Excellent tips on reading

January 16, 2009

Reading has helped me immensely! And I believe it will help all of us immensely, especially if done with a commitment to disciplined discernment, and with goals and fitting strategy in mind…

I recently read an excellent, very practical three part series on reading more, and reading more efficiently, by Tony Reinke (HT: Justin Taylor). I’ve listed his 3 tips below, with a few highlights and thoughts of my own. To read Tony’s full post on each tip, click on the blue tip titles: 

Tip 1: Capture Reading Time

Tony Reinke: “So, when do I read? Everytime I get a spare moment. Sometimes I read over my morning bowl of Crispix, sometimes I read over my lunchtime can of tuna, and sometimes I read over my evening cup of decaf. I read at the DMV. I read when I’m waiting on my barber…

Your personal goal may be 5 hours of weekly reading. Sounds like a lot. But you hit this goal if you set aside 15 minutes to read in the morning, 15 minutes to read at lunch, and 15 minutes to read before you fall asleep. Reading at 225 words per minute, you could easily read one book every week.

My point is that time is a precious commodity for the reader. And we all can make extra time within our day to invest in reading. Reading 50 books per year is a realistic goal for most of us (paying for 50 books is quite another problem).”

Tony states that the average reader moves through a book at a pace of 200-250 words per minute, and assumes that the average book is around 60,000 words in length. Even if you read only 200 words a minute, if you employ his plan above (45 minutes of reading a day, in three 15 minute chunks), 5 days a week, you will read over 35 books a year! Reduced to 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute chunks), 5 days a week, you will still read 25 books a year! (That’s still a rate of one book every 2 weeks!)

The bottom line is this: Be encouraged! You can probably read far more than you thought you could, far more easily than you thought you could (I myself am encouraged for these reasons!). Decide what moments you can commit to “redeeming”, set your own goals, and get reading! : ) 

Tip 2: Read with a Pen in Hand

Tony Reinke: “When it comes to writing in books, I have no fear. I litter books with my indecipherable scribbles for three specific reasons:

1. To highlight what I appreciate.
2. To notate content progression.
3. To critique what I don’t appreciate.”

Tony then goes on to explain each of these specifically – and this is well worth reading in entirety! I was blown away by how much diligence and focus goes into this, convicted because I realize how often I go through the motions of reading without drawing the benefit from it I should, stunned by how much more profitable reading must be when one does all this (especially with how much more easily one can go back to a book and be reminded of what was learned/ use it as a reference), and excited to employ these methods (with a few twists to fit me). If you are hesitant to mark your books up, perhaps a notebook could serve a similar purpose?

Here’s a key section from this post:

Tony Reinke: “Reading with pen-in-hand is also important because good readers are critics. And reading with a pen reminds me that I am a critic. Open to new discoveries, yes. But always a critic.

Two clarifiers here. First, when I say “critical,” I mean a state of humble evaluation, not a state of prideful negation. Next, let me say that each of our hearts struggle with sin in different ways. Some of us find it easy to thrash books with the scissors of criticism, but resist being chiseled ourselves by wise books. This is pride. Some of us will find it easy to praise good books, but difficult to criticize specific thoughts. We will lift the thoughts of others without critique and discernment. This is laziness.

My struggle is with laziness. And so I started writing in my books to confront this tendency.”

This is reading with discernment! Whether marking a book up is our chosen tool for cultivating this or not, the diligence to be discerning is incredibly important! Without it, we could well be wasting our time, or opening ourselves up to error, or at the very least – learning less from our reading time than we could.

Tip 3: Read With Purpose in Mind

This post is mostly helpful in respect to choosing books – in putting together a reading list, ask yourself what you most need to learn. It also includes some interesting and helpful ideas on how one can get more out of Bible reading.

A few more tips on deciding upon books to read:

  • Our recommended reading list may be of help to you (click here). It also includes tips on buying Christian books for less (new or used), and links to a website that allows you to swap books.
  • Discerningreader.com can be a very helpful website (click here). Also, one of the discerningreader reviewers, Tim Challies, often posts reviews of recently released books on his blog. Keeping track of his blog helps me keep up with what’s coming out, and what might be most worth my time – he is a good guide (click here).
  • Get involved in our men’s and women’s small groups! The books these groups will be reading have been carefully selected by the Bethel Grace pastoral staff to meet specific needs we discern in our congregation. 

If you happen to be interested, I’ll be posting my reading goals soon.

Happy (and productive) reading! May God use it to grow you, and to equip you to live a life that is a greater blessing to others and more glorifying to Him…

~ Donovan

HT: Justin Taylor

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One Response to “Excellent tips on reading”

  1. […] while ago, I wrote a blog post highlighting Tony Reinke’s excellent reading tips (read it here). I have taken his advice in selecting books I will try tackle this year – both his advice about […]

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