How To Read (a Saturday repost)

Posted: November 13, 2010 in advocacy, books, leadership, reading, words, writing

I read a lot. I don’t even get to read everything that I want.  At this very moment, I have 633 articles waiting review on Google Reader and I just cleared it out 5 minutes ago. I am in the midst of 4 great books, and am constantly reading and reviewing books, reading articles for blogs, reading for teaching, to better my leadership and sermon preparation. Certainly, most people don’t need to read this much – and if statistics are true, most people don’t. A major reason reading frustrates many of us is because there are certain skills to reading that no one teaches us. This is not an indictment of others or an elevation of myself, it just means that speakers, teachers, leaders and opinion-makers must read and stay information-current to do what they do well.

Occasionally, I’m asked about my reading habits, so here they are.

  1. Read Widely – As a minister I read both academic theology and popular level material, but more than that, it’s important to remain current on leadership, marketing, communications, technology, etc…. Plus, good leaders read works from multiple perspectives. Never become locked in to one particular human perspective. Think big. Think broad.
  2. Know When to Stop – Not every book deserves to be finished. 80% of the content is in 20% of the book. Because publishers generally think people won’t buy shorter books, most books have “filler” – a good bit of it, in fact. Skip it! Read and incorporate the important parts. Keep the rest for reference.
  3. Read “How To Read A Book” – I was required to read this book in graduate school. In it, Charles Van Dooren (yes, the Charles Van Dooren who cheated on “21” as was chronicled in the movie “Quiz Show) teaches you how to understand how books are written and how to read them to follow the author’s “argument.” You’re missing out on your reading if you don’t know how to read. Reading actually isn’t natural.
  4. Force Yourself – Reading is a discipline. When you’re working through a book, make yourself complete a certain # of pages every day. You’ll be amazed at how you start to tear through books at, say, 50 pages/ day. I know people who exercise their bodies for hours a day, but never exercise their mind. Reading is exercise for your mind and heart.
  5. Use Google Reader – RSS feeds are incredible. In 10 minutes you can keep up with a great deal of what’s happening in the world and in your particular interest. This is when blogs and finding good bloggers matters.

My guess is that by incorporating these 5 simple exercisess, you will enjoy and increase your reading. Remember, reading engages the heart and mind while leading us to new places in thought and deed. My hope is that you would become a lover of ideas and that those ideas would change the world.

  1. Took me forever to embrace number 2. I always have a book going, and I start a new one within a day of finishing one, but for the longest time I just hated to quit on a book. I finally realized that I will only get to read so many books in my lifetime, and will never get around to reading all the ones I could or should read, so it’s not worth it to spend an extra week or two on something that’s just bad.

    • Sean says:

      Dan, I understand. Rochelle and I have adopted language from my daughter’s 1st grade class, we “abandon” books now. Truth is, in some books you can read the first half and “get it.” This was the case with Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” I love Brian and consider him a friend, but once you saw how he was reading the Biblical text, you knew what else he was going to say. I finished it because I’d agreed to review it.

      With, “The Last of the Mohicans” which I read this summer, it just got to boring. I read all but the last 75 pages and thought, “I don’t even care what happens next,” so I had to set it down.

      I’m certain, though, that when you pen your first book, I’ll be enthralled with every page.

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