How do you decide what books not to read?
How should you read a book so that you absorb as much as you can for the long run?
How should Christians read to engage the head and the heart?
In Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, Tony Reinke lays out a helpful theology of reading books and shares several practical tips on how to be a more intentional reader.
He tackles the preceding questions and more from a Christian perspective, seeking to set readers’ reading lives on a new trajectory that will allow them to glorify God the most with their reading.
Here are 12 things I learned about reading books from Tony Reinke:
- Everything we read should be filtered through the lens of Scripture and in the presence of God. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is always a good reminder. “In the presence of God” was a helpful point because God is always present with us.
- For every book you read there are 10,000 that you can’t read. Choose carefully and ask what a potential book builds into your life and how it will help you for the future
- Follow the 100 Minus Your Age Rule. Don’t feel guilty for being tempted to put a book down. Not all books are good or worth your time! Tony recommends judging a book by the “100 Minus Your Age Rule”, which is to say that if you don’t like a book by 100-YourAge pages, you can put it down. That means 30 year olds can put a book down 70 pages in, 60 year olds 40 pages in, and 100 year olds can judge it by the cover, heck they’re 100 :). The older you get, the quicker you should be able to tell if it is worth your time.
- Actively discern fiction. #1 test for if non-Christian fiction is good to read: how does it portray humanity? Good, bad, neutral? This will shape your outlook on life. Sometimes it can be beneficial to read non-fiction to gain a better understanding of how culture thinks different than the Christian worldview.
- You are never too busy to read. Cut out time wasters like watching TV and browsing the internet and pick up a book! Make time to read, not excuses.
- Reading several books at a time could be a valuable practice. Different genres are good for different times and levels of engagement. Some books are like a feast: you need to go slowly and savor every bite. Some are like milkshakes: you can chug them down quickly and move on, while others are able to be picked at randomly like an appetizer tray.
- Are you pursuing externalized knowledge or internalized wisdom? Books can become crutches of external reminders that don’t actually deepen your intellectual life or make you wiser.
- There are four temptations for Christian readers:
- Fragmented browsing vs. Sustained Comprehension
- Reacting vs. Thinking (see #8)
- Skimming with the Head vs. Delighting in the Heart
- The Kindle Temptation: you can be less discerning and feel like you have to read more, which may lead to a smaller attention span. The greater the technology on eReaders, the greater the temptation for distractions.
- Think about good/challenging things in books before you tweet about it. Another way of saying this is to learn what the book is saying instead of trying to teach it to others. This is related to #7, but more seeking external influence or power instead of simply knowledge.
- Read in a way that helps you in the future. Develop productive habits of marking books up that will help you pick up the book. At the end of a book’s chapter, Tony summarizes the chapter in one sentence and puts it at the beginning of that chapter so the next time he can know if it is worth reading. For non-fiction, Find the thesis of the overall book, and search for the thesis in each chapter.
- Realize what you shouldn’t read. On page 61 of the book, Reinke says, “Be cautious of reading literature that you are ill-equipped to read with discernment. Sometimes the proper Christian approach to literature is humble postponement.”
- Don’t idolize books. “Books are great tools, but they are disappointing gods. And once books become idols, those idols will leave us deeply unsatisfied.” pg183
This list is a random smattering of wisdom gleaned from Lit!. I hope the tips help you become a better reader and think about reading in a different light.