We are a week into the new year. We are already a week into the new year. While not all of us took the time to set ambitious goals and resolutions as we passed from December into January, I think most of us at least saw it as a kind of fresh start. A new year presents an ideal opportunity to address some bad habits, to interrupt some apathy, to start something fresh. And with all that in mind, I wonder: Have you read a book yet this year?
It’s not like reading a book is necessarily a sign of any great virtue—some of the world’s worst people have been some of the world’s most voracious readers. In fact, I’ve been working my through a long biography of Joseph Stalin in which I’ve learned that he was a bookworm who had an extensive library and was usually the best-read and most knowledgeable person in any room. That reading made him a worse, not better, person. But still, reading is the kind of thing most of us intend to do as one year rolls into the next. At least, few of us determine that in the year to come we will read fewer books than in the year gone by.
So it seems to me that a week into the new year is an ideal occasion to audit your time by auditing your reading. After all, we are people of trajectories and the way we set into a new year is likely to be the way we wrap up a new year. A week is plenty of time to have finished, or at least to have begun, a new book. Of course it’s also plenty of time to have binged a few series on Netflix or to have spent several evenings mindlessly scrolling through the endless dopamine-stimulating social networks that can otherwise consume our evenings one tap or one swipe at a time. If you want 2020 to be a year of personal growth, but you’ve not yet cracked the cover (and the first couple hundred pages) of a good book, I wonder when you’re going to get your actions into alignment with your hopes and desires. If not now, if not this week, I wonder when you’ll begin to read.
Oh, I know there are all sorts of very good reasons you may not have gotten into a book yet. This is a week of prayer at our church so every evening offers something very noble that precludes reading. Well and good. But don’t wait too long. And, at the very least, why don’t you open your phone or tablet, go to the settings, and see what your screen time has been like through the past week. Honestly, has it been a lack of time that has kept you from reading, or has it been a lack of commitment? Have you really been too busy, or have you allowed yourself to be distracted? Imagine that’s it December 31, 2020, and ask what you would have liked to accomplish by then. Take the statistics from the past week and multiply them by 52 to see what your year might actually look like. Then ask whether that’s the year you really want to have. If not, make the change today. Open a book or two, get that habit set in week two, and maintain it until week 52.
Where to begin? Begin with a book that looks interesting, not necessarily with one that looks like it will change your life. Find one that looks intriguing and let yourself get swept into it. There will be time to read the life-changers later on. The most important thing for today is to just build the habit. Perhaps begin here:
- Last week I shared some recommended reading spanning a bunch of categories. There may be something there.
- Browse the list of the most-recommended Christian books of 2019.
- Take a look at the 2020 Christian Reading Challenge.
- Consider an Audible trial. You can usually get the trial once per year and it always includes at least one free audiobook. You can cancel within 30 days and keep the book.
- Visit Christian Audio and either purchase a single book or purchase a membership. You can get great books for as low as $5 or sign up with the free trial which you can cancel within the first 30 days and keep the book.
- Visit Westminster Books and go through their bestsellers from 2019, all of which are currently on sale.