Q & A Friday :: What is your approach to reading multiple books at the same time?

“I see you are an avid reader, what is your method of reading multiple books at a time?”

I think reading is like anything else, if you want to do it you need to make it a priority. So personally I know there is a need for me to read good books to help me to grow in my understanding of and ability to articulate truth. Lloyd-Jones said that we must read in order to stimulate our minds. A great fear for me is to have all of these riches in Christ and then to go into theological entropy. It cannot happen.

So I intentionally pick books to read that will help me with my current situation. I do this being cognizant of personal blind spots, hobby horses, and areas that I need to keep before me. So as I sit here at my desk I have eight books in the on-deck circle. They consist of books on God’s character, Christian world view, Christian biographies, family matters, current issues and the gospel. This is typical for my lineup. The only exception would be trying to litter my lists with church history. This will go into the next lineup early next year. I really think variety is key, this keeps things fresh and interesting.

The question deals with the balance of reading multiple books at once. A friend told me when I started reading books about five years ago to read ten pages a day in two books and you will read two 300 page books per month. I used this method for awhile and found it quite helpful. Perhaps it will be helpful to others as well (h/t Fudge).

Currently I read several books at once. And just for the record pastors do not sit around all day reading books, some guys may be we don’t here. I have to fight for my time just like any other guy. I do however try to be strategic with the various relationships that I have. So for instance, my wife and I are reading through Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel for Real Life. We do not read it every night but we do read it together and talk about the chapters. I meet with a group of guys every other Thursday morning and we are reading The Roman Catholic Controversy. Another group of guys and I meet every Thursday afternoon and we are reading A General Introduction to the Bible. The pastors and elders here at OBC are reading through Salvation Belongs to the Lord. As a group we are usually always reading through a book and discussing it on Wednesday mornings. In addition to these I am reading Pierced Through for Our Transgressions, Can We Trust the Gospels?, Preaching and Preachers, & getting ready to start The Exemplary Husband. So this is an additional three books to the other list of four.

As far as attacking the multiple books I have a schedule to get through the various books. So with the books that involve meetings we read a chapter or two per meeting. With this I usually either get up early before the meeting or read it the night before so that it will be fresh and I will be able to interact and add value to the meeting. As far as the personal books, I have a day when I want to be done with them. I understand that this date is not sovereign and that things come up, but as a general rule I am working towards the completion of the book. Some nights Christie (my joint heir of grace) is tired and wants to go to sleep, in this case if I am not tired I like to grab a book and bore through a few chapters (if she is not tired we stay up and hang out. Memo to men: you are married to your wife, not your books). Mornings are also good times to enjoy quiet reading, but this does not always work well for me. I also bring books with me wherever I go and try to ‘redeem’ the moments that are so often spent waiting. Lunch time is a prime time to knock out some reading as well. Find a quiet place, put the feet up, and enjoy the book.

Reading is a priority for me but not the priority. I find and make time to read, but it does not become the driving force of my life. I have plenty of opportunities throughout a given week to read, I just need to have my book and pen nearby and jump on it.

So a quick answer to the question is a) make it a priority, b) get some friends in on it and edify each other, c) be disciplined, d) be flexible.

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