How I Read Books (Q+A About Reading)

After sharing a few of the books I've read recently, I received quite a few questions about how I read books. 

How do I track the books I read?

How long does it take me to finish a book?

What are my tips on reading well?

That's why today I'll set out to answer a few of these questions.

How Do You Keep Track of the Books You Read?

I use Goodreads. I used to use a spreadsheet on my computer, but I like the ease and integration of Goodreads. I have a few different bookshelves I use to organize my reading. It's pretty simple, though.

Once I read a book, I immediately rate it and add it to my "2017 Reading Challenge" bookshelf. Then, if it was a true favorite, I add it to my "Favorites" shelf. Occasionally I'll write a brief review or a few notes about it. Often, though, the rating is enough (since I just use Goodreads purely as a personal log.)

How Long Does It Take You To Finish a Book?

It really depends. This year has been intensely busy, leaving me not as much time for reading as I'd like (and I've definitely been guilty of not prioritizing it enough). But book length also plays a part. I find novels usually easy to digest and can finish those in one to a few days. Non-fiction books take longer. I want to savor them slowly. So those will often take me a few weeks to a few months.

How Do You Read So Many Books?

Primarily by reading several books at once. It may take me a few weeks to finish books, but that's not so bad if I'm reading seven books at once.

Do You Follow Any Rules for Book Reading?

No, not really. There are a few rules I don't follow, though. For example, "If you start a book, you have to finish it." When I was younger, I would be militant about following this rule. Then I realized that life is too short to read bad books. So if I don't like a book, I stop reading it. No guilt. 

What Are Some Books on Reading You Recommend?

How To Read a Book by Mortimer Adler is apparently wonderful. I haven't read it yet, though. Another one on my wish list is The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. I've personally enjoyed several essays on reading in The Christian Imagination edited by Phil Ryken. 

What Have You Learned About Reading?

For one, there are different purposes to reading (e.g., read to learn, read to enjoy, read to escape), and it's okay to read different ways for those different purposes. I read a novel with less attention to detail than a book on theology. 

For two, there is tremendous benefit in reading different kinds of books. Please don't just read novels. Don't just read biographies. Don't (even) read just theology. You are closing yourself off from so many facets of God-created beauty. Reading different kinds of authors and books creates empathy and discernment and is a critical habit of good writers. So read widely.

Finally, you need discernment in reading. The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies is an excellent book on the whole topic of discernment and thoroughly applicable to reading. The same principle that applies to watching movies and eating food applies to reading: if you want to be edified and nourished, you must be selective.

Your Turn

I know I have several fellow bibliophiles (book lovers!) out there, so how would you answer these questions? What have you learned about reading? How do you track your reading? Do you follow any rules?

Let me know!