5 Kinds of Books I Focus On

Ask around and the people closest to me will heartedly confirm that I read a lot of books.

A LOT.

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.

ExamplesLove 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. 🙂

Our Emotional Health

Every morning I step onto a scale in order to weigh myself. I don’t HAVE to do this, but I CHOOSE to. Some days I’m encouraged by the progress I’m making in terms of “dropping a few lbs” and other days I want to get the scale professionally checked for accuracy (know what I’m talking ’bout?).

Being faced with the truth can be frustrating. But the numbers don’t lie, and neither are they personally invested; they are merely reporting information. It’s our responsibility to consider those numbers and give them subjective weight (pun intended).

What will we do with the information that the scale has revealed to us?

How will we process it?

What actions will come as a result?

Information should lead to introspection.

Truth begets thoughtfulness.

To get physically healthy we must wrestle with what the scale reveals. Such is the case with the physical, but what about the emotional? We can’t weigh JOY like we can pounds. Can we say no to ANGER like a donut? Friends, it’s difficult to quantify our emotional health, and much easier to hide than the physical aspects.  Don’t you wish we could simply step onto a scale, get a read out of emotional health, and then take appropriate steps? But alas…

What are some things that we can do in order to enhance our emotional health?

1.  Enlist Coaching and Accountability.  Get yourself a team of quality people that are rightly aligned with your desires for better emotional health. You cannot afford to go at this alone.

Who will coach you?  These ought to be people that are further along in their life journey, and have seen a degree of success in areas of emotional health.

Who will cheer you on?  These are folks that you can be completely transparent with, and that will in turn spur you on.

For me personally, I have enlisted a couple of older, wiser, Godly men that graciously serve as my coaches. These are not “buddies” (although we have mutual friendship), but rather they are “clear voices” that I have chosen to listen and respond to. As well, I have those that cheer me on;  “emotional health running partners”, if you will, that are on a similar track as I am, and get the rigors of the race.

2.  Set Goals and Plans.  Once your team is in place, then together you are able to set some targets and timelines. Perhaps you are determined to focus your energies towards increasing your joy quotient, lowering stress, or getting a handle on depression. Set some goals regarding those areas of emotional health, and then expand upon that with clear and reasonable plans (how the goal can be achieved). This all seems very ethereal, I know, but the process is well worth it.

Perhaps you may set a goal of waking up happier three days a week. Or you may want to respond to adverse situations with less anger. Set those goals and plot out the plan. It’s important to write it down and then communicate it with your avenues of accountability. In other words, inspect what you expect!

3.  Celebrate Wins and Forward-Progress.  An important step in our emotional health is to celebrate successes (or even hints of success). It’s been said: “What gets celebrated gets repeated.” Of course, we know from various schools of thought such as child psychology, that positive reinforcement is an important facet in the forming of habits (hopefully good ones).

So, if you or those you’ve enlisted to help you, see areas of emotional growth, then be quick to celebrate! That kind of energy can be marshalled in order to tackle other aspects of emotional health and growth.

Why is all of this so important? Well, because Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Other translations of this passage call our heart the “wellspring of life.”

In other words, our emotional and spiritual heath matters.

Keep up the good work.