Reading without Regret

There are so many books in this world, and so many things worth knowing. There is also a limited amount of time available for reading. Hence, reading choices are similar to economic choices – for everything gained there is something lost, or at least not gained. Furthermore, I realize that I am not my own, but am bought with a price; I do not live to serve my own interests, but those of the One who ransomed me. Because of these considerations I am reconsidering my reading habits. My desire is to read without regret, asking myself before each choice if I have a high level of confidence that this book deserves to be chosen instead of so many others. The following is an outline of the kind of (extra-biblical) reading I think I will be doing, and why. I don’t expect that every person will make the same choices as I will, since one’s goals, interests, and position and life make a great deal of difference.

First, I am seriously embarking on a read-through of the “great books,” of which various lists can be found. These are the books that have most influenced the thinking of civilization; they are necessary to comprehend deeply the world in which we live. My experience so far with the great books has been quite stimulating. Many of them are not as difficult as they first seem to be, and their very force of intellect captures the reader and propels him through their pages. If difficulty should arise, there are a plethora of commentaries on most of these books. I do plan to avail myself of highly recommended introductions and surveys to help me contextualize these works.

Second, I intend to continue my academic research in theology. As an evangelical Reformed Christian, I will probably weight my reading somewhat toward my own tradition. However, nothing could be more stultifying than confining myself within a niche. In the next year, I plan to spend a significant amount of time on pre-Reformation Christianity, since I know comparatively less about it. Likely, my theology reading will be a blend of a “great books” approach and keeping up with current scholarly literature.

Third, I will read fiction books. Even in this category, I want to be sure that each read is a worthwhile pleasure. There is a pleasure of cotton candy, and there is a pleasure of filet mignon. A book may not have to be a bestseller for me to read it, but it must promise a certain amount of depth. The best fiction is that which allows us to return to reality with a fresh and insightful perspective. I am thankful for the works of Orson Scott Card, which taught me empathy, and for The Kite Runner, a lesson in compassion. I hope to acquaint myself with many more works of deeply satisfying fiction.

Fourth, I suppose I will read some other books which are difficult to categorize. There are “how-to” books and travel guides, parenting manuals, biographies, and perhaps many more. I cannot meticulously plan my future reading, but I can develop taste and let that guide me to ever more beneficial endeavors.

Of course, I would love for others to join me in this literary adventure. Share with me what you are reading and how it has affected you. Let me urge you toward that masterpiece that you’ve always thought you should read but never found sufficient motivation. Would you like to read something together? I’d be delighted. Reading is only one activity of life, more significant for some than others, but it is an activity, and like every other must be done with a heart turned toward heaven. And that, really, is reading without regret.

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Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Actually, this is something of my approach to reading.

    In terms of Great Books reading, I would recommend Durant’s “Story of Civilization” series (unfortunately out of print at the moment) as a good resource for contextualizing your reading (at least up to 1815).

  2. I’m definitely thinking similar thoughts. I’ve been reading a ton lately (much of it required seminary textbooks), and am trying to make sure that I read valuable books. I’m going to get my own website up soon, where I’ll post my entire reading list. It’d be helpful to read through some of the same books at some point.

  3. […] As part of my lifelong reading project to educate myself through reading the great books of history, I am embarking on a study of […]


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