Monday, September 17, 2007


I have been thinking lately of the importance of reading. I recently heard a statistic that a full 1/4 of protestant church goers do not read. This is not to say that they are illiterate, but they live in an electronic world and never take time to pick up a book. This means that these people also never pick up their Bibles. I have felt convicted lately of my own lack of reading. I read almost everyday, of course, mainly the Bible, textbooks, and news articles, but I have not picked up a novel or other book that has interested me personally for the last seven months.

I find that reading is helpful for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

1) Reading challenges one to think differently than he or she normally would. Some books force one to think more concretely than they normally would, linking ideas and phrases while forming mental arguments. Others, on the other hand, force them to let go of concrete structures and venture into the abstract. I find this to be most thrilling and yet educating. The abstract forces one to take the concrete and run with it. For example, The Lord of the Rings series (one of my favorites) is based on an entire world of rules containing its own languages, theology, philosophies, etc., yet weaves it all into a flowing epic that engages the imagination. I, for one, set down those books desiring to create my own epics (but who really has time?).

2) Reading helps to escape the mundane. Books, particularly novels, can so envelop a person that he or she can lose him/herself to the world. For that brief period of time they exist in another world where anything could happen. Reading certain books brings hope. The Bible gives hope and assurance to millions.

3) Reading helps one make sense of the world one lives in. Histories, articles, philosophy/theology, etc., allow you to understand why things are the way they are and the likely outcome of things in the future. For instance, while no one could predict the attack on the World Trade Center and the subsequent war precisely, understanding the Christian/Muslim conflicts of the past, the differences in theology, and the relatively recent impact of British Colonialism and Russian occupation of Muslim-held lands leads one to expect successful Muslim attacks on American interests and an American response.

4) Reading increases one's vocabulary and education. Erudition requires acquisition, cognition, and explanation for proper function. While you may learn more large words, reading good writing should help you to also synthesize weighty concepts and concisely restate them.

I am going to make a public mission statement which I hope my readers will encourage me to fulfill. I am going to try to read Scripture every day, beyond what is associated with assignments. I am also going to finish one novel and one historical book (topical or biographical) by Thanksgiving.

Dr. R Albert Mohler has listed his thoughts on reading on his blog.


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine and I had a debate about reading fiction versus reading non-fiction. She claimed that fiction was frivilous and had no value. While I claimed that while non-fiction is generally a good medium for communicating information; fiction is often a better medium for communicating ideas.

While I agree that there is far too much frivious fiction in the world; good fiction plays an indespensable role.

I was finally able to win her to my point of view with Robert Louis Stevenson's "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." (As many of you know, this is a wonderful examination of our struggle between our inherent evil and our desire to appear good.)

I applaud your conviction to read more. It certainly is a worthwhile pursuit.

Steven Douglas said...

Thank you anonymous one. I especially love the classic novels. As a general rule they were written by very educated people who were doing as you said, "communicating ideas." A well written novel will communicate its idea clearly and movingly yet not feel "preachy."

I grew up with the classic you mentioned, although with the abridged version. I suppose I should read the unabridged. I'm sure it is even more engaging. Thank you for the great comment!