We’re in the middle of a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers.  You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post.  For the second week we’re tackling the topic of books, and today’s question was submitted by the Summit’s Small Groups Guy, Spence Shelton.

How do you read? You seem to read a lot. When do you read and how much do you read? a book a week? Three books at once?

How do I read? Great teachers in my formative years (rim shot!).

It’s true I do quite a bit of reading.  There’s no way I can ever hope to compete with this guy, who has been known to read a commentary set during commercials.  But as Piper says, “Either read or get out of the ministry.”

Editor’s Note: That was actually John Wesley who said that.  Perhaps you should read him sometime.

So since I dig the ministry, I read.  Here’s my loosely-formed strategy:

  • Keep it diverse. I read books on theology (the ones with lots of pictures), books on practical ministry, books on counseling, books on leadership, books on organization, and books about Stinky Cheese.  Occasionally I’ll try to stretch myself and read something way outside of my comfort or interest zone, just to keep a broad reach.
  • Keep it focused. There have been times in my life when I had seven or eight books going at once, and that’s just too many.  Now I’ll have three at the most: one that I’m zeroing in on and reading whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I may have another that I use to complement my quiet times, as I have time to add it in (currently that’s Packer’s Knowing God.) And then of course there’s the obligatory – ahem – library reading.  Focusing on the one primary book in this way allows me to get through it quicker and helps me to wrap my mind around that particular topic for a concentrated amount of time. (I refer to the primary book, not the … never mind.)
  • Make time. This continues to be one of the greatest struggles with my reading.  My goal it to read a little each day, but of course it doesn’t always happen.  I can always find a stretch of time – a quiet Saturday or a plane ride – where I can knock out a few hundred pages of reading – but that’s the exception.
  • Interact. A few years ago, I moved from the yellow highlighter – my preferred book reading companion – to a good old ink pen.  Doing that allows me to interact with the text, ask questions, make comments, etc.  I will typically underline anything that stands out, and then star anything I want to remember or to go back and revisit.  Anything that gets starred gets noted in the front of the book.  By the time I finish a book I typically have one of the cover pages full of one-line notes and corresponding page numbers.  Those notes serve as a great summary months or years later when I want to look up one of the book’s main ideas.
  • Reflect. I alluded to this in a recent post, but I’ve just recently started taking time to move my written notes to a Word document.  This allows me to have all of my reading notes in one place, they’re highly searchable with the right keywords, and it forces me to spend that extra few minutes crystallizing the book’s message.
  • Record. Every book I read goes into an Excel spreadsheet: title, author, and date completed.  This allows me to remember what I’ve read at a glance and ensures that I’m keeping a balanced diet of reading topics.
  • Pass it along. From time to time I try to share what I’m reading with you, by way of a book review.  You can see those I’ve done in the past at the bottom of this post.

I’d love to know what you’re reading and how you read.  Comment below!