I love to read…and my great weakness is new books. I am constantly acquiring books for my already tall “to read” tower. Yet, maybe ironically, I find that this pile is one of the greatest hindrances when it comes to enjoying what I am reading.
My expectation of the next book eclipses my attentiveness to the book I am holding in my hand. Especially as I get towards the end of the book, probably the place I should be paying the most attention, my mind starts to move on to what I will read next. Now, if this only happened with bad books I would not consider it a problem, but it happens with most of the books I read. I realize one way to solve this problem would be to stop buying books, but I am not ready for this draconian of a step (although I am pretty sure my wife is!). My solution, however, has been to install a winter reading plan.
For the last few years, I have not allowed myself to read a new book for all of December and January. Instead, in December and January I re-read my favorite books from the past few years. December is set aside to re-read my favorite non-academic (non-PhD research) books from the past few years. In December, I re-read my favorite two books from this year, my favorite two books from the previous year and one classic text. Also, in December ,I re-read the four gospels as a lead up to Christmas. Since in my research I work in Paul’s letters, it serves as a nice break and also a reminder there is this person named Jesus and he actually did a few things before the cross and resurrection! January is set aside to re-read my favorite (or the most important) books from my research. In January, depending on their length and complexity, I will re-read 4-5 books that have most shaped my research. This usually includes titles from this year and from past years. Also, I will read Galatians, the primary focus of my research, in Greek plus one English translation each week.
I have found that this little method allows me to really enjoy these books and also has carry over effects for my reading throughout the year. December and January have also become a very fruitful time for my own research. December, with no real inflow of academic works, has become a time for my thoughts to crystallize helping me to formulate a mental sketch of my research for the coming year. January has been a time for me to remember the reasons I started this research in the first place and to regain my bearings.
Here are my selections for this December and January:
- from this year: Quiet by Susan Cain, The Pastor by Eugene Peterson
- from last year: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, beautiful boy by David Sheff
- classic: On Christian Doctrine by Augustine
- Recovering Paul’s Mother Tongue by Susan Eastman
- Because You Bear His Name by Bonnie Howe
- The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle by Albert Schweitzer
- Paul by William Wrede
- The Way We Think by Giles Fauconnier and Mark Turner
There it is, but for now back to the pile…I still have five days to hurry through a few more books!