Are you where I am in the midst of the eerie fog that seems to exist between December 26th and December 31st? This odd sort of holiday-esque space where some people have to go back to work and others are still on a break and people are traveling and some are still doing the Christmas stuff — and maybe you’re somewhere in between, and thinking “Hmm…. almost 365 days have passed and another whole year is almost over… What did I do?”
And if you are like me and you sit still a minute and ponder that question, you probably arrive at a place where you think “Well, that happened, which I had planned, but this didn’t. And I didn’t really do that, but at least I can say I made progress.” And perhaps on and on you go, evaluating and thinking and wondering what you might need to do differently so that 365 days from now you don’t feel like you’re still exactly where you are right now.
I didn’t write half as much as I wanted to, perhaps should have, in 2017. And I have some thoughts to think about how to change that in the year ahead — where I hear the Lord whispering the word “Choice” (as in “everything is a choice”) and I sense myself being challenged to make some life-giving choices in the year to come.
However, I excelled at another area I was aiming for: I read an awful lot this year compared to previous years, which I’m pretty delighted about. So while I might not be able to tell you how to crush all your goals (I do think this Michael Hyatt book I mentioned a while back could help with that) I do have some suggestions about reading that, if you’re in the market to make it happen, can make turn those pages more of a reality for you than any year before.
First I want to give half a second to encouraging you to think about why — why reading more *real books* should be one of your goals for 2018. I don’t think a dozen blog posts could fully speak to this question, but let’s start with a few simple thoughts. As a society, we are doing a heckuvalotta consuming and not a whole lot of producing. Most people agree that we are moving in a direction, as one generation passes the baton to the next, and that the direction we’re headed in is not a good one. But do you realize that a lot of the problems we’re facing are as old as the hills? Ideas that have been discussed by philosophers and average joes for generations past? We are really born into a world that was having a conversation for millennia — yes, millennia — before we arrived, and the best way to join that conversation? Is to read what the great thinkers of the past said, and what other great thinkers said in response, thereby joining the conversation.
Did you know Teddy Roosevelt typically read a book before breakfast every day? And then some? Don’t you love his oft-quoted thoughts — that it’s not the critic who counts? Not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles or the doer of deeds could’ve done them better? The credit belongs to the man in the arena, right? But when we spend 99% of our time reading whatever whoever he said she said on the internet, guess what we’re getting? The noise of the critics, right?
Did you know children in Shakespeare’s day had a better vocabulary than the average American adult? Suffice it to say: Reading is good for you. Very good. A man who reads lives a thousand lives, a man who does not lives one, as they say.
Truly — I ought to give another blog post to the why so let’s move on to the how.
Five Tips for Reading More This Year
- Always have the next book on the docket, waiting in the wings. Whenever you’re reading something, go ahead and figure out what’s going to be next. Start searching for book lists online — like the “100 Books To Read Before You Die” lists. Or think about books you’ve read in the past that you enjoyed, and ask for recommendations of similar ones. Ask friends who have similar tastes in books… and if you can…
- Find a friend to join you on the journey. They don’t have to read every book you read. You don’t have to read at the same pace. Being able to text a friend (like I did this year) and say “I finished Emily of New Moon. Couldn’t put it down. I love her so much. My favorite part was when the preacher sat on the cat and was too deaf to hear it and Cousin Jimmy walked in and said, ‘Lord, man, if you’re a Christian, get off that poor animal.’ Or something like that. I could not stop laughing.” A like-minded friend who’ll make and take recommendations can be a gift. Even if you decide to read different things!
- Consider a Kindle (or similar device). When I knew I needed to start reading more a few years ago, the Hubs quickly and kindly invested in a Kindle for me. Not one that had apps and games and tra la la — just a plain black and white (Paperwhite so that I can read at night without disturbing him) Kindle that would not tempt me to check email or Facebook or anything else — just read. Now here’s why the Kindle was a game changer:
- Get a Library Card and Use It. Often. I do visit the local library on a regular basis, but here’s some great news for you. Once you’ve got the card, you don’t actually have to visit ever again. (Although I loooooove the library and I think you should.) There are tons of free books to read on Amazon, AND, there are tons of books that you can check out from the library – online – and have delivered — you guessed it — to that shiny Kindle of yours. This was a GAME CHANGER for me. I don’t have tons of cash to buy every book I want to read. And my library does not own many of the books I want to read. But between a Kindle Unlimited Subscription and the Library Card (and please look for the Libby app — I’ll explain in a moment) you truly have SO many options at your fingertips.
- You Can Take it With You. (And You Should.) Here’s the number one tip — even though it’s listed fifth. You cannot read a book that you do not have with you. But you can take it with you in more ways than you think. Those thirty minutes in the pickup line can fly by with a good book in your lap. And those twenty minutes waiting for the kid at guitar practice will put another chapter under your belt. And GUESS WHAT? Audiobooks totally count. And are wonderful. So do what I told you in step four, and download the Libby App for iPhone, and be amazed at how many great Audiobooks there are, read by great readers. I read To Kill a Mockingbird earlier this year, and then enjoyed listening to the Audiobook on a long trip with the Hero Hubs — narrated by Sissy Spacek. Such a treat! That thirty minute drive to work. The earbuds in your ears while you’re working out. Fifteen minutes folding laundry. Moments made for an audiobook. Audiobooks totally count y’all!!
Now, here’s a bonus for you to encourage you to get started. I truly feel like a richer and fuller human being this year because I spent less time staring at a TV screen and more time joining the great conversations our world has been having for millennia. And I’d love to share some of my favorite reads from this year with you, in hopes that you’ll get bitten by the bug and decide to push that lovely “OFF” button on the remote, or close the tab that’s open to Facebook, and read something that will inspire you to breathe, to be, and to live more fully.
Here are my favorites in several different categories:
For Putting First Things First
Did you know if you read about 4 chapters a day, you can read the entire Old Testament once, and the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs TWICE… in one year? Think ten minutes a morning and ten minutes before bed could get you there? Ten minutes less Facebook, maybe? I hope you’ll include the Good Word in your word count this year!
Robert Murray M’Cheyne (incredible 19th Century Scottish pastor) created the Bible Reading plan that will get you through the Bible in one year as described above.
This link will take you to a website that has it organized by months and then days, and you can click over to the day’s reading on Bible Gateway.
This link will take you to a website that has printable versions in several different formats based on your preferences and eyesight (very thoughtful, hey?) and paper sizes.
Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult. This isn’t specifically a parenting book, but it truly had a huge impact on some of the ideas and strategies the Hubs and I have for helping the little people in our care become full-fledged adults ready to contribute to society when they leave our home. This book is definitely not just for parents. Anyone who is in any capacity concerned about the state of the United States, and wonders what they can do to help forge a brave new way forward will be inspired by this book. Inspiring non-spoiler alert: Sasse does not believe political decisions, parties and directions are the solutions to the problems we are facing. Thus, while it is written by an (impressively intelligent) Senator from Nebraska, it is not a “political book.”
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp was by far the most help and informative book especially for parents that I read this year. It has this illustration about “The Circle of Safety” that we have used since we first read this book years ago, (this was a re-read this year!) and that one practical illustration speaks volumes to our kids and makes reading this book so worth it. I will probably continue to read this one every year or two — not because it’s entertaining and a fun read, but truly because it has so much practical wisdom that I want to continue to remind myself as a parent!
Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. I mentioned this one when I first read it in January, and it still echoes in my head 12 months later. I do not think you can read this story and not marvel at this amazing human being, and feel inspired to also “Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.” If you live in my town I know for sure this is at the Brown Library!
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place. Wowzers, I could not put this book down. While her story is in itself incredibly gripping, it is impossible not to be challenged and encouraged by the faith Corrie and her family exhibited in the midst of unspeakable conditions. You can’t put a price tag on perspective — but purchase and read this book, and I think you’ve made an investment on gaining that invaluable perspective that helps you see your circumstances with less discontentment and more gratitude.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was my favorite classic this year. I am often amazed by how much faith can be portrayed in a book that isn’t necessarily written for the purpose of “faith inspiration.” This year I’ve also been more amazed than ever before at how much truth you can learn in the pages of a fiction book. There are several paperback and hardcover options available on Amazon… and it is free for Kindle! If anybody forgot to get me a Christmas present and wants to send this gorgeous hardcover Brontë Sisters Box Set to my house, y’all just feel free. But seriously that would make an amazing gift for a reader in your life!
To Read-Aloud with the Kids
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. If you’d like to listen to the Audiobook, oh my goodness, Arte Johnson read this one — we found it as an audiobook through the Libby App! — and OHMIGOODNESS it was pricelessly funny. Please enjoy and thank me later.
Our kids also fell in love with the Mercy Watson Series this year and the cousins received this box set for Christmas because if you have not met this delightful pig with an insatiable love for hot buttered toast? Well ya really need to. (She is also at the Brown Library if you live here in Washington!) Mercy truly is a porcine wonder.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr might be the book I had the hardest time putting down this year. This might be the best “Book for the Beach Trip” recommendation here. Doerr’s prose is so engaging it’s almost poetry. The chapters are short and the pace is quick, it seems like so much is happening and you feel quite literally transported to see the story unfold before your eyes in Europe decades and decades ago. His writing style is incredibly unique and I found it absolutely delightful.
Sarah Mackenzie over at Read-Aloud Revival recommended in a podcast episode not too long ago that you can feel so very fully engaged and satisfied as a reader by reading juvenile fiction. If you’re hoping to get more reading in, you really aren’t selling yourself short on storyline, plot, complexity or overall entertainment value just because you choose books that may also be considered appropriate for middle to high school aged students. The more manageable lengths of the books is part of what makes it so satisfying, and helps you want to keep reading more. Think of the richness of the Chronicles of Narnia or Bridge to Terabithia before you disagree!
With Sarah’s advice in mind, I definitely jumped into more Juvenile Fiction this year, pre-reading some things that will be on a list for my kids later on and reading other books that I just thought I’d enjoy.
Emily of New Moon might’ve been the character I most fell in love with this year. She has so much spunk and personality. L.M. Montgomery (a la Anne of Green Gables fame) wrote Emily of New Moon as well as Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. I found all three for Kindle by checking them out from the library. The first was definitely my favorite.
And last but not least….
If you’re a homeschooling parent and you haven’t read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is not a long or arduous read (as some homeschooling guides can be) but full of practical, easily “actionable” ideas and plans to help you find your own personal style and rhythm (and hopefully arrive at the end of this year with more hair still attached to your head.) Easily worth the $13 price tag — I plan to read this one again and again, too!
So friends, Happy New Year! I hope your year gets off to a great start, that you remember to put first things first, and you find yourself learning, growing and thriving more and more in 2018!
More to come from this little corner of the web soon. But in the meantime, if you were a reader this year I’d love to know how many books you read, and what your favorite was!
I almost forgot::
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