Reading in 2005

Some of you who read this blog will snigger up your sleaves, barely suppressing a hearty laugh, at what I am about to reveal. Nevertheless, I achieved something significant for me today: I competed reading my 40th book of this year, 2005.

Target reached.

Now, I know some of you write more than this on your blogs. For you, the merest glance a book is to simultaneously read and digest. Analysis and commentary are burning the ends of your fingertips. Such fire can only be salved by typing and publishing.

For me my target was important. I have written before about how my reading rate has been poor all my life. I have been too dithery and ill-disciplined in my thoughts and so wasted a lot of time. I have been working hard to rectify this in 2005 so that I can make much more progress. This has resulted in several obvious practical steps:

  1. I switch off my computer
  2. When t’computer is on I read less blogs. Sorry to those of you who write long entries, but as I have also written, if the blog entry I am reading is long, I seriously question whether or not there is not more value spending the time in a chapter of a book. Then I switch the computer off.
  3. I get in a good chair. Not the sofa. Too comfy. Too many zeds get logged.
  4. I use my lap timer on my moby phone to crack down on dastardly daydreaming. This lets me set targets. Targets achieved get rewards – like coffee.

In spite of all this it still remains that the majority of the books on my shelves are completely or partially unread. So, next year’s target? Let’s try 60!

For exhaustive completeness, here is the breakdown under various categories (I don’t know how to format the table properly):

  • Theology: 14
  • Commentaries and biblical studies: 8
  • Christian Ministry: 6
  • Biography: 2
  • Devotional: 2
  • Christian Living: 2
  • Church History: 1
  • Apologetics: 1
  • Other Non-Fiction: 3
  • Fiction: 1

As you can probably see, it is not very well balanced. I need to read more history and apologetics. And I want to read more fiction – I want to know how people think. Roll on 2006!

Reading in 2005

17 thoughts on “Reading in 2005

  1. Ant says:

    That’s pretty good going!
    How do you use the lap timer to counter day dreaming? Surely when you start daydreaming you won’t notice that fact and so won’t have pressed any buttons?

  2. Stephen says:

    Here are some highlights:

    The Christ of the Covenants by O. P. Robertson. It was a joy to see the structural and thematic unity of God’s covenants. Deserves another read.

    Institutes vol. 1 (of Battles) by big Johnny C. Interesting how he treats sanctification before justification in the order of things. (This is not my own observation, but Richard Gaffin’s, which I warmed to.)

    Various little books by C. S. Lewis. I took five of them away with me on holidays in summer and really enjoyed them. Of course, I can’t understand how such a clever bloke could have held to the doctrine of purgatory and various other such things. But then cleverness does not guarantee access to truth.

    Interpreting Galatians by M. Silva. This was one of my text books, but I loved it nevertheless. A bit technical but worth the hard work.

    Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by J. Piper. You cannot but love this guy’s style and passion.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. The one piece of fiction I read this year. The language is a bit choice in places, especially towards the end. But funny, insightful, and moving. And any book that numbers the chapters as a sequence of prime numbers has my gaze.

  3. Stephen says:

    It’s a funny thing. It doesn’t seem to make sense but it works. I think what is happening is that when I have a slow page I remember what it feels like and correlate that with the time. Now I seem to be able to respond to the feeling of daydreaming as I read and correct myself.

    Of course, the real problem with slow reading, I think, is ‘skipping’ where one is constantly re-reading words, phrases and sentences. If you were to map out where the eyes of a slow reader scan on the page it would look like a plate of spaghetti rather than nice horizontal lines. Concentrating well enough to get rid of the skipping greatly improves efficiency.

    That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

  4. Stephen says:

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks. I think I will aim for 60 in 2006. I have more specific targets though.

    I want to finish the other volume of Calvin.

    I have a pile of puritans on my shelves, particularly a near-full set of John Owen’s works. I would like to read two or three volumes of these.

    I’m in a quandry about whether I should be reading about the emergent thing. I secretly hold this hope that the whole thing will go away, though I suspect it won’t.

    I don’t know what I am going to do about fiction. I suspect I will attempt the many classics that my wife has on the shelves. We’ll see.

    Have you any suggestions for reading?

  5. Alastair says:

    I have yet to read Piper’s book and I haven’t read much of Lewis’ non-fiction, but the other books are superb.

    A few recommendations for you:

    Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
    Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
    J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books

    Neil Postman, one or more of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Technopoly and The Disappearance of Childhood
    Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances
    Rene Girard, I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning

    N.T. Wright on Romans (if you haven’t read it, you really must)

    Other theological works and authors:
    Stanley Hauerwas
    Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul
    Peter Leithart, especially Against Christianity
    Alexander Schmemann
    James Jordan
    Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology
    Robert Jenson, On Thinking the Human
    James K.A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy
    Fergus Kerr, Theology After Wittgenstein

    If you want to read up on emergent stuff, McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy might be a good place to start.

  6. Stephen says:

    Thanks for the suggestions, Al.

    I have Eco and Ridderbos on my shelves. I have watched the HP films often, thanks to Kate, and listened to the unabridged tapes in the car on journeys to Scotland. So, I have no desire to read the books, as you might understand.

    I have had Postman on my horizon, though I felt I could not justify more expense. I have Hays on my Amazon wishlist, so if anyone is offering…

    I suppose Wright is to significant to avoid, though I have to confess it feels like I would be consorting with the Dark Lord. I’ll need to wear my tin foil hat for that one. πŸ˜‰

    Generous Orthodoxy? After Doug Wilson’s recent extensive demolition of that book I have no desire whatsoever to read this.

  7. John says:

    Good going, Stephen! I’ve no idea of my book count – I’ve never counted :-/

    But you definitely need to read more fiction πŸ™‚ And I’m hardly likely to let a comment like that about purgatory pass, now am I? πŸ˜€

    I’m not sure why you’re so antagonistic towards reading Wright – I know you don’t really agree with him, but he’s central to a lot of evangelical theology ATM. It’s even more important to read authors we think we disagree with than those we think we agree with – far more to chew over that way!

    Anyhow, Happy New Year!

    pax et bonum

  8. Stephen says:

    Hey John. Long time no read. Happy new year.

    I was a little tongue-in-cheek about Wright. The ‘Dark Lord’ name I first saw used by an NPP advocate, not by his opponents. Al and I have known each other for a while and have met face to face and talked about Wright, so I hope he understands where I am coming from. I have read some of Wright’s work and listened to some lectures. He is certainly engaging.

    However, I am tending to follow the advice of one lecturer at ETCW who said that it is good to get a grip of the Old Perspective before grappling with the New. I think this is sound advice. If I were a mere youth I would be tempted to wander off with any old stranger who offered nicer looking theological sweeties than my parents. (NB this is a fact in my own personal experience!) Nowadays, I tend to be a little more careful, offering respect where it is due.

  9. David says:

    Happy New Year Stephen

    I feel nervous about offering reading suggestions in the presence of all the theological heavyweights who read your blog, so I’ll restrict myself to four observations/suggestions.

    First, the lap timer thing that Ant picks up on. This is a variation on a technique that is fairly well known in education. There’s good evidence that giving people a tool to help them think about what they are doing (in your case the tool is the lap timer) helps them to concentrate on what they are doing more effectively. There are different names and different techniques depending on which educational guru you follow (Learning to Learn, L2L, thinking about thinking, metacognition…) but it does seem to work – as you have discovered.

    As for book suggestions, my own reading of Christion books (never mind theology) has been very limited. My nephew is clearly concerned for my spititual well-being and gave me Jonathon Edwards: A New Biography by Ian H Murray for my Christmas. The preface and introduction alone had more theology in it than I’ve read for ages! One comment from the intro that I thought was interesting was from a bishop. The biographer is explaining how opinions on Edwards are divided because opinions on Christianity are divided and he quotes the bishop to illustrate this. The bishop notes that many people treat Christianity as if it were fictitious “…And accordingly they treat it as if… this were an agreed point among all people of discernment.” Why did I think this was interesting? Well, the bishop wrote this in 1736! There really is nothing new under the sun. So, if you are looking for a biography, so far I have found Murray’s book to be interesting.

    For fiction, I noticed Azimov in your seven things list. I almost put his I, Robot collection in my list, but decided to go for a modern SF writer instead. Have you tried Iain M. Banks yet? If not, I would highly recommend Feersum Endjinn.

    Finally, if you want a break from Harry Potter on car journeys, you could try introducing your daughter to the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snickett. Don’t let the Jim Carey film put you off, the books are much better. The audio book, particulary those read by Tim Curry, are excellent.

    Sorry for the long post. Happy reading in 2006.

  10. Stephen says:

    Nervous? Don’t worry. It’s all stuff and nonsense really. πŸ˜‰

    “Metacognition” – wow. I like that. Sounds cool – very Minority Report-ish.

    Book on Edwards sounds good. I have read some Iain Banks (not Iain M. Banks) and found his work interesting though a little dark. I would like to know what his SF is like.

    We got the DVD of Lemony Snickett and Christmas. I confess I like Carrey’s Count Olaf. However, even better, dear daughter has started reading the books. I have noticed a real change in her interest in reading over the last couple of months, which is a delight.

    Oh, and HNY!

  11. John says:

    Ian M. Banks? Dark, dark, dark. He can always be relied on to depress me by the end of a book! But an excellent writer and storyteller nonetheless.

    Personally, my favourite current SF writers are Orson Scott Card (must-reads include the well-known Ender’s Game and the less well known Timewatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus) and David Brin (especially the Uplift series).

    pax et bonum

  12. Chris says:

    Have you read the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman? Increasingly thought-provoking as well as wonderful story-telling.

  13. Stephen says:

    No, I haven’t read any Pullman. I have heard about him and that his atheist worlview permeates his books. Nevertheless, I’m sure he is an interesting read.

  14. John says:

    I enjoyed the Pullman, but found that they got less satisfying as the series went on. Not because his worldview came through more strongly (although it does, I guess) but because they’re less well plotted and written. He sets up situations that he never fulfils, and throws away various setups he does deal with. It’s sad that the final book in the trilogy won the award because it’s by far the weakest IMO. But still worth a read in general!

    pax et bonum

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