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Confessions of a Biblioholic
And How to Read for Transformation
I love books. I always have. If you glanced through my family’s living room window on an average night of my childhood you would have seen 4 individuals silently reading 4 different books. I am deeply thankful to my parents for fostering my insatiable appetite for books and reading.
However, I may have a problem. I may love reading too much. My heroes are those people who post the top 100 books of the year and have actually read all of them, or those people (maybe the same) who share their list of 25 books to read over the summer. If given the choice between social conversation and private reading, I will choose reading every time. If given the choice between buying groceries and buying a book I’ve been drooling to read, I might just pick the book and go hungry. It’s taken my wife and kids over 10 years to accept the fact that the only presents I ever want for my birthday and Christmas are books. A recurring complaint from my kids is “You’re so boring, daddy.”
I would gladly buy that coffee mug.
Still, I have sensed over the years that something is missing from my reading habits. My love of learning and reading started very early, but even as a teenager I knew there was a difference between reading for information and reading for transformation. What little I knew about that difference was limited to the goal of reading and the kinds of books read. I never thought to ask how one goes about one form of reading or another.
"Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12
Sometimes I wonder if my reading habits are potentially addictive. Like an addiction, I really enjoy something and ignore any negative consequences. For example, I have occasionally (or more often; perhaps like an addict I’m minimizing!) had to repent to my kids for reading when I should have been paying attention to them. The fact is, there are times when I think I should give up reading altogether for a season. But could I really do that if I tried? Could I give up the rush I get from buying a new book!
Also, what’s wrong with books? The Bible, God’s very Word, is a book after all? So reading is always good, right? I’m just modeling a love for reading to my kids. Ah, the rationalizations of an addict. I am reluctant to “admit that I am powerless over reading—that my life has become unmanageable.”
Addiction might be too strong a word, but my family, friends and clients won’t benefit from the volume of books I read. However, if I can read to affect transformation of my mind and heart, then it is worth the effort. The next few weeks in this Theology & Therapy newsletter I am going to share some thoughts about how to read for transformation. Perhaps it is an attempt at modifying and managing my reading habits to justify avoiding total abstinence. Either way, I wrote this advice for and to myself. I hope it helps you as well!
Quote from C.S. Lewis
Good reading, therefore, though it is not essentially an affectional or moral or intellectual activity, has something in common with all three. In love we escape from our self into one other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favour of the facts as they are. The primary impulse of each is to maintain and aggrandise himself. The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness. In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this. Obviously this process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; ‘he that loseth his life shall save it’.
An Experiment in Criticism, by C.S. Lewis.
Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish, by C. Christopher Smith.
Have you ever thought about your reading habits and what they say about you?