Charles “Tremendous” Jones claimed that “readers are not always leaders, but leaders are always readers.” Indeed, the men that have had the most impact on my life were well informed and exhibited a wide range of knowledge on living life well. They disciplined themselves to read material conducive to their own growth and development as Christian men.
The Challenge of Motivation
However, some men view reading as a chore. Others never read much of anything simply because they think of themselves as “not a reader.” If these sound familiar, I challenge you to engage your mind with the printed page. It’s impossible to develop and mature as a person if you’re only relying on what you know. Here are a few thoughts that I hope encourage you to read more.
1. You will improve
If reading isn’t your forte, you can improve your reading skills to the point where you actually enjoy reading. If you haven’t read a book in years, you should make yourself do it. In my youth, I was definitely not a reader and was never encouraged to read. It took college to open my mind to the importance of reading, and I can attest to the fact that anyone can become a better reader. It’s never too late to start.
2. You will grow
Becoming a good reader will expand your world in a variety of ways. For starters, it has been proven to increase your ability to focus and concentrate, improve your memory, enhance your ability to communicate, reduce stress, and expand your vocabulary. You will grow as a person in your various roles as husband, father, worker, or friend.
3. You will mature
Your relationship with Christ will improve by reading material that informs and challenges your faith. Of course, daily Bible reading is the most important reading we can do. Beyond that, you should read books that will inspire you to become a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better Christian.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “The best book is not one that merely informs, but one that stirs the reader up to inform himself.” Don’t think of your mind as a storage facility, but rather as a lens through which you view the world. With the Holy Spirit as your guide, the knowledge you gain from reading will deepen your faith and strengthen your ability to love God and others.
Don’t think of your mind as a storage facility, but rather as a lens through which you view the world.
The Challenge of Selection
Perhaps the greatest challenge in reading is one of selection—finding suitable material. Solomon said, “of making many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) The amount of printed material calling for our attention is so overwhelming that it’s hard to know what not to read. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Read trustworthy authors
When I find an author whom I trust and whose life backs up his or her writing, I am drawn to read their literary works. This is why I’ve read almost everything J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Timothy Keller have written. There are many good, solid, dependable Christian writers whose works will bless your life. If you’ve never read Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, I highly recommend it. The classics are always a good place to start, or you might simply choose a book written by someone you greatly admire (e.g., Billy Graham).
We can also learn much from people with opposing beliefs and views. As a pastor, I often read material that runs contrary to my own belief system to better understand opposing views and to evaluate them in light of scripture. However, if you are a beginner and wondering what you should read, I would avoid this kind of content.
2. Get good recommendations
Secondly, if you’re struggling with this issue of selection, you might talk to people you trust and get their recommendations. Find out what books they enjoyed or helped them grow spiritually. Many of the books I’ve read that proved really helpful were suggestions from friends.
3. Read for enjoyment
If you’re not a big reader and find you don’t really enjoy it, try reading about something that interests you. If you like sports, read a story about sports, like Moneyball. If you’re fascinated by Civil War history, try Killer Angels. If you like science fiction, try Hunger Games. Find something that interests you, get some good recommendations, and then discipline yourself to read a book in its entirety.
As a pastor, I don’t have much time for pleasure reading. I’m constantly reading things of a theological or ministerial nature, and there’s always a stack of books on my desk I’m planning to read. However, there are times when I indulge my appetite for fiction. I recently read all the Harry Potter books just because they were fun to read. (Don’t judge me!) By the way, that’s an observation not a recommendation.
Reading for pleasure will help you broaden your literary palette. I highly recommend J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and his Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve also enjoyed books by Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, and almost everything written by Baltimore’s own Tom Clancy. Bronte’s Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and I also thoroughly enjoyed reading historical war narratives by Antony Beevor and Stephen Ambrose. Manchester’s The Last Lion was a challenging read but, being a history buff, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
4. Start today
Procrastination murders opportunity and kills initiative. Don’t put off becoming a reader or improving your reading skills. Start today. If you’ve not yet read the Bible today, just do it. Start reading the gospels. Call a good friend and ask for a recommendation. The benefits will far outweigh the time and energy required.
Finally, the irony that you’re reading this is not lost on me. And while I appreciate the fact that you’re reading my blog, I hope it’s not the extent of your literary involvement. May the Lord bless your reading future!
For more of my book recommendations click here.