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.
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. Reinke recommends judging a book by the 100-Minus-Your-Age Rule, meaning that if you don’t like a book by 100-YourAge pages, you can put it down. 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, because, 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. A helpful 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 the 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 steak: 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 up randomly like food from an appetizer tray.
- Are you pursuing externalized knowledge or internalized wisdom? Books can become crutches of external truths that don’t actually deepen your intellectual life or make you wiser. Don’t let that happen.
- 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: eReaders make it easy to be less discerning and feel like you have read a lot when in reality the way you use them makes you a shallow reader with a short attention span. The greater the technology (eReaders), the greater the temptation for distractions.
- Think about good/challenging things in books before you tweet about it. Learn what the book is saying before trying to teach it to others. Related to #7, this helps you prioritize internalizing wisdom.
- Read in a way that helps you in the future. Develop productive habits of marking books up that will help you reference a book in the future. 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 book and search for it 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.
A version of this post originally ran August 2, 2013.