Friday, December 26, 2003

Book Selection

In which the author attempts to explain how he chooses which books to read

Kendra and I own a lot of books. I know "a lot" is a subjective term, but the way I know we have "a lot" is that I have only read a small fraction of the entire collection. So my "a lot" is purely relative to my past reading record and my current reading capacity.

We have books upstairs, downstairs, and at my office. I have books sitting in stacks on my desk. And we have books in boxes, waiting for us to buy shelves to put them on. I have books that have been given to me and recommended to me. I have a collection of 9 books by Lyle Schaller that I just bought and intend to read.

So, the question comes, how do I choose which books to read? Well. Let me tell you. I get out my blindfold and have Kendra spin me around a few times. And the book my head lands on when I fall down is the next book I read.

No. Actually, I have a number of ways that I select books to read. 1. Recommendation. 2. Guilt. 3. Enjoyment. 4. Personal Development. 5. Clusters. 6. Wowsers. Let me explain.

1. Recommendation. When I say that I read books that are recommended to me, I really mean to say that I read books recommended to me by a very small (very trusted) group of people. These people include Kendra (my wife), Jonathan (my brother), Ron Gladden (church planting guru), and Aquarius (my hair dresser). Actually, Aquarius has not recommended any books to me yet. But if she did, I think I would read them. They recommend things to me because they are well written, or practical, or profound, or fun. I have rarely been disappointed. There are always the church members who want me to read every single book they have read. They even lend them to me. But I tend not to read them. I already have a shelf full, recommended by trusted sources. Thanks, though.

2. Guilt. There are books that I know I should read. I tried reading some Jane Austen earlier this year. I have never read any Jane Austen. It turns out I just couldn't slog through it. Sorry, Jane. I am a pastor, so I try to read the Bible every year. I feel like I should be reading more history, but I just can't make myself do it. So I pick up the book and try and try and try to read through it. I reason, It's good for me. I can't expect to like everything. I can't give up on something just because of a lack of enjoyment. There are also books gifted to me that I feel I have to read. Some of the guilt reading turns out to really be awesome (or useful). So guilt's not all bad. Right?

3. Enjoyment. Often, I want to just sit back and not have to think. I'll read a little light fiction. Or some children's books. Or some light, fictional children's books. This whole set tends to be fiction.

4. Personal Development. I like reading about leadership and management. I read about church development a lot. Often, I find these books through the general buzz (huh. a lot of people are talking about this "good to great" stuff. maybe I should read some of it.). Or I make lists of books that my favorite authors refer to. Or I just read more books by my favorite authors. Sometimes, I will try to see where I'm lacking in knowledge or ability, and try to read in those areas to make up for those shortcomings.

5. Clusters. Maybe I am interested in Anwar Sadat all of a sudden. So I go to the Wichita Public Library and find the major important works on Anwar, and I read them all in a cluster. Or I get on a kick about human nature and read Shantung Compound (again) and three or four other books on the topic. I like this method of book selection, because I tend to get a more balanced view by reading several perspectives over a short period of time (before I can latch on to an opinion and make it mine).

6. Wowsers. Right. There are just some books that I have to read over and over and over again. I usually find them in areas 1-5 and then latch on to them. Steps to Christ, The Bible, The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, Who Moved My Cheese?, The Chronicles of Narnia, Choice Theory, etc. are such wowsers. I find new things each time I read them. And so I try to read them once per year (or so).

So that's basically how I choose which books to read. It's not very scientific. And it's not very complete (because if a topic is off my radar screen, the books aren't on my shelves). But it's what I do. How do you choose books? I'd love to know.


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