New Year Reflections

December Vectors by Vecteezy

Happy New Year!

I find myself coming into this year saddened, grateful, waiting, and hopeful.

Saddened: So many lives ended too soon by COVID-19, including at least one friend. The divided state of our nation that can’t even agree on something as simple as wearing masks, that can’t unite around a common enemy in the form of a virus. The deepening unsettling recognition of how deeply engrained racism is in our country and my own complicity. I grieve today for Andre Wells and Casey Goodson from my city who won’t see the new year. I grieve for a warming planet and the existential threat that we refuse to face. I grieve the culture of deception and the death of truth in a grave of universal suspicion. I wish all this would have ended with 2020. The trouble is that time passes, but we carry these things embedded in our lives. I’m not pleased with what I’ve seen of myself and as I move into the new year, I want to look at what God wants to change in me.

Grateful: Quite simply, I’m grateful to be alive, for each and every day. With so much closed down and so many at home, I’m grateful for all the conversations I’ve had with friends during 2020–so many I’ve not spoken with in years. Our church hasn’t met in person since March yet I’ve been touched by the mutual care we’ve practice from prayers to porch fairies with bags of groceries for shut-ins. We’ve still been able to serve a community through a garden, a food pantry, school supplies and Christmas gifts and winter clothes for children. I feel our pastor has been touched by God to speak into our hearts to help us all live through this time. Significantly, so far, none of us have been sickened. There has been time to read, to think, and to realize that we don’t need to shop and eat out to be entertained. I’m grateful for deck, patio and driveway visits with our son and his wife. We’ve enjoyed plein air painting with friends and participating in a virtual choral work. I hope I can learn the lessons of gratitude and its companion, generosity, in 2021.

Waiting: Our pastor spoke honestly and thoughtfully this past Sunday about waiting, and that waiting would continue to be part of our lives in 2021. This year, and these past weeks of Advent, have taken me more deeply into how waiting is so much a part of my faith–the coming of the Savior and his good rule. It has made me long more deeply for that coming. I do struggle with knowing those for whom waiting is difficult–businesses going under, those wrestling with depression–I don’t see easy answers as long as infections are high and we must “hunker down.” I also know of stories of many who have stood by those who wait, whether with patronage and GoFundMe campaigns, or simply by being present. This time of waiting, particularly as we look toward vaccines and the hope of a return to some kind of new normal, can also be a time of taking stock of what we have learned. I suspect there are some things we might not go back to, and some things that will be all the more precious. I want to use the time of waiting both to wait with others and to discern what God’s invitations are as we come out of this.

Hopeful. I am hopeful for the impact of the vaccine. I’ve seen vaccines eradicate other diseases. I know some of the scientists who have worked on these vaccines and believe they can make a big difference in suppressing the disease if we work together and accept the vaccine when it is our turn. But ultimately, I’m hopeful because of my faith. My hope in the resurrection leads me to hope for many mini resurrections. Creative new work arrangements, new businesses and rejuvenated ones, new educational methods, and hopefully new initiatives toward racial justice in our country and my own city. Will the lessons we learned about reducing energy use be ones that lead to permanently reducing our carbon footprints? And like many of you, I’m looking forward with hope to many of those deferred celebrations, all the sweeter because we’ve had to wait so long.

This blog is in its eighth year. I am so grateful for all of you who take time to read and comment, some of you regularly. It’s been a place of sharing so many favorite things: good books, important ideas, and great memories of Youngstown among other things. Lord willing, we’ll get to do a lot more of that this year. I will leave you with a thought I came across recently in Louise Penny’s A Rule Against Murder:

We’re all blessed and we’re all blighted, . . . . Every day each of us does our sums. The question is, what do we count?”

I do wish all who read a Happy New Year. Stay safe and count well…you all are dear to me!

Bob on Books in 2020

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Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The year of 2019 was a banner year for Bob on Books, both the blog site and the Facebook page. Early in 2019, the blog topped an all-time total of a half million views. At the end of the year, the total was over 650,000 with over 162,000 views from nearly 113,000 viewers. We posted over 180 reviews of books, including a number of science-faith reviews from guest reviewer Paul Bruggink. On the Facebook page, we started the year with around 2,000 people who “liked” the page. By the end of the year, we had topped 5,500.

Numbers are only part of the story. Early on, I wrote on my “about” page:

While I am a person of faith as a follower of Christ, I hope the blog will be a meeting place for anyone who cares about good literature, who loves books and reading, and wants to talk about ideas that matter. We live in an amazingly diverse mosaic of peoples and ideas which can either be the source of endless conflict or the opportunity for rich engagement with one another across our differences in pursuing together goodness, truth, and beauty in our world. My hope is that this blog will contribute to the latter.

I am encouraged that by and large, both on the blog and the Facebook page, we have cultivated a meeting place that is a pretty good approximation of this description. It feels to me that this is a volatile time, especially around matters that have been part of our political debates and that volatility has occasionally flared up, especially over on Facebook–a medium that is most prone to this. A simple post of the text of Greta Thunberg’s United Nations speech (reading material!) brought out some of the most vicious comments I’ve seen.

Most of the time, we’ve just enjoyed discussing the books we are reading and the quirkiness of those of us who are bibliophiles. My awareness of the diversity of genres people are reading has grown, and I’ve picked up some great ideas of mysteries and science fiction to read from others. While I post a number of reviews of Christian works, others have written about different religious and philosophical texts that have been formative for them. At least we haven’t fought about religion, but rather learned from each other. I was most delighted when several on Facebook commented that our page was the main reason they hadn’t closed their accounts.

As for the coming year? I’m in a new job that also involves a blog, social media, and other web media to encourage and equip and network emerging Christian scholars, and much of my creative energies are invested in that project. I’m applying much of what I learned these past years to this job (it might have even helped me get the job!). But here are a few things I want to keep on doing and do better here:

  • I love reading and reviewing books, and if there is anything I want to do this year, I want to pay attention to great reviewers, and work at the craft of writing reviews that are both interesting to read, and help you decide whether the book in question is one you want to read.
  • I will keep writing about Youngstown. I haven’t run out of things to write about yet and love discovering more about the people and places and institutions of the place where I grew up. Just as our own lives are enriched by our family history, I believe our communal life is enriched by understanding our communal history–what has made us uniquely us!
  • I also enjoy learning and writing about everything bookish. I hope I get around to more bookstores this year. I also believe libraries play a critical role in fostering reading among both children and adults and an increasingly important role as a “third place” in our culture. I’ll continue to explore the quirky qualities that make us bibliophiles, and hopefully help us laugh at ourselves, something we all need.
  • I was warned recently about writing about religion and politics. I happen to think there is nothing more important than how we answer the “big questions” of life, whether they concern what we believe to be really real, or how we order our relations and priorities in society. I strive to be neither a proselytizer nor a partisan.  Whether in religion or in political discussion, I hope we can reclaim a civil public square from the trolls, the gaslighters, the echo chambers, and the partisans. I hope to moderate and write (when I do) toward that end! When we can’t engage civilly and substantively around the big questions and the common good, we surrender our culture to the demagogues and the power-mongers.

That’s it, as far as I can see, although you never know what comes along. Thanks for coming along with me this far. I’m looking forward to some great books in 2020 and I wish for you the same!

Bob on Books Tips For Reading Well in 2018

man-reading

Man Reading, Vaino Hamalainen, 1897

Among the resolutions people make each year is some variant on “read more books.” That’s certainly a goal that I can applaud when the average number of books read by adults is 12 a year (a number skewed by avid readers; most read about 4 a year). But I have a hunch that many of these resolutions fare no better than those of losing weight or exercising more, and probably for the same reasons: lack of specific goals that are realistic, forming a habit, social support and a good coach. I will come back to these but I want to address something I hear less about–reading well.

For a number who read this blog, I don’t have to convince you about the value of reading, and in many cases, you already have good reading habits and exceed that book a month average. And even if you don’t, you probably sense that reading isn’t about numbers of books but part of a well-lived life. You read not only for amusement or diversion but to better understand your world and how to live one’s life in it. That can be anything from understanding the inner workings of your computer and how to use it better to a work of philosophy or theology or even a great novel that explores fundamental questions of life’s meaning, living virtuously, or the nature of God.

So a few thoughts on reading well, and then a few tips for those who do want to read more:

  1. Reading well is an act of attentiveness. We read well when we read without external and internal distractions. A place of quiet and a time when we are not distracted with other concerns helps us “engage the page.” It also helps to turn off the notifications on your phone or tablet, or better yet, put the electronics in another room. Read on an e-reader without other apps if you prefer these to physical books.
  2. Visual media often encourages us to passively absorb content. Books of substance require our active engagement–noticing plot, characters, and the use of literary devices like foreshadowing, allusions and more. Non-fiction often involves following an argument, and paying attention to the logic, the evidence, and whether the argument is consistent. Reading well can mean jotting notes, asking questions, or even arguing with the author. Above all it means reflecting on what we read, and how the book connects with our lives.
  3. Reading well over time means choosing good books to read. What is “good”? I’m not sure there is one good or simple answer. There are a number of “great books” lists out there and they are worth a look. You might choose one of those to read this year. One test of a book’s worth is whether people are still reading the book and finding value in it long after its author has passed. Also, in almost any genre, there are reviews, websites, and online groups. Over time, you will find sources of good recommendations.
  4. Finally, I’d suggest choosing something to read off the beaten path. Reading authors from other cultures, or a genre you don’t read can stretch your horizons. This year, I want to work in some poetry and get around to the Langston Hughes and Seamus Heaney that I’ve had laying around.

And now a few thoughts for those who simply want to read more and get into the reading habit.

  1. Set a realistic goal. Rather than focus on numbers of books, figure out where you can regularly find 10-15 minutes a day to read. You probably spend more time than that on social media. Do you know if you read 15 minutes a day, you will end up reading 15 books a year?
  2. Start with something you like. Don’t choose something others say you should read if you don’t think it is interesting. Choose something you’ve always wanted to read.
  3. Try doing this for a month–15 minutes a day with reading you enjoy. The idea is to form a habit. I started an exercise routine taking 5 minutes a day, then gradually expanded it. Forming the habit was the most important part.
  4. Finding some friends who read, or are trying to, and getting together to talk books can help. Many of us find exercising with others helps. Reading and talking books can work the same way.
  5. Finally, get a good coach. I have a number of friends who work with personal trainers or life coaches. But book coaches? Where do you find those? I’d start with a local bookseller or librarian. Any of them worth their salt can learn about your reading interests or topics you’d like to read about and suggest some good things to read.

I mentioned that finding good sources of book reviews can help you find worthy books that you will love. Hopefully Bob on Books will be one of them. My goal in writing reviews is to tell you enough about a book to help you decide if it is something you will want to read, or just something it’s good to know about. I’m looking forward to digging into the books on my “to be read” pile and telling you about them. To reading well in 2018!

Bob on Books in 2017

happy-new-yearIt is always perilous to make New Year’s resolutions. Many don’t last past January 2. So, you might consider some of my thoughts on the direction of this blog in 2017 to be aspirations rather than resolutions. There are a few things I can clearly say I will keep doing:

  • I will keep reviewing both new and classic works on subjects of faith as well as fiction and literature, history, biography, science, as well as a few good baseball books–and an occasional book off the beaten path of my usual reading. I would contend that any of us who want to keep growing intellectually and in our awareness of the world throughout life, read deeply in the area of our vocational life and widely to see how our work and life fits into the bigger picture of God’s incredibly beautiful, diverse, and complex world.
  • I will keep posting about the world of books and reading. When I get the chance, I will write about bookstores I visit, resources for readers, and more. I did not get to do this beyond a review of a book on debates among librarians, but this year I want to explore more of the changes in technology shaping libraries and how libraries continue to promote literacy as well as serving other information and media needs for patrons.
  • I will keep writing about Youngstown as long as I keep coming up with ideas and memories about my hometown. I’m open to ideas from my Youngstown friends as well.
  • A continuing concern for me is how, in our divided society, we foster better conversations, and relations. The alternative is not pretty! I also am concerned with how our faith perspectives, which are important in so many of our lives, can be part of those conversations rather than being relegated to private life, or dismissed or discounted. I do believe those of faith need to speak with conviction, cogency, and charity, hopefully in a context that welcomes, if not always agrees with that kind of discourse.

And some aspirations for 2017

  • I want to explore the idea of what Peter Berger has called “mediating structures” which stand between individuals and political structure. It seems to me that in our mass media age, we focus so much on “big government” that we overlook the importance of mediating structures–everything from churches, neighborhood associations, leagues, and hobbyist groups to advocacy groups.
  • Inspired by C. Christopher Smith’s Reading for the Common Good, I want to explore how books and shared reading might strengthen mediating structures, the real communities many of us are a part of.
  • I want to explore some of the places beyond books where we go to read, on and off the net. Related to this, I am particularly interested in how we find reliable information sources and how we sustain them. Two of my favorite journals, Conversations Journal and Books and Culture ceased publishing at the end of the past year. Thankfully others, like The New York Times, have seen a growth in their subscriber base as people realize we need reliable news sources in this “post-truth” era.

The demise of Books and Culture leaves, it seems to me, a great void in connecting Christians (and other literate fellow travelers!) with great writing on books and culture informed by a faith perspective. At the same time, I’ve wondered about whether some form of curated platform for blogs that are attempting to do this kind of work might go a significant way toward filling this void. While none of us has the expertise or bandwidth to fill that void on our own, might there be a way that in the aggregate we could, giving our work a wider audience, and serving a wider network of “mediating structures” by connecting them with the best that is being thought and written? It’s an idea I want to explore–for all I know someone else is already doing this somewhere!

I so appreciate all who follow this blog, and all the comments you share that help me grow in the writing of it. Bob on Books is now in its fourth year, having launched in August 2013. I hope you will keep pressing me to be a better writer and I would love to hear your ideas about what I’m doing here.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — New Year’s Resolutions

satterfield_cartoon_on_new_years_resolutions_1904It’s common practice to make New Year’s Resolutions, and even more common to break them. My hunch is that we are often not realistic about these things. But Youngstowners are more realistic than most, and here are some of the “realistic” resolutions I can see Youngstowners making.

  1. Instead of “lose weight” I can see a good Youngstowner resolving to “buy a better grade of steak.”
  2. Instead of “exercise more” I can see hard-working Youngstowners resolving to “take a nap when I get home from work.”
  3. Instead of wanting to “read more” the Youngstowner would resolve to “listen to an adventure thriller in my car on the way to the lake.”
  4. Instead of resolving to “meet new people,” the Youngstowner would decide to “stop running with the people who drag me down.”
  5. Instead of resolving to “earn more money,” the realistic Youngstowner would resolve to “not blow so much on the lottery.”
  6. Instead of “become more organized”, the practical Youngstowner resolves to “haul a dumpster up to the house and remove all the junk we are keeping in the spare bedroom and basement.”
  7. Instead of saying “go to the doctor more often” the health-conscious Youngstowner would resolve to “actually get a check up this year.”
  8. Instead of resolving to “spend less time on social media,” the Youngstowner resolves to “go for a hike in Mill Creek Park with a spouse or partner at least once a week and see the real world.”
  9. Instead of “volunteering with a charity,” the Youngstowner takes care of an ailing relative or looks after the home of an ailing neighbor. No resolutions needed–we are family.
  10. Instead of “reducing stress,” the well-adjusted Youngstowner resolves to “enjoy the best of Youngstown cooking with the best of family and friends.”

Those are some of the “realistic” resolutions I can imagine someone from Youngstown making. What would you add to the list?

Happy New Year!

Bob on Books in 2016

20151225_163728I just looked back at a post from a year ago where I talked about some of the things I hoped to do on the blog in 2015.  Here are some of the successes, and some of those lapses we won’t talk too much about:

Successes:

  • I reviewed more recently published books, those with a 2015 copyright.
  • I started including a summary at the top of my reviews to help with deciding whether you were interested enough in a book to read my whole review. I also include publishing information and a link to the publisher’s website for the book if I can locate this.
  • I did a couple author interviews, a two part interview with a publisher, and many of the bookstore reviews included interviews with an owner or bookseller.
  • I certainly did posts on the reading life. Some of my favorites were on books I read too soon and books I wish I had read sooner.
  • I did a variety of bookstore reviews, enough to give this its own category on the blog menu.
  • I also converted the blog to a “responsive” theme, making it easier to read in general and especially on tablets and smartphones.
  • I continued the “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” series– far longer than I expected.

Lapses:

  • I didn’t do graphic novels. Sorry Ben. I think I’m going to leave reviewing these to you!
  • I didn’t really feature famous readers other than Dr. Eliot’s “five foot shelf.”

Some thoughts about 2016:

Reviews: I will continue to look for ways to tweak these and would love to get your feedback on what would make these more user friendly for you. I would also like to explore doing more author interviews in conjunction with book reviews. I consider reading an interactive relationship of the ideas and imaginations of reader and author via the book. I hope I can personalize the author end more.

Literacy: It has always been a passion of mine to foster literacy, which is not just the ability to read and write, but a growing love and thoughtfulness in engaging in these activities through reading quality work, thinking critically about what we’ve read, and writing with cogency and grace. I hope to interact with teachers of reading, librarians, booksellers, and writers around this theme. Because I review and write on theological subjects, I’m also interested in the role churches and other religious institutions play in fostering literacy. I’ve been most intrigued by the work of Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis, and their Englewood Review of Books in this regard.

Bookstore Reviews: I hope to continue to feature great bookstores, both for new and used books, especially those independently owned. I have to do this as my travels give me opportunity. If you know of a great store in another part of the country than the Midwest and would be interested in doing a “guest review”, let me know!

On Life: These posts, and those on Youngstown tend to be the most popular, but in some ways the most unpredictable. What I would say, is that in these and all posts, I want to exemplify and encourage what I called recently “the speech of freedom.” I want to work out more of what that means this year. I’m not sure of what that will mean but I do want to foster a different kind of speech, a different ethic of speech from the polarizing speech in the worlds of politics, punditry, and other forms of popular discourse. I hope we can work together on that!

Thanks to all of you who follow the blog and especially those who engage the things I write. I would like to hear what you think about my ideas for the blog, and your ideas of what you’d enjoy seeing.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions from 100 years ago. "Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915" by not known; one on left is published by "Chatauqua Press", as stated near the bottom of the card in tiny type - eBay store Web page: http://cgi.ebay.com/2-New-Year-Resolution-Cards_W0QQitemZ260340642174QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item260340642174&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915.jpg

New Year’s Resolutions from 100 years ago. “Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915” by not known; one on left is published by “Chatauqua Press”, as stated near the bottom of the card in tiny type

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that is a “Youngstown thing”. Youngstowners seem to be the ultimate realists who probably realize that most of those resolutions aren’t worth the paper they are written on! Usually it takes something far more drastic than a resolution to get me to eat less, exercise more, and floss daily–like having the bejeebers scared out of me by my doc!

I’ve been thinking though that there are some resolutions that fit our values and experiences as Youngstowners that I would like to try out on you:

1. I resolve to take more time this year to enjoy good food and drink with the people who mean the most to me. Family, friends, and food are high Youngstown values. These are easily overlooked in our fast food, fast lane lives.

2. I resolve to spend more time working on my home (my wife will like this!) and do what I can to be a good neighbor including watching out for others’ places (without getting into others’ business). Pride of ownership and neighborhood are things we’ve talked a good deal about in these posts.

3. I resolve to buy local whenever I can and to support small businesses and locally-owned restaurants whenever I can, even if it costs a bit more. It puts money back into the community, sustains local jobs, and fosters the fabric of community many of us grew up with.

4. I resolve to invest in the institutions that foster a healthy community — schools, libraries, museums and the arts, parks, and (for those religiously inclined) places of worship among others. You and I have celebrated good memories of many of these places over the past months on this blog.

5. I resolve to stand against those who try to exploit my community economically or environmentally for their own ends. I will refuse support to those who try to divide one group of us against another.  It takes all of us and all the assets of our community to make it a good place. I’ll stand with those who genuinely love the people and place where I live, and show that by their actions.

These were things I learned growing up in Youngstown. And they are things you’ve reminded me of in our dialogs around various posts over the past months. It seems to me that whether one still lives in Youngstown or not, living into these resolves can mean both good life for us, and for the places we call “home”. A happy and prosperous 2016 to you!

I’d love to know what you think of these resolutions. What do you think are good resolutions that reflect the best of Youngstown values?

Bob on Books New Year’s Resolutions

IMG_2263I took some time over the past week to do some thinking about some directions for “Bob on Books” in 2015. Looking back at a similar post from the past year, I was able to do some of the things I came up with and also saw the blog go in some totally unanticipated directions. I suspect this year will be the same, so no guarantees but here is what I’m thinking:

  • Reviews: I will continue to review what I read and what interests me. At the encouragement of my son, I will probably throw in a few more graphic novel reviews –this is obviously a big segment of publishing and one that I find more intriguing than I thought I would. I also want to try to review more new books but look for me to weave in some old stuff that I’m interested in as well!
  • Interviews: This is something I want to try this year, particularly in conjunction with reviews. Some of the authors are people I know, or might like to, and I hope in at least some cases that this personal touch might interest you in their work. I’m also thinking of throwing in a few interviews with bookstore owners (particularly independents), perhaps someone working with libraries, and maybe others connected to the world of books.
  • The Reading Life: In case you haven’t noticed, I think reading, and engaging the world of books, is one of the things that can be life enriching. I want to continue to look for new slants on reading, perhaps profiling some other famous readers, as I did Teddy Roosevelt this year. As there are new technological developments that affect reading, I will explore those as well.
  • Bookstore Reviews: As time permits, I want to do something I tried last summer which is to review bookstores I visit. I might try to extend this to some online sources as well (though not Amazon, of which I think we probably all have our own opinions!).
  • Book Lists: I will do several kinds of things this year. I love getting folks together to share their favorite books and will probably do a few posts passing these along. Each month, I will post my “The Month in Reviews” list which will have all my reviews of the past month. I will also do some “category” lists of books I’ve reviewed in different categories. And look for my own “Best of the Year” post at the end of 2015, Lord willing. I’m looking forward to finding out what books I really like as well!
  • Posts on other things besides books: Oddly enough, these have been some of the most viewed in the past year (see my Bob on Books Top Ten Posts of 2014). Some of this is plain unpredictable–sometimes I just find something I want to write on and people really like it–or not! I plan to continue regular posts on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown into the spring, which would cover a year. After this, I may post more occasionally, depending on how many new ideas I get for this series. I also will continue posts connected with my church’s Going Deeper blog, which are every other week reflections on our pastor’s messages.  And look for some posts on themes related to higher education as I do some research on “the changing university” over the next six months, related to a presentation I will be giving this summer.
  • Blog appearance: I will continue to tweak the appearance of the blog including categories to make this more usable–feedback from those of you who follow (no spammers please!) is welcome! At some time, I might even explore a face lift!

Blogging is social. I would love to know what you think of these ideas and wouldn’t mind hearing those “I wish he would write on…” ideas. The common thread for me that holds together the different things I write is engaging with others about the good, the true, and the beautiful as we encounter this in the experience of books, reading, and life. Your engagement with this blog is what makes writing a joy. I look forward to more of that in 2015!

Reasons to Read

One of the reasons resolutions fail is that we make them simply because we should. Now there is nothing wrong with that, because some “shoulds” are really good for us–for example losing weight if our weight puts us at a health risk or or living by a budget if our spending habits are out of line. Notice in each of these cases that there is a compelling reason for making a change in how you live. My hunch is, if you simply think, I should read more but lack a good reason, other than that this seems like the thing to do in your circle of friends, you might or might not (sometimes peer influence is a good thing!). Here are some of the reasons that work for me:

1. I enjoy (most) of what I read! Sounds simple enough. But sometimes we read things we think we should read that really aren’t interesting to us and we give up 30 pages in. Start with what interests you and be open to expanding those interests over time. Sometimes what was once uninteresting becomes interesting over time and life experience.

2. I read to understand things I care about. That can be a lot of different things from art to cooking to physics to theology. In almost any area, there are online groups that can recommend good books in your area of interest.

3. Some of my reading is because of book groups I’m in. This is a great incentive to read. One group I’m in has read over 60 books in the time we’ve been together–many of those books on our shelves we’ve always wanted to read but somehow never got around to.

4. I read to grow spiritually. Books can be a way to interact with people who have been on the journey and gained insights that I need. Ever wish you could have talked with Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela or Augustine? You can through their writings.

5. Finally, some of what I read is work-related. Not all the reading in this category is reading I enjoy but much of it makes me think about what I am doing in my work and how I might do it better or differently. Most of our workplaces are changing rapidly and keeping up on new developments may be a lot cheaper than all those ubiquitous seminars and workshops–though they are useful as well.

What am I forgetting? Why do you read? Happy reading in 2014!

 

 

3 Steps to Reading Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

3 Steps to Reading Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (from BookRiot.com) has some great ideas if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to read more.

I often get asked how I read so many books (although I was humbled by the person in this article who reads 2-300 books a year). I would agree with everything written here. Here are a few other thoughts.

1. I would amplify the idea of avoiding distractions. Read where and when you are free from TV, social media or smartphones.

2. Carry a book or e-reader with you for unexpected free moments–waiting for a flight, eating alone, while you are waiting to meet someone or on public transportation. I’ve probably read a book or two just in airports this year!

3. If you are working to cultivate a reading habit, don’t start with the most demanding, dense stuff you can think of that seems “profound”. Start with authors you like, or books in a genre you like.

4. Find book reviews or blogs on the kinds of books you like and see what others like. Goodreads is a great tool to find out what your friends are reading and what they think about their books.

5. After you read a book, try to capture in a few sentences what you liked about the book, a favorite quote, or something you want to remember from the book. Again, the Goodreads site is a great tool for this–you don’t need to be lengthy–think of this as just putting down what you want to remember about the book.

6. If you are a person who likes goals, track your progress through the year. Probably one of the few things I remember from my behavioral psych class from many years ago was that when you track a behavior, you increase that behavior if it is desirable, and often decrease it when it is undesirable. Hopefully reading is the former for you!

7. Read something “off the beaten path” for you — a different genre, an international author, a perspective you don’t think you agree with. Pick up a book at your bookseller’s that they are recommending that sounds interesting that you wouldn’t otherwise read.

Happy reading!