Monday, April 23, 2012

Reading - what and when?

A reader has asked me a question:
How do you decide what books to read? And how do you find the time to read them?
I thought I might take a little time to answer because other people have asked the same question over the last few years.

What to read?

It’s probably as basic as I choose to read what interests me. I have always been a reader, from childhood my nose was buried in a book. Usually fiction in the teenage years, but when I became a Christian it was a natural progression to read books that had a little more depth.

This blog started after an email book club disintegrated. When we left theological college almost 10 years ago, a group of the wives decided to have an email book club. We were scattering to 4 corners of the world, so email was the only way to do it. We decided on one book per month, often based on the list of all the books you know you want to read while at college but never have the time! We read quite a lot over a few years, all Christian books and ones we wanted to read.  Early on we decided we did not want to read rubbish, but good stuff.   If we were going to spend time reading, we wanted the time to be well spent.   At the end of the month, we would email around answering the following questions:
- What did you like?
- What did you learn/what challenged you?
- What did you disagree with/dislike, etc?
- Who would you recommend this to?

As time progressed, fewer and fewer of us had time to contribute. So, I decided to read the books on my personal list and review them on a blog.

When I read a review or hear about a book that interests me, I write it down straightaway. When a Christian bookstore has a sale, I go and buy up (or order online these days!)

For a while I was reading lots of blogs which highlighted books to read.  However, towards the end of last year, I found it overwhelming and I couldn’t keep up, so I cut right back on all the blogs I read.  My main blog sources for book ideas over the years have been:  Jean, Nicole and Meredith and Tim Challies.  There are many more out there, so if you are a fellow blogger, don’t be offended!  But these four have been my main source of reading ideas online.

Also, I follow through ideas relevant to our life:

I read marriage & relationship books – both because we think it’s important to continue to work on our own marriage, and because we do a lot of marriage preparation and enrichment with couples.

I read parenting books – because as a parent you are always looking for new ideas, and now friends ask for book recommendations.  I seem to have a revolving lending library of parenting books!

I read books about ministry and mission work – biographies and ‘how to’, both for interest but also because that is a key part of our lives and many people whom we love and support.

I read books about God, theology and the Christian life. I would love to read more in this category. Most of my sources here come from my husband, also a keen reader. He seems to always have some good theology books on the go.

I read non-Christian books – both fiction and non-fiction. Whatever takes my interest, what friends and family suggest, and authors that I like.

And I always am open to suggestions.  Now that people seem to know that I read, more and more people are suggesting books for me to read.  I love it, it's how I find our about many more books.  I don't guarantee that I'll review it, but I will probably try to read it.

When to read?

I read for about an hour every day.  We have had scheduled ‘rest time’ in our family since the children started dropping their day sleep.  After lunch ABC2 or a DVD goes on for about an hour.  It happens less now, as 2 kids are at school and our youngest is at pre-school.  But the understanding is that if you are home, rest time happens and it is also for Mummy who gets some quiet time then.  If we have plans that night, I also try to include my bible reading and prayer in that time, but more usually, I leave that for early evening, and put my feet up with a pot of tea, some dark chocolate and I read. These days I read about 30 mins of fiction and 30 mins of a Christian book. It’s not specified, I just find I relax with the tea, chocolate and fiction, and then am ready to turn my mind to weightier things after!

What about youHow do you choose what to read?  When do you read?


Unknown said...

Hi Wendy,

Very interesting to hear what you do.

I have a growing pile of parenting/christian books that I am just not getting through. I am often too tired at night to read anything but fiction. I had been thinking I need to spend half an hour during the day to read them. You have encouraged me to actually start doing this.

I love reading your reviews, especially as I think we have similiar taste.

One book i have been reading bits out of is the Tim Kellar book on marriage. I am finding it helpful.


Meredith said...

I think my previous attempt at a comment here has been eaten up by Blogger. But wanted to say that I almost felt like bowing before you when you said that you read fiction for about half an hour and then move onto the weightier material. Oh for such self restraint. I only read fiction during the school holidays because if a good novel gets me in, then that's that for all other reading and possibly many other things too. Easier to let things slide somewhat during the school holidays! You must have amazing self discipline.

Thanks for another great post - and again for the book recommendation of the previous post with accompanying helpful comments. I shall add it to the list.

Sarah said...

It's always interesting to hear what other people read and when. Thanks for sharing!

I read mostly at night, unless I'm on holidays. I hop into bed and read for about 30 mins before going to sleep. A few years back I wasn't reading much at all because 'I never had time'. Then I realised that reading wasn't just going to happen. Like everything else, if it was important to me, then I had to make time for it.

I tend to alternate between Christian and secular fiction. I'll read a Christian book, then a fiction book (or maybe a couple in a row if they are short). One thing I used to do that I stopped doing was be a 'coffee table reader' i.e. just pick up books and flick through them without reading them from beginning to end or have about five books on the go. I found it wasn't helpful and now I finish one book before starting another (except if it's boring).

I also tend to read fiction by author. At the moment, I'm reading a lot of Bryce Courtenay.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I tend to read at night and am currently reading 'Meals with Jesus' by Tim Chester. However, I'm thinking that I'd like to make a point of reading in front of my kids, particularly for my son. We do read a lot together but it'd be good for them to see me reading. It's hard to work out when that would be but we do have a possible window when our youngest has her morning nap. Lately I've been hearing stories of the impact a mother's role is in making bible reading integral to family life. I'd like to model reading the bible to the kids, like my mum did and while I do that, bringing out our Christian books/ bibles for the kids to choose to read. I'll aim for 10 minutes and we'll see where we go!

Wendy said...

Amellia - I'm the same as you - too tired to read anything too heavy at night, that's why if it happens it has to be daytime for me.

Meredith - don't bow down! It probably sounds more regimented than it actually is. If I am loving the fiction I am reading it is much harder to put down, and I, like you, also treat myself to more fiction in school holidays! I can't be as self-disciplined as you think, or I wouldn't have such a large pile of Christian books waiting to be read, yet an ever diminishing pile of fiction!

Sarah - you have made me realise I am a 'coffee table' reader! What a great description, it drives me nuts at times, unless I really like a book, I drift along with it - I really need to either choose to finish it or stop reading. Otherwise, espeically with non-fiction or Christian books, you almost have to start again anyway to get back into it. I really should just give up on them if they are boring!

Thanks Anon - I agree that it's great for your kids to see you reading, both the Bible, Christian books and secular books. A house full of books, library visits and parents curled up reading books definitely sends a message!

Thanks all for your comments.