Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to Read a Book

As an owner of thousands of books and a reader of many of them, I offer a few pieces of advise on the art of reading a book. This is a lost art for many, given the dominance of image-oriented media today.

1. Read worthwhile books. These come in two categories: (A) Books that are in themselves worthwhile. (B) Books that are substandard but influential, nevertheless. I know nothing of "killing time" by reading. As Thoreau said, "You cannot kill time without wounding eternity." Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as to what books you should read and when. I cannot separate my professional reading from my pleasure reading. However, I will not read books I profoundly disagree with on Sundays, since that is a day of rest (not torment).

2. Always read with a pen or pencil in your hand. Annotation is part of the art of reading. The book should become your own. I underline, make comments, and put notes in the front of the book pointing out important points. I also cross reference important points.

3. Write in the front of the book when you started reading it and when you finished it. This gives you a sense of intellectual history. (Don't ask how many books I have not finished. Some do not deserve to be finished, though.)

4. Recommend books to others on as many topics as you can. Be a walking and talking annotated bibliography.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent ideas. Number 2 is particularly helpful. I also keep a notebook with me when I read, keep notes, and transfer the notes to the computer in a free form database(in the case of non-fiction) for later recall. I also do a book review for every book I read. I have written brief reviews on over 200 book I have read in the last two years.

    I would also add:

    Take time to memorize worthwhile quotes. (Quotations from books I read decades ago still ring in my head.)

    Turn off the television. Use the money to buy books.

    Read outside your comfort and knowledge level. I read books on quantum physics and Tibetan buddhist philosophy simply to force myself to stay sharp and grow.

    Read books that annoy you and frighten you and threaten your worldview in order to understand the opposition.

    (Listening to MP3 lectures by guys like Groothuis, Bock, Evans, Craig and a few others also keep one entertained.)