Books & Reading

My Reading Piles: The When & How

I’ve been sharing on Instagram lately, every week or two, the stack of books I’m planning to read. I’ve been getting lots of questions about them, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share about my reading habits, for those of you who were wondering.

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1. Do you really read all those books?

Yes and no.

I’ve been including four books in every picture, because I like the consistency and it’s a manageable size: not overwhelming, but enough to show variety. But because of the way I read, no, I do not always read those exact four books from start to finish that same week.

I’m always reading several books at once, and at several different paces. I may devour two whole novels over a weekend, and take months to get through another book I want to really process as I read. (For example, I am still slowly plodding through Jane Eyre and Emily Dickenson’s poems from the picture above.) So when I post a picture of a book, I may have started it earlier, and am still working on it, I may plan to start it later, I may be planning to finish it that day. I’m a little all over the place.

However, I do strive for the pictures to be as honest as possible: I won’t include a book if I don’t at least plan to pick it up at some point during the week. And though I don’t post pictures every single week, it’s not completely unusual for me to finish three or four books in a week. I do occasionally abandon titles once I’ve started them, but this doesn’t happen often. So in that sense the answer is yes. If I post a book on Instagram, it’s pretty safe to assume that I’m going to read the whole thing at some point.

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2. How do you have time to read so much?

This is probably the question I get the most. There are a few things I do to fit in so much reading. First, reading is my very favorite hobby. I like to bake and I like to sew, but neither of those is nearly so delightful to me as curling up with a good book. It’s my go-to free time activity.

Second, reading isn’t something I only do by myself. I get to read tons of books that I enjoy because I read them aloud to my children (or listen to the audiobooks with them in the car!). Homeschooling has given us even more time for this, of course, but it’s something I made time for before we were a homeschool family.

Last year, we read Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Little House in the Big Woods, just to name a few. Those are all books I would have loved to read all by myself anyway, and enjoying them with my family made them that much better. If you need encouragement and suggestions for reading aloud, this podcast is one of my very favorites.

Third, I carve out time for little snippets of reading that add up over time. For example, I am almost always working my way through some sort of devotional or Christian living book in conjunction with my devotional time of a morning. It takes maybe five or ten minutes a day. I don’t read through these books very quickly, but I probably get in an extra ten or twelve books a year that I wouldn’t get to read otherwise by doing this. If you had a book you read consistently in the pick up line at school, in the bathroom, or during your break at work, you’d probably be amazed at how many more books you could read, too.

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3. How do you decide what to read?

This is actually evolving for me, and I’m planning to share soon about how homsechooling is changing the way I read, even for fun. But as far as finding good things to read, I’m never without ideas. I keep a pretty extensive list of what I want to read at Goodreads, and add to it as I get recommendations from people I trust.

For family reading, the Read-Aloud Revival is my go-to resource, but I recently discovered Brightly, and really like it, too. There are also several fantastic books that are full of lists of good kids’ books. A few of my recent favorites are Honey for a Child’s Heart, Give Your Child the World, and Read for the Heart.

For myself, when I was still working at the library, I read reviews of new books in Publisher’s Weekly almost every week. Now that I’m not there anymore, I get my information about new books from Book Riot, Goodreads, and Modern Mrs. Darcy.

If you’re looking for your next book, any of these would be fantastic places to look. Or ask me – I love recommending books to people! (And please note: the book stack pictures on are not meant to be recommendations. I can’t vouch for these books personally until I’ve read them, and some of the books I share in those photos turn out to be duds.)

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4. Where do you get all your books?

I get almost everything I read at the library. I make liberal use of our inter-library loan programs, and have found, at least for our library, that there are very few titles I can’t get that way if it’s something our library doesn’t carry.

I do buy books occasionally, when it’s something I want to mark up or think I will read over and over again. I like to buy used when I can, and am always on the lookout for favorite titles when I’m at garage sales or thrift stores. But when I want a specific title, my default is Amzaon. We’re Prime members, and I can wait two days for almost anything if it means I don’t have to leave the house.

Do you have more questions about my reading habits? Or suggestions of books I should read? Share them in the comments!

Books & Reading · Heart

Please don’t read this

After immersing myself in the words of the Bible for a month, I find my fingers hovering over the keyboard, unsure.

I hesitate, not because I have nothing to say, but because the last thing I want to do is add one more word to all the others out there.

Those noisy words drown out the still, small voice. They are dead, pulling us away from the Living Word, who came and dwelt among us.

I hesitate because I know myself. How even after a month of feasting on God’s truth, it was still easy to go a few days without reading the Bible. How I still skim the familiar phrases as I read, letting my mind wander to laundry and grocery lists and what’s for dinner. How even as a part of me is desperate to know God and learn his voice, there is this whole other part of me that is rebellious and untamed and that the worst of it is my tongue.

I worry that by putting these words on the page, I’m like Moses lifting up the snake in the wilderness. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll read something here and turn to God. But so many of us, my own stubborn self included, are as easily deceived as the Israelites.

You know what they did with that snake? They made an idol out of it, and started burning sacrifices to it. I think that’s what has happened to the church. We’ve lifted up the Mark Battersons and the Francis Chans, and the Beth Moores, and we allow our faith to rest in their words instead of in the One who gave them the words to say.

And then I want to be Hezekiah, and tear our books to pieces because they’ve made idolaters out of us. Jason probably ought to put a lock on the office door before I do something rash.

But in all seriousness, I am wary of creating anything that might become an idol. Because if I’ve learned one thing in all my study of the Bible, it’s that God doesn’t take idolatry lightly. Who am I to presume to add one more word, or phrase, or thought that might take away from your time in God’s Word?

And yet, I have to write. It’s what God made me to do, as much as he made you to build or sing or doctor or cook or teach. The words are in my heart and in my hands, and somehow they always find their way out of me onto the page or the computer screen.

I pray that my words will serve only to lead you back to Jesus.

But if you only have five minutes to read, please don’t read this. Read your Bible.

Books & Reading · Heart

Fasting and Feasting

I am a glutton for words.

An addict.

No matter how many things I read, it’s never enough.

I buy into the lie of novelty, even though in my heart I know “there’s nothing new under the sun.” But I bury those words, whispered to the quiet places in my heart, and instead seek out new ones. The ones that promise to deliver me from boredom, organize my kitchen cabinets, potty train my 2-year-old in three easy steps.

All day long my hungry eyes devour words, seeking from them the magic bullet that will solve my problems or make me happy.

It’s not like everything I read is evil. It isn’t. I read a lot of things by Christian authors. Church ministry books. Theology books. Christian parenting books. Allegorical novels. And they’re all terrific.

…except…

They aren’t truth with a capital “T.”

There’s only one book that is.

And lately, I’ve noticed this alarming trend in my life to cast aside the words of The Word, who was with God in the beginning, for the words of someone, anyone, else.

It hit me one day when I was reading some Christian book something-or-other, in which the author quoted a passage of Scripture. That’s not unusual in these types of books, in fact it’s pretty common. To the point that I caught myself skimming the words of the Bible.

Skimming.

In my mind, I thought something along the lines of, “yeah, yeah, I know this, I’ve read it before, let me skip ahead to the good stuff.” (As if what the author had to say could somehow be better than words that can divide soul and spirit.)

I would never have said anything like that out loud, of course, but those were my honest thoughts.

And the moment I had them, I was ashamed. Convicted. Reminded once again how weak my sorry flesh is. And I was worried. How could I change? How could I reverse my dependence on any word but the ones that come from God’s own lips?

So for the month of November, I’ve decided to set aside my stack of books my magazines and my Google Reader blog feed.

I’ve had enough.

It’s time to close all the pages the do not matter and open the ones that will outlast the heavens and the earth.

It’s time for ashes. For sackcloth. For fasting.

Except it’s not a fast at all. Really, it’s a feast.

“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119:103

“Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that
comes from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4

“I am the bread of life.”
John 6:48