Thursday, 19 April 2012

5 Ways to Get More from Reading Books

'Reading maketh a full man; speaking, a ready man, writing, an exact man.' Francis Bacon

'The leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually will be reading constantly.' Oswald Sanders

Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. 2 Tim 4:13

I know I've mentioned it before, but I am a bookworm! I devour good fiction books (like Jane Austen's and the Left Behind Series ) and get completely lost in them. I find it hard to put them down, and often when I do put them down I can't remember what day it is! Which is one of the reasons that I now don't read much fiction :)

However non-fiction books are a different ball game. I like to read Christian books in particular, and some, like biographies of missionaries, I zoom through fast and finish within a week. Others end up with a bookmark stuck a third of the way through for years on end.

I want to suggest five ways to help you gain more from books, and hopefully not end up with lots in the shelves with bookmarks in the middle!

1. Choose very carefully

I think it's better to have a few amazing and inspirational books that you can read over and over again, than lots of books that are not as good. So go for books that are recommended by people who are solid and godly Christians if possible. That way you are also less likely to get a bookmark stuck halfway through them too!

2. Underline

I always read non-fiction books with a pen in hand (my husband uses a highlighter) to underline what stands out to me. That way if you are searching for inspiration or looking for a good quote they are a lot easier to find. Plus you can go back over the underlinings and share them with other people.

3. Use some books as reference

I remember Roger Carswell, a British evangelist, persuading me to buy more books from his bookstall by telling me I could use them for reference - not that I needed much persuasion! There are some books that you may not want to buy because you think you could never get around to reading them, but if you can learn how to look things up in the Contents section, then they can be used when you need them.

A great example of this is my Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. I have never read all through it, but have often dipped into it to find out what the Bible says on various topics, and have even read whole chapters at different times.

4. Don't be afraid to skip a bit

The Pareto Principle is one I have only just learned in regard to books - it means that 20% of the book will probably give you 80% of what you get from it.

The best books are pure gold all the way through, and I wouldn't recommend you using that principle with those. But for others it can get you out of that part where you get stuck because you're really not interested, or don't need to know what that particular chapter says. Then you can allow yourself to skip it, and move on to the next chapter. Incidentally, I wouldn't do this with the Bible!

For example, I recently bought a book called 'Heaven at Home' by Ginger Plowman, thinking that it would be about keeping your home in a way that honours God. But I read the whole book, and most of it I had already read in other books, since it was about your relationship with God, your husband and children. Only the last chapter was specifically about the home, and that was the chapter that helped me. So if I had only read that chapter I would have got what I needed, without reading the rest!

 Again, I wouldn't do this with all books, as some just cry out to be read all the way through, but it is really good for those times when you would otherwise get stuck for months with a bookmark in the same place. And best of all it helps you to read more books!

5. Categorise them according to topic

When you want to help a friend with something, or find a quote that you remembered inspired you, it is pretty off-putting if the book you need could be anywhere in four different bookcases.

If you split them up and put them in topical order like in libraries, they are so much easier to find when you need them. And then the book keeps getting used, as you can go back to it again and again.

Here are the main categories I use for Christian books:

  • Biography - the lives of missionaries or other Christians.
  • Devotional - either books with a daily devotion, or books that are inspirational, or books on prayer
  • Counselling and Practical help - I have a lot of Biblical counselling books because I have been taking a course on it, so I keep these all together.
  • Women - books on being a wife, or specifically women related.
  • Parenting - I have quite a few of these so keep them together.
  • Evangelism and Apologetics - books on how to witness, or how to answer different questions about our faith.
  • Bible study - this includes all my Study Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries and other reference.
  • Books waiting to be read - I keep these separate because otherwise they get lost in the crowd. This shelf also inspires me to plug on through the books I am reading currently so that I can read more!

You can make more categories of course, these are just the ones I use.

I hope this helps you a little with your reading. And if you ever want a Christian book recommendation do let me know, as I love recommending books!


Chris Jefferies said...

Ah, books. I love books, though I probably don't read as much as I should.

I think Rhoda's advice is very good, I was especially struck by the idea of the 20%-80% rule.

So I'd like to say 'Thanks' for the good advice. And before I go I'd alos like to recommend a book I read recently.

Neil Cole's 'Journeys to Significance' takes a fascinating look at Paul's missionary journeys. It's written for leaders in particular, but I'd recommend everyone to read it. Very, very useful and a great page turner too.

Alison Wellby said...

Would it be terribly lacking in humility to recommend a book I wrote??!

Rhoda said...

Thanks for the book recommendations, and Alison I didn't know you'd written a book!

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