Ask around and the people closest to me will heartedly confirm that I read a lot of books.
I have a book going ALL the time. Actually, I have a bunch of books going all at the SAME time. I realized recently that I’m a “binge reader.” I tend to get a handful of books from the library or Amazon and then I dive into them all and see which ones “catch on.” Some of them don’t really grab me so I simply set them aside. No worries. Perhaps I will engage them at a later time. Perhaps not.
Other books (plural) gain traction, and I love it when that happens. I’ll keep one in my backpack. Another 4-5 are bedside. Still others are available in my “currently reading” piles at my office and home study. I even keep books in my car (currently there’s about 15 in the backseat), on my iPad for when I fly, and, yes, by the commode (don’t judge).
Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, had it right: “There is no end to the writing of many books and reading many of them makes the body tired” (Ecc. 12:12). With all these books at our disposal, one may wonder how I choose WHAT to read. Glad you asked…
Here are Five Kinds of Books I Focus On…
1. Resource Books.
These kinds of books are those that are currently popular or people ask me about. As a pastoral leader, I get asked often about certain books. Folks wonder what I think about it or if it’s the kind of book they should read themselves. Obviously, I can’t read every such book, but I think it’s important for me to be somewhat conversant.
Examples: Love Wins by Rob Bell, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson
2. Research Books.
Many of the books I read serve as background for a particular preaching or teaching series. These may be commentaries, topical studies, or textual/expository (verse by verse) materials. These can often be dry, so I read research-like books sparingly.
Examples: Ben Witherington III Socio-rhetorical Commentaries, Jon Courson Bible Commentaries or The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.
3. Recreational Books.
Occasionally, I want to immerse myself in a good novel. Give me a well-written “political, who-done-it, edge of my seat, thrill-ride” of a book and I’m in my happy place. Toss in a Iced Triple Espresso and I’ve transported into the “third heaven.”
Examples: Anything by writers like John Grisham, Brad Thor, or Vince Flynn. Pretty much if it’s under $10, fits in my backpack, and I can get ‘lost’ in the action, I’ll read it.
4. Renewal Books.
This is a pretty broad category for books that benefit my personal growth, leadership development, and character development. These may be new releases from Christian authors, but I try to limit those because so much of what is being currently written is nothing new or revolutionary. Therefore, I lean mostly towards biographies. Biographies let me do the work of gleaning the lessons, growth points, and leadership concepts rather than having them spoon-fed to me.
Examples: Biographies by David McCullough (John Adams is my favorite), Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson, and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
5. Retreat Books
Throughout the year I have scheduled retreats for prayer and solitude. During these times I bring with me contemplative works – often old and classic. These are far from “pop fare,” but rather, deep wells of wisdom from seasoned sojourners.
Examples: The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence or anything by Eugene Peterson.
Ah, books. I love them.
By the way, if you’re ever asked what book you’d choose if you were to be marooned on a deserted island, you may be quick to say “The Bible.” I can’t argue with that choice too much because The Bible is without a doubt my favorite book in the world. But, I would tend to agree with G.K. Chesterton when he responded to that question with: Thomas’ Guide to Practical Ship-Building.
Think about it. 🙂