As a boy my parents encouraged me to read. Without such encouragement, television, video games, and other distractions are apt to keep a young person away from the riches found in a good book. My sixth grade teacher took a special interest in me. Mr. Hess would often have me stand before my classmates and read aloud a book that he had chosen. Little did I realize at the time that he was both instilling in me a greater love for books and helping to develop the skill of reading publicly. This has served me as well as any class I ever took. My uncle who has been preaching for many years has always been a lover of books. I remember as a young man walking into his library and being enthralled with the massive collection of both new and old books. Through the years he has constantly challenged me by his example not just to buy books but to read them.
For the last 17 years I have been under the ministry of a man who is a voracious reader. Pastor Sexton has recommended more good books to me than anyone. He is always reading, always digging. This has been a source of inspiration to me to not be content with what I have learned. Early on, I made the mistake of buying books just to buy them. I have learned that it is not the size of the library that matters, but the careful, well chosen one. Reading has become a favorite pastime and one of the means of keeping my own soul fresh.
With the surge in internet resources and ebooks it can be overwhelming to wade through the number of books on the market. Many of our Crown College students have no doubt taken as their life verse, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It should be remembered that books are tools, resources available to aid us in our journey. May I offer a few thoughts which have been a great help to me…
1. Never allow reading books, no matter how good, to distract you from a daily time of reading the Scriptures.
There is no substitute for the Bible and the Bible should not be read like any other book. When the Apostle Paul was about to die he sent for Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4:13 he requested that Timothy bring three things with him. He asked for his cloke (something for his body). He asked for his books (something for his soul). It has always intrigued me that a man nearing the end of his journey still wanted to read and study. But finally, he asked for the parchments – “especially the parchments” (something for his spirit). The books were important but the Word of God was paramount.
2. Measure every book by the Word of God. Do not accept everything as truth simply because it is in print.
3. Ask God to help you discern which books to read ponderingly, which ones to breeze through, and which ones not to read at all.
4. Keep books accessible wherever you are so that you can read whenever you have a few free moments.
5. Look for the great emphases of each book. Glean all you can.
6. Read with a pen in hand. Mark great truths and jot down thoughts that come to your mind as you read.
7. Read books on a variety of subjects. Be as broad as possible. Remember, there is a difference between reading for hobby and reading for help. Avoid the temptation to only read about the subjects that you enjoy.
8. Read several books at one time and you will likely read more.
9. Learn authors – who to read, who to read carefully, who not to read.
10. Read old books and new books. Do not discount the benefit of either but remember that dead authors do not change their positions.
11. Ask others to recommend good books to you. Just because it is their favorite book does not mean it will be yours but it will save you a lot of time and money.
12. Read books that really speak to you again and again.
13. Learn to enjoy reading by simply doing it.
14. Be careful about giving a wholesale recommendation of a book or author. Remember that authors may be strong on one subject but weak on another.
15. Make a list of good books or authors on frequently studied subjects.
16. Put your name in the front of your books and keep up with them.
17. Write down when you loan a book and be sure to get it back.
18. Catalog your books for easy reference. Keep them organized and you will always know where to find them.
19. Keep a list of books you want to get when you can.
20. Take care of the books you have. Be a good steward and you may be able to pass them on to others someday.
In addition to our College Library, we have a Pastor’s Study on our campus with several thousand books for preachers to use when they visit. One bookcase is filled with the private library of Dr. Lee Roberson. Recently I took a few minutes to look through many of his favorites. They were well used and well marked. It has been often said that readers are leaders. This is not always true. But it is true that effective leaders are always growing, always working on themselves. Few things accomplish this like a good book.
Perhaps the best recommended reading list I could point you to is one that my Pastor has compiled. You can access it at http://faithforthefamily.com/resources/pastors-book-list/. If you have a good book to recommend I would love to hear your thoughts.