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Reading List Overload

I am a firm believer that just as one cannot have too many good friends, so one can never have too many good books. Having said that, I must admit that I have far more books than friends, and even then my book collection is quite small. I was speaking with someone this week who has had the opportunity to browse through the personal library of Al Mohler who apparently has a collection of some 50,000 volumes. Charles Spurgeon had a great library, but it pales in comparison at “merely” 12,000 volumes. Of course he lived in a day where there were fewer books and they cost more. He also had the advantage of a photographic memory and many years after reading a book could pull entire quotes from most of them at a moment’s notice.

Warren Wiersbe once wrote “My books are my tools, and I use them. I cannot afford to be a book collector; neither the budget nore the diminishing shelf space permits such a luxury. I enjoy my library. Each book is a friend that converses with and teaches me. Better to have fewer of the best books than to clutter your shelves with volumes that cannot serve you well. Above all, love your books, use them, and dedicate all you learn to the service of Jesus Christ.” I agree with his sentiment. I do not have money or inclination to be a collector, but I do love, read and refer to the books I have been blessed with.

But I digress. I have been reading near constantly over the past few months and have had the privilege of reading some very good books. Of course I have also read a few duds, but most of them have been great. I do try to moderate my reading so that I only read the occasional book that I suspect I will dislike. Most of these, unfortunately, fall under the category of “popular Christian authors.” Despite all this reading, my list of unread books continues to grow. Christmas, my birthday and quite a few freebies have grown the list substantially. I am currently trying to catch up in reading and reviewing some of the books I have had on the go for several weeks. I posted two reviews yesterday and will (hopefully) post two more today. That will leave only two books on my “currently reading” list. I am reading The God Who Justifies by James White, but am doing so quite slowly and carefully because of its theological depth and importance. The other book I am reading is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper which is quite good, though for some strange reason I have a difficult time enjoying Piper’s writings. You can see the rest of my reading list here.

A few people have asked me recently how I can read so much. I usually answer that I just read all the time. I keep a book with me when I go to the doctor’s office, when I’m waiting for meetings and during those ten minute intervals between finishing work and eating dinner. Lately I’ve been so obsessed with reading that I keep a book with me even when I’m watching a TV show so I can read a page or two during commercials. That can’t be healthy. But the real key to how I can read a lot of books quickly is that I do not read all of them for complete comprehension. Take Deceived on Purpose as an example. I read quickly through many of the parts of the book, knowing that I have no reason to really know and understand the lengthy quotes from New Age books and material. I understand the main points of the book and how it applies to me, and try and categorize the rest of it in my head for later reference should I need it. When I do research for an article or Bible study, I do not always know exactly what a book said about the topic, but I generally do remember what book mentioned it and where I can find the references. So while I do read every word of every book (including footnotes since they often contain some pretty important information) I do not set my standards at remembering every single point the author makes. There are books I read more carefully than others (ie Total Truth did not lend itself to quick reading) and I assume this is how the Mohlers and Spurgeons of the world can read such vast quantities of books.

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