Don’t Have Time to Read? Come on!

Check out Karl Rove’s piece in Friday’s The Wall Street Journal: “Bush is a Book Lover.”

Forget Bush’s policies, forget whether you are for or against the war in Iraq, forget whether he was a good president or not. Bush spent two terms as the leader of the free world, his every hour is accounted for, and we would all have to agree that he is one of the busiest men on the planet (Rove’s no slacker himself, and he read more than Bush each year).

Despite all this, President Bush read 181 books over the last three years while also reading the Bible cover-to-cover each of those years. He read 95 books in 2006, 51 books in 2007, and so far has read 40 books in 2008 (and don’t forget, the whole Bible, three times).

Leaving aside the portrayal of Bush as a moron (Rove points out that he graduated from Yale and Harvard Business School, so he’s clearly not a moron), this should put to shame all of us who claim that we don’t read more because we don’t have time. I’m just as guilty as the rest.

What we really mean is: reading isn’t important to us; we’d rather be doing other things.

Right now, turn off the computer and go read a book. If you haven’t read the Bible yet today, read it. When you get through, don’t turn the TV on, read a book. You can start with one of these:

Basic: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Classic; every Christian should read this book more than once

Christian Devotional: Knowing God by J. I. Packer – one of those books that expands your vision and makes you wish you had heard this when you were a kid so you could have been thinking about this your whole life.

Spiritual Development: Simplify Your Spiritual Life by Donald Whitney – Help for those who feel intimidated by the demands often placed on the Christian. Don’t get me wrong, some of the demands are Scriptural, but Whitney helps separate the essentials from the methods and provides for thoe who want to walk with God but who feel overwhelmed by the task. The chapters are short and each is packed with wisdom.

Personal Development: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey – a classic. I first read this in the mid-90’s and it keeps getting better. Develop your vision and state your values for each role you play in life, and then plan your life around those most important things. I know he’s a Mormon, and I hear that if you know the Mormon lingo you can pick up on it but I don’t so I didn’t.

Philosophy: Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans by Steve Wilkens – I used this in an undergrduate philosophy course and loved it because it shows (as the title implies) that not every good idea came from a Christian who was just like us and that Christians don’t have a corner on the good idea market. I didn’t agree with his every conclusion (though I did with most of them) but I loved the overall premise and his execution.

Literary Fiction: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn – It’s a novel but apparently based on Solzhenitsyn’s experiences in the gulag. One character is “the Baptist” and he hides his pages from the Bible in a crack in the wall. This makes me glad I live in a free country and makes me pray that much harder for my brethren around the world.

General Fiction: The Secret History by Donna Tartt – I have read this book several times. even though it is full of vile goings-on. It’s not a mystery because you know in the first pages not only who gets murdered but who did it. The rest of the book is about why they did it and how they live with it (or try to live with it) afterwards. As a Christian, it is a strong reminder that paganism is still alive and well, although not as blatantly as in this book, and that without Christ, life truly is hopeless and meaningless. One other thing I liked was the characterization: I felt like I knew everyone of these characters, even most of the minor ones. I didn’t particularly care for any of them, but I felt like I knew them.

Mystery: The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters – One of the best mystery series ever. Set at the end of the Victorian era and the years following, I love the way they talk, the humor, the mystery and, yes, even the romance. It’s what Indiana Jones wished it could be.

Science Fiction: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – classic sci-fi. I bought Speaker for the Dead, too, but probably won’t read it until summer.

Memoir (sorta): All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927 by C. S. Lewis – This will get you through a long winter. It is interesting to see hints of things we see full-blown in later books, e.g., his talk about “joy.” I also like to read about his life at the university and life in England at that time.

Biography: River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard – Few people know that TR went on this journey, his “last chance to be a boy” as he put it. He was injured, almost died, begged his son to leave him to die, left one person for dead on this trip, but ended up walking out of the jungle alive (but still not skinny). And I bet he could whip our scrawny President-elect’s behind.

Note: If you’re looking for something in a category and the suggestion I’ve given doesn’t appeal to you, email me and I’ll send you some more recommendations.

For my pastor brothers reading this, go buy a copy of John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals and read the chapter entitled, “Brothers, Fight for Your Lives” where Piper talks about how by reading only twenty minutes two or three times a day one can read several large books along with several smaller ones in the space of one year. (And let’s face it, brothers, we really have no excuse because this is part of what we get paid to do; even though our church members claim they don’t want us sitting around reading all day.)

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Personal Development, Reading. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Don’t Have Time to Read? Come on!

  1. Aaron says:

    Fascinating post. Do read ‘Speaker for the Dead’ Can’t promise you’ll love it, but it became my favorite Card novel of all time (so far). Very different kind of story, but moments of great pain and great beauty. …and pretty interesting aliens for those who like that sort of thing. 😀

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll definitely add it to my summer reading list.

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