“Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecc 12:12)
There are three types of people in our country. There are, first of all, those who do not read. An AP-Ipsos poll recently revealed that 25% of Americans do not read books, while other polls have put the number higher, at around 50%. It is not that these Americans cannot read or that they do not accumulate knowledge. (No country’s citizens-and I mean none-bring more depth and import to subjects such as celebrity clothes, hair and makeup, and the intricacies of the Pitt-Jolie marriage than the citizens of the USA.) It is just that their knowledge is not gained from books. Second, there are those who read but do so aimlessly, choosing on a whim what to read and when to do so. Third, there are those who plan to read and who read with a plan.
This series of posts is meant to encourage college and seminary students to discover the joys and benefits of disciplined reading. Upon entering seminary fourteen years ago, I was a “serial reader” but not a particularly judicious or disciplined reader. By “serial reader,” I mean that I read lots of books. But I gave no serious thought to which books I ought to read, and I read plenty of books that were not worth the time spent. That first year of seminary, our president challenged us to acquire a 1,500 book library before having graduated from seminary. Uh huh. If my income had tripled during those two years I would not have been able to afford 1,500 books. But the challenge stuck with me. I wanted a 1,500 book library! Another professor, Dr. L. Russ Bush, challenged us to read the right books. If a book is deficient in content, analysis, and style, it just possibly is not worth the read, he argued.
Yet another professor pointed out the importance of words for the Christian faith. The Triune God is himself a model of accomplished communication. God created the universe through his Word (Heb 11:3). Jesus Christ is the living Word (Jn 1:1). The Spirit inspired the written Word and brings enlightens us as we read and meditate upon it. God has given us, his image-bearers, the unique ability to communicate through the written word, and has chosen to speak to us through it. To read is to image forth the Creator. In fact, as Danny Akin’s booklet, Building a Theological Library, points out, “as the apostle Paul faced his impending death, he still remained a student, requesting of Timothy that he bring the books when he came to visit him in prison (2 Tim 4:13).
In the following posts, I will seek to give brief answers to three questions: (1) What should I read? (2) How should I read? (3) What benefits are accrued from disciplined reading? Just for fun, I might include a few lists of “favorite books” in various categories.