I love to read but I never seem to read as much as I want or even as much as I could.
There are the litany of typical reasons: I get busy, I am often too tired to read anything substantial and I am a fairly slow reader to begin with. For someone who grew up devouring books whenever they dared peek out from the bookshelves, I now find reading to be slow and oftentimes arduous. Part of that is because I am reading books more intellectually challenging than Redwall and Star Wars spin-offs. Another reason is that I never enjoy cruising through something I deeply care about; I want to grasp everything, savor everything, and let scarce little slip through my mental fingers.
But if I am honest with myself, I know the biggest reason I fail to read as much as I would like is plain, good ol’ lack of discipline. The best way I have learned to deal with a deficiency of discipline is by making a plan; or in this case, borrowing someone else’s. I make a plan when it comes to increasing my discipline with exercise, work productivity, student engagement and working through the Bible. So why not with reading?
This year I went with a reading plan put together by Tim Challies, the blogging machine responsible for Challies.com. His plan is diverse and suitable for a variety of readers and goals, ranging from those who would simply like to bring some consistency to their reading to those who would prefer to do nothing else in their life but consume books (I’m not sure how else you’d complete the Obsessed level of the plan). I opted for somewhere in the middle, at fifty-two books in a year. At the mid-July point, I am well behind the volume count but am steadily making ground and confident I will nearly -if not fully – complete the list by year’s end.
Below I include the list as well as the books I have read for each portion. If there is a category that remains unfilled, please feel free to make a suggestion. I have some ideas already for what I might read, but I am very open to being persuaded.
Key to the Reading List
Here’s how to understand the reading list as follows. There are three sections (Light, Avid, and Committed; 13 books, 13 books, and 26 books respectively). All combined, that’s 52 books in a year.
Here’s an example category and how to understand it:
A BOOK BY C.S. LEWIS OR J.R.R TOLKIEN (Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis)
Bold text means I have read the book and completed it. If the above category was in regular font format (i.e., not bold) it would mean that I haven’t read it yet but that I am tentatively planning on reading “Out of the Silent Planet” for that category. You could still, however, offer suggestions if you think I should read or would better enjoy a different book. If the above category was in italics it would mean that I am currently in the process of reading it at the moment. There are about five or six books on this list that I am currently reading. Some of these are books for which I only read one chapter a week (such as Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy), others are books that I have on my iPhone and which hI read whenever I have nothing else to do (Onward by Russel Moore), and others I will just pick up and read whenever the fancy strikes me (Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon).
A few other notes:
- You will notice I have read three books that do not neatly fit into any of the 52 categories, so I have included those in a clump at the end.
- I include a brief round of awards at the end for the books that have stood out so far.
- This list is clearly crafted by and for Christians. There are many books that non-Christians will read and enjoy, but quite a few of the categories are geared towards the growth and maturing of the Christian.
My hope is that perusing this list will (1) encourage you to read more, (2) prompt you to provide me with helpful reading suggestions, and (3) give you some good ideas for future books to check out for yourself.
Light – 13 books a Year
- A BOOK ABOUT CHRISTIAN LIVING (The Things of the Earth – Joe Rigney)
- A BIOGRAPHY (The Fellowship – Philip & Carol Zaleski)
- A CLASSIC NOVEL (Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck)
- A BOOK SOMEONE TELLS YOU “CHANGED MY LIFE”
- A COMMENTARY ON A BOOK OF THE BIBLE (The Letter to the Hebrews – The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Peter T. O’Brien)
- A BOOK ABOUT THEOLOGY (Visual Theology – Tim Challies)
- A BOOK WITH THE WORD “GOSPEL” IN THE TITLE (God is the Gospel – John Piper)
- A BOOK YOUR PASTOR RECOMMENDS
- A BOOK MORE THAN 100 YEARS OLD (The Prince – Machiavelli)
- A BOOK FOR CHILDREN (Sabriel – Garth Nix)
- A MYSTERY OR DETECTIVE NOVEL (Ready Player One – Ernest Cline)
- A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2016 (A Peculiar Glory – John Piper)
- A BOOK ABOUT A CURRENT ISSUE (Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Avid – 26 books a year
- A BOOK WRITTEN BY A PURITAN (Religious Affections – Jonathan Edwards)
- A BOOK RECOMMENDED BY A FAMILY MEMBER (The Knowledge of the Holy – A.W. Tozer)
- A BOOK BY OR ABOUT A MISSIONARY
- A NOVEL THAT WON THE PULITZER PRIZE
- A BOOK WRITTEN BY AN ANGLICAN (The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis)
- A BOOK WITH AT LEAST 400 PAGES (God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment – James Hamilton )
- A BOOK BY C.S. LEWIS OR J.R.R TOLKIEN (Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis)
- A BOOK THAT HAS A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IN THE TITLE
- A BOOK WITH A GREAT COVER (Neon Bible – John Kennedy Toole)
- A BOOK ON THE CURRENT NEW YORK TIMES LIST OF BESTSELLERS (Unashamed – Lecrae)
- A BOOK ABOUT CHURCH HISTORY (The Question of Canon – Michael J. Kruger)
- A GRAPHIC NOVEL (Nimona – Noelle Stevenson)
- A BOOK OF POETRY (The Waste Land & Other Poems – T.S. Eliot)
Committed – 52 books a year
- A BOOK BY AN AUTHOR WITH INITIALS (Heretics – G.K. Chesterton)
- A BOOK FROM A THEOLOGICAL VIEWPOINT YOU DISAGREE WITH
- A BOOK THAT WON A ECPA CHRISTIAN BOOK AWARD (Total Truth – Nancy Pearcey)
- A BOOK ABOUT WORLDVIEW (Finding Truth – Nancy Pearcey)
- A PLAY BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (Macbeth – Shakespeare)
- A HUMOROUS BOOK
- A BOOK BASED ON A TRUE STORY (The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien)
- A BOOK WRITTEN BY JANE AUSTEN (Persuasion – Jane Austen)
- A BOOK BY OR ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER (Brand Luther – Andrew Pettegree)
- A BOOK WITH 100 PAGES OR LESS (The Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis)
- A BOOK WITH A ONE-WORD TITLE (Onward – Russel Moore)
- A BOOK ABOUT MONEY OR FINANCE
- A NOVEL SET IN A COUNTRY THAT IS NOT YOUR OWN (1984 – George Orwell)
- A BOOK ABOUT MUSIC (Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Rap – Adam Bradley)
- A MEMOIR (The Rage Against God – Peter Hitchens)
- A BOOK ABOUT JOY OR HAPPINESS (The Pearl – John Steinbeck)
- A BOOK BY A FEMALE AUTHOR
- A BOOK WHOSE TITLE COMES FROM A BIBLE VERSE
- A BOOK YOU HAVE STARTED BUT NEVER FINISHED (Shadow Country – Patrick Mathiessen)
- A SELF-IMPROVEMENT BOOK (Building Great Sentences – Brooks Landon)
- A BOOK BY DAVID MCCULLOUGH (John Adams – David McCullough)
- A BOOK YOU OWN BUT HAVE NEVER READ (The Elements of Style – Strunk & White)
- A BOOK ABOUT ABORTION (Why Pro-Life? – Randy Alcorn)
- A BOOK TARGETED AT THE OTHER GENDER
- A BOOK BY A SPEAKER AT A CONFERENCE YOU HAVE ATTENDED (Wordsmithy – Douglas Wilson)
- A BOOK WRITTEN BY SOMEONE OF A DIFFERENT ETHNICITY (Narrative of the Life of an American Slave – Frederick Douglass)
Outside of the Reading List
Reading Awards (so far…)
Most Enjoyable Read: The Fellowship. This book flawlessly transported me to Oxford, into the pubs where witty banter and beer flowed free and into the hyperactive, God-soaked imaginations of some of our culture’s greatest storytellers. It was pure enjoyment. Runner Up: Ready Player One. This book is light, inventive and flat-out fun. A great summer read.
Most Convicting Read: Tie between Why Pro-Life? and Between the World and Me. For similar reasons.
Book I Liked the Least: Everything Bad is Good for You. I didn’t dislike it, but I found it to be the least satisfying of the books I have read thus far, and especially when compared against Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book that roughly resulted in this counter-argument being published.
Book that I Would Must Want to Re-Read: Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. This is essentially a textbook that is immensely readable. It explained so much about the intellectual dissonances within modern evangelical Christianity, how these are resolved by a Biblically sound theology/worldview, and how to properly identify and evaluate any other worldview.
Book I am Most Looking forward to Reading: The Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis. A classic that I have never read before, by one of my favorite writers. This is up next.
Book I Would Most Highly Recommend: Total Truth. When you benefit as much as I did from a book like this, you don’t keep it to yourself.