On the reading of books

So last week I threw out this question: When I say ‘God of the Bible’, what are the first three words that pop into your mind? And it has had some healthy engagement, with almost a hundred comments (if you include the various threads of dialogue that emerged in the fertile soil of this question’s provocation). Indeed, thanks to Nik Tomanovic’s energetic commitment to polite and intelligent discussion, the conversation seems to be continuing, particularly along the avenues of morality, religion, and the possibility of accounting for such phenomena by evolutionary theories. In forthcoming weeks I may manage to finetune a good question that helps a broader audience connect with those themes.

But this morning I have been struck by the question of another Facebooking Ywamer, Taylor Stutts, about how many books people read and whether people use book-summary websites.

Now I love books. And I love the fact that in this day and age I can type the name of any book into Amazon and more often than not buy a copy for less than £10 (assuming you’re happy to have a second-hand copy or an ebook). What I don’t necessarily do is to read a book cover-to-cover. I used to admit this with a little guilt and shame, but then I read Pierre Bayard’s ‘How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read’. Bayard argues that there is no-one who has fully, thoroughly, completely, adequately read any book at all. He divides the possible relationships one can have with a book into four categories: 1. Books You Don’t Know; 2. Books You Have Skimmed; 3. Books You Have Heard Of; and 4. Books You Have Forgotten. And it empowered me to unworriedly admit that I skim books and forget them.

But I try to remember the lessons I learn from them. And I do this by coming to books with specific questions. And letting them modify my questions. And supply with new questions. And also launch me on to other books. The Contents and the Bibliography are sometimes the most interesting parts of a book! Amazon’s ‘Customer’s who bought this item also bought…’ is also very helpful in this respect.

So if you were to glance at my bookshelf, you would see that I am asking questions about Israel and Zionism (the hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration having just passed) [My Promised Land – Ari Shavit; Israel: A History – Anita Shapira; The Case For Israel – Alan Dershowitz]; questions about constitutional law, legal enforcement, criminal justice and a Christian engagement with such things [Constitutional Law – Loveland sixth ed.; The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen; and everything else by Gary Haugen who founded IJM] and the prayer & worship movement [Enthroned – David Fritch; Fire & Fragrance – Sean Feucht & Andy Byrd; Punk Monk – Andy Freeman; The Return of the Musical Prophet – Steve Abley]. And I’ll stop there, but there are other questions that are on my mind.

So, over to you.

What’s one book you’ve recently read that has taught you something new–and what was it?

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