I have a love-hate relationship with books. Early in my career as a pastor, I collected books of many kinds. Books are the tools of the trade for pastors which include Biblical commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, Greek and Hebrew language tools, sermon illustrations etc. As I grew in my trade I added books on history, biographies, leadership, organizational development and popular fiction for entertainment. I love books!
The hate part comes in when I would move or had to store them. I have multiple book shelves in my house and have boxed and carted thousands of books across the country. And, did I mention how hard it is to part with a book? Books can become an obsession if the love of books gets out of hand. After decades of reading for growth and pleasure, I have a much better perspective on books. Books are now my friends on a rainy day in front of a fire, they are my mentors who challenge me to grow in my leadership roles and they are teachers who challenge me to think outside the box and learn new things.
I am currently reading A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet by Briggs and Burke. They discuss an interesting debate as to whether the medium of print originates change or is a catalyst assisting in social change (p.19). An example of this debate is the Reformation of the Church when Martin Luther published his works in 1520. Did the printing of his ideas change people’s thoughts or did the publications help to articulate what others were thinking? This debate caught my attention. It made me think about what books I have read that have truly been life changing and did the change originate from the book or was it a catalyst to support the change I wanted to make?
Two books come to mind that have changed my life: The Bible and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey 1979). The Bible gives me values and life principles which guide my life spiritually and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has given me values and life principles to maximize my time toward my goals. These books have been catalysts assisting change in my life which have supported my internal goals. What books have been life changing in your life, in what way and why?
Briggs and Burke also talk about the history of reading (Briggs and Burke 2009). They list five kinds of reading: critical reading, dangerous reading, creative reading, extensive reading and private reading (p. 50). As a leader, I resonate with the idea of developing a list for different kinds of reading. Through the years, I have developed the practice of reading multiple types of books at the same time: daily Bible reading, some type of leadership book, a biography/history book, a spiritual focus-meditation type of book and a popular fiction book usually found in the NY Best Sellers List. This discipline has helped me to grow in my leadership understanding and practice as well as given me many ideas that have helped solve vocational issues. This practice also helps me to grow spiritually to attain a balanced life. The fiction is to keep up on what others are reading as well as for entertainment and a break from the other heavier reading. Disciplined reading has helped to be a catalyst to form my thoughts and values as a leader.
As for the love-hate relationship with books, I found an answer – I bought a kindle! And now I carry my thousands of books in a cloud! Life doesn’t get much better than that.
As a leader, what are your practices to grow and develop? Books can be a great help, no matter what form they take, hard copy or digital.
Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter. A Social History of The Media: From Guttenberg to the Internet.Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009)
Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habbits of Highly Effective People. New York: Fireside, 1979.