Confessions of a Book Nerd: Why, What, How, and When To Read
Patrick and I are often asked if we read all the books written by the people we have on the podcast. And the answer is, “Yes! Yes, we do.” Neither of us would feel good about having a conversation with an author whose book we haven’t read.
That answer inevitably leads to questions about how many books we read in a year and how we work reading into our schedules. Here are some quick hits on how I think about reading.
WHY Should You Read?
- You get a mentor. Everyone is looking for a mentor, but very few people find one. When I read, it’s as if other people pour into my life. This is especially true with biographies, which usually include key lessons that people have learned over the course of their lives. By reading biographies, I can learn their “life lessons” while there is still time to implement them into my own life.
- It’s better than TV. No one changed the world by watching television…or changed their family, neighborhood, church, city, or anything, really.
- You learn how to communicate better. Reading helps me become a better communicator. I don’t just learn from what is said but also from how it’s said.
- You become a better dinner guest. I grow weary of conversations that are always and only about how busy everyone is or what everyone’s kids are up to. Those are fine topics, but I also find it interesting to talk about current events or things people are learning. When you read, you have something to contribute to the conversation other than the kids’ sports schedules.
- You learn about the human condition. When I read, I learn about how people think, what they feel, the issues they face, their hopes and fears, and much more.
- You have something to give others. As a pastor, I’m often asked to give people advice or input on both spiritual and practical topics. I must keep learning in order to have something to offer.
- You’ll never stop learning. I read because I love to learn and have my ideas challenged.
- You’ll fill in some gaps. I read because I need to shore up holes in my life. When there’s something I don’t know, my first reaction is to get a book and learn about it.
WHAT Should You Read?
- Read widely. Don’t limit yourself to one genre. Read fiction, history, biography, nonfiction, Christian living, Christian theology, and any other genre that interests you. Reading widely keeps you from getting stuck in a rut.
- Read a variety of sources. Read newspapers, magazines, and Substack newsletters. I subscribe to way too many things. A subscription to Apple News ($9.99/month) gets you access to several good periodicals. For different reasons, I really enjoy the newsletters published by The Free Press, Ten Minute Bible Talks, Matt Taibbi, Samuel James, and Aaron Renn.
- Go over your head. Read books and articles that have vocabulary and concepts that are over your head. If you don’t stretch yourself, you’ll never grow.
- Read from people who disagree with you and offer a different perspective. It’s the height of arrogance to assume that you’ve got it all figured out and that those on the other side of an issue don’t have anything important or helpful to say.
- Seek out recommendations from people you respect and admire. Look at what’s popular on the New York Times best-seller list. Sometimes it’s good to read what others are reading because it allows you to stay current with the cultural conversation.
- Become an author’s superfan. Find an author you like and then read everything (or at least lots of what) they wrote. If you don’t know where to start, try C. S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, N. T. Wright, or Michael F. Bird.
- Get author recommendations. Find out what books have shaped the people you respect and admire, then read those books.
- Read old and new books. C. S. Lewis defines “chronological snobbery” as the (false) belief that modern people have advanced beyond those of the past. Reading books published in different time periods helps you see the holes in contemporary thought.
- Get inspo from our podcast. Read the books written by authors interviewed on Truth Over Tribe.
- Utilize recommended reading lists. Below, you’ll find links to my favorite books from the past several years. I originally posted these on our church blog, and I’m hoping you might find some books that you want to read.
HOW Do You Read?
- Don’t read every book the same. Some books can be read before bed, and others demand more focus and attention. Depending on what I want out of the book, I’ll listen to it on Audible, read it on Kindle, or read a hard copy.
- Read interactively. Underline important sentences, star significant paragraphs, and write questions in the margins.
- Find a person or small group you can discuss books with. I always learn more when I discuss what I’m reading. Plus, it keeps me accountable for finishing a book in a timely fashion.
WHEN Should You Read?
- Always take a book with you. You never know when you will have a few extra minutes at the doctor’s office, while waiting to pick up kids from school, or at the ballgame while your kid is sitting on the bench or playing right field.
- Read when you work out. I’ve read while riding a stationary bike, on the elliptical, or using the StairMaster.
- Replace Netflix with a book. Almost any time watching TV would be better spent reading.
Are Americans really reading far less today than in the past? According to recent polls, they are. But why? And why does it matter? Hear more on our podcast.
Posted by Keith Simon