My Reading Needs to Grow Up
This book was a sobering read. Sobering is the best word I have to describe my realization of how little I know about reading and how much of it I have to do in this program.
It is not that I don’t like to read. I have loved to read since I can remember. Books were my companions growing up. I have distinct memories of spending entire summer days reading as a kid and then my dad would get home and kick me outside. I would tuck my book in my shorts (not the most hygienic, I know) and find a spot outside to finish the chapter. A good story gets me every time.
As an adult, I have learned to restrain my intake of fiction. If I was reading a good story, I would think about it throughout the day, barely acknowledge my husband at night and do the bare minimum at home to get back to it. I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy in under two weeks while working a full-time job and youth pastoring. Needless to say, my personal life was impacted. It was after that series that I stopped reading fiction in my normal life. I reserve that treat only for vacation.
But I love books. I argue with my husband and some of our friends about the need for independent bookstores and about how paper books are the best kind of books. We argue about whether listening to a book counts or not for reading. I have run out of space at home for books and use them to ‘decorate’ since they are in almost every room.
But my reading needs to grow up.
I realized I am nervous and apprehensive about reading – especially synoptic reading. And I now know I have to grow and change my reading habits. I will have to realize that not every book is worth reading analytically. I have to not get caught in the weeds and stall out like I can do with good books. And I need to learn that not every book deserves to thoroughly examined. I need to learn the skill of inspecting a book. I need to be able to say in one or two sentences what the author is trying to accomplish. I need to think more critically and be able to state whether I agree or not with the author once I understand the author. Oh, and I need to be able to explain why I do or do not agree. In short, my reading skills need to mature.
And I need to be less afraid of certain kinds of books. How to Read a Book did ease my fear around not being able to understand what I have read. And it hit me that even though I bought War and Peace awhile back that I probably did not intend to read it. I privately believed it to be too difficult. I don’t think this is the season of life for that book, but I am less apprehensive about difficult books to come.
It is tempting to get swallowed up in the task ahead because of the volume and content of what this program will entail. But I will not. Instead, I will take comfort from the author’s encouragement to keep reading and that ‘you gradually lift yourself from a state of understanding less to one of understanding more’. Now that sounds like something I can do.
 Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Touchstone, 1972), 7.
8 responses to “My Reading Needs to Grow Up”
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You are speaking my language, Andrea. I felt like my first grade grandson as I read this week and had to fight discouragement about the journey ahead. I have a sense many of us are in the same situation and our journey together will be extremely necessary. Hopefully we will look back on this three years from now and be amazed at where we have come from.
Well said! This text and the comments of our cohort members are showing me that in order for our thinking to grow up our reading has to grow up (to shamelessly “borrow” your phrase.) It strikes me that we should come to every book with our personal agenda of how will this source fit into and further enhance our burgeoning network of research sources. Thanks so much for bringing clarity to the growing up process, H
Ha! Reminds me of all the growing up I need to do in my reading. I have the opposite experience. All I’ve ever read was non-fiction. From my earliest memories to now, the only things I read are in current events, theology, philosophy, apologetics, etc. Not very proud of that, but that’s just what it is. Lots of catching up to do. Perhaps if I were stranded in an island and made to choose only 3 books to have, one of the three will have to be fiction.
It sounds like your two week Lord of the Rings binge was a ball Andrea. It certainly is a favorite of mine too. Looking forward to understanding more over the next three years!
As I was reading your post I was brought back to a memory that happened a few months ago. I was on the golf course with a friend, who is actually in the DMin program at SEU, and he was asking me about one of my favorite books so far. I told him the book title and author and he asked me what was it about. After about five minutes of rambling, he said so what’s the author’s main point and I could not articulate it well and thought to myself you sound dumb! I was so put off by it, that three holes later I sent him the amazon link and description and apologized because I had done a horrible job telling him what the book was about.
Needless to say, my reading skills needed maturing as well and I’m grateful for this book that has given me a framework to help with that.
You put in to words SO much of what is in my heart and mind. It’s like I was reading my inner thoughts! Thanks for the way you articulated your fears and challenges. As I’ve read the blogs from our class, I have a feeling that we’re all in this together.
As a side note – Lord of the Rings is my favorite book of all time and I do the same thing each time I read it. I hole up like a little hobbit and drift away to middle earth, quite contentedly.
The Lord of the Rings would be a three year endeavor for me, so my hat’s off to you for the accomplishment if not the results. That being said, I love your idea of not getting caught up in the weeds of everything we’re going to have to take in over the course of this program. I’m starting to see a trend, for myself, as I read these posts about learning to separate the wheat from the chaff as I dive into new reading. Much to think about. Thank you for your post.
As I read your writing, I was laughing because it seemed like you were speaking my mind. I have been reading so many books especially on leadership, even so, fiction but this class reading is like a tough one. Maybe it’s because of the journey we are taking. You challenge me because I thought I was the only one experiencing this and its because am very busy away in Africa. But we are already on the journey and no going back but finish and not just finish, but finish well.