months. Commit more time to seasons you know are freer.
“The Book was Better.” Just turn off the television. Besides the Mandalorian with that adorable Baby Yoda, there isn’t anything really worth watching. Go read a book, you’ll feel better about yourself.
Always bring a book. Going to the doctor or DMV? Stuck in traffic? On a plane? Read a book! Sure you should be talking to the humans around you, but if that fails, at least you’ll have a book.
Reading is a difficult pleasure. It is easier to binge watch a show on Netflix than it is to put time and focus into completing a good book. But you probably won’t get to the end of your life and say, “man, I wish I had time to binge through Gilmore Girls one more time.” Life is short and there is much to experience and learn through the reading of books. So set some goals, put in some new habits, find a comfy chair with some good lighting, and hop to it.