Reading rates are down even as literacy rises. Americans can read; we just don’t.
Harry Potter has at least infused a generation of children with the joy of reading, but it is difficult to know whether that will translate into reading more serious works in future years.
Christians tend to read more than non-Christian counterparts, but a quick glance at the book selection in your local Christian bookstore will deflate your bubble of joy. Serious books for serious minds are usually relegated to the back of the bookstore (or occasionally in the bargain bin!).
I felt an odd mixture of joy and sadness at last year’s Southern Baptist Convention as I came across row after row of great books marked way below their regular price. I was happy for the great deals. I was saddened to know that the reason the greatest books were on sale was because they weren’t selling.
Several years ago, I began setting a goal of reading 100 books a year. That’s roughly two books a week. 2007 was the first year I met the quota. Since then, several people have asked about setting goals for book-reading. Others have asked, Can it really be done? Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Set a reasonable goal.
If you’re not already an avid reader, don’t try for 100. You might try for 40-50 in 2008. Let me encourage you to set the bar high. But don’t make it so high you can never make it.
2. Read everywhere.
Waiting for a haircut? Read. Waiting at the doctor’s office? Read. Going on a trip? Read. Watching TV? Read. Taking a bath? Read. Getting dressed in the morning? Listen to an Audio Book while you’re combing your hair, brushing your teeth, taking a shower. Boring sermon? Read. (Just kidding on that last one… although I will admit that as a kid I used to read Scripture if the preacher was making me sleepy.) Get in the habit of reading anywhere and everywhere.
3. Read faster.
I’ve given some tips on faster reading before on this blog, so let me just summarize them quickly. Don’t read out loud. Use your finger or a bookmark to follow the lines on the page. Pace yourself so that you are forcing your eyes to take in the lines and paragraphs faster than you normally would read. Stop reading word-for-word, and start reading line-by-line.
4. Read smarter.
If you’re reading an intellectual work, read the introduction and conclusion of the chapter first. Glance at the subtitles and get an idea for where the author is going. Then go back and read the chapter quickly. You will be able to fly through the chapter because you’ll already know what the author is saying.
5. Turn off the TV.
Start using your down time to read good magazines and good books. Don’t let entertainment rob you of your brain cells. Wake up a little earlier in the morning to get some reading in (if you can stay awake).
6. Read what you like.
Find books on topics that interest you. Read widely. Don’t get into a rut of only reading one type of book from one theological persuasion. Read some fiction. Read biographies. Read the classics. Mix it up and keep it interesting. If you start a book and don’t like it, put it down. Don’t slow yourself down by sludging through a book. Better to find another book you like more and read it.
7. Stretch yourself.
Don’t read just what you like. Push yourself to read important books and not fluff. Take a look at what great Christian thinkers are reading and read those books too. Read famous authors. Read hard books. Just make sure you read hard books in between more enjoyable books so you don’t lose your passion for reading. Who knows? You might start liking the books that stretch you.
I hope these words of advice inspire you to set a reading goal in 2010. Happy reading!
This post was adapted from an earlier post on January 1, 2008.