New Years resolutions may seems like opportunities for failure, but I think we can all appreciate the sentiment behind them.  We make New Years Resolutions because we want to be better.  I’d like to run more, read more, eat better, and serve my wife more.  I recognize how having a baby come July will make each of those things more challenging so I hesitate to make any hard and fast resolutions. However, I would like to suggestions toward getting a little more out of our interactions with pop culture, so I am thinking I will post some pop culture resolutions and perhaps they will help you interact with the world we live in a little more thoughtfully to the glory of God.  If they do not accomplish that, feel free to express as much in the comments!

How to Read More (and more thoughtfully):

I feel like I have been reading a lot lately, which is a weird thing for me to say because I probably read more than the average person, but lately I have really upped my reading quota and I thought I would share with you how I have managed to do so:

1.   Embrace a little technology:  This Christmas I bought an eReader (B&N’s Nook) and the result is that I have found reading to be more convenient and accessible.  Additionally, I have a Nook App on my Andriod phone (they have one for iPhone as well) and I have fond it relatively enjoyable to read on my phone as well.  So when I am waiting to have my oil changed or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, so long as I have my phone with me (which is always) then I can read (if you are connected to the internet, your book marks will sink from Nook to your phone app).  Rich has shared that having an iPad has helped him to read more, I would say that having an eReader has caused me to both read more eBooks and more print books.  This year, I also became a member of Audible–which means I get one free mp3 audio book every month and discounts on their audio library and I have found fiction particularly enjoyable in the audio format.  Certainly eReaders and mp3 books are not for everyone but you can read books in many more convenient ways than going to the library or the book store simply by embracing some tech!

2.  Expand your gaze: Read outside your normal diet of reading.  If you want to grow to love reading more, read something you normally wouldn’t consider reading.  Because I serve as a pastor at a church, I find myself reading a lot of Bible commentaries and books on the ministry.  I mostly enjoy these books but if I am honest, they can begin to run together and all start to sound the same. Sometimes when a new book on the church comes out, I quickly start feeling like I have read it before.  If you always read the same things, reading can begin to feel monotonous–so I have remedied this by determining to read more fiction and doing so has rekindled my love for all kinds of reading.  By reading things outside your comfort zone you may actually discover whole new worlds and ideas that will reinvigorate your love for reading.  You might also discover what you don’t like but that can be helpful as well.  In forcing myself to read more fiction, I have been challenged to think about what makes us human, I have been challenged to be more creative, more thoughtful, more empathetic–its yet to see how much reading will change me, but expanding my gaze has been encouraging and eye opening.

3.  Ask for Recommendations:  Life is too short to read bad books.  I could recommend a whole host of Bible commentaries and books on the church but when it comes to fiction, ask Carissa or Seth or my friend Lisa or someone who reads more fiction–they probably have some good recommendations and will help you steer clear of the average and narrow your gaze to what is really great.  If you want to read some great books on theology or the local church, by all means ask me (though I can’t promise you will like them as much as I do).  My point is that there are a lot of bad books out there and I think people find reading tedious and boring sometimes because they are reading bad books.  Who do you know who is a thoughtful reader?  Ask them for recommendations, look for thoughtful book reviews, just because something is a New York Times bestseller doesn’t mean it is worthy of your time.  Part of what I love about reading is talking about what I read with others–that is what another benefit of asking for a recommendation–if you read what that person recommends you immediately have someone to talk with about the book.  However, all recommendations are not created equal, if someone recommends a book, ask them why–this will help you determine if its worthy of your time.

4.  Interact with what you read:  If you enjoyed a particular book, take some time to articulate why–this will help you think about what to read in the future and how to expand your palate of reading.  Write a short post on Facebook or your personal journal or even Twitter stating why the book was worth your time.  This will do two things–it will help you learn read more thoughtfully because you will be forced to articulate the main theme of the book and secondly it will pass on the love of reading to others.  Perhaps I am weird but I love to talk about reading, especially with people who have read a book I loved, but also with people who haven’t.  I would also encourage you to do the same with books you don’t like.  If you don’t like a book you will gain nothing from the experience of reading it if you don’t articulate why and consequently you will continued to be wooed by poorly written books.

I realize this is a far from comprehensive list, but I have upped my diet of reading and enjoyed doing so–so if one of these suggestions helps you read more and get more out of what you read, then I count it a post worth writing.


  1. These are some good tips. I’d like to add to Number Four (the one on interaction with the books).

    Finding a good book club can be a great boon to the way one interacts with a book. And this is why I stipulate a good book club. Finding people who will really discuss books rather than just talk about what they liked and didn’t like is highly valuable. Sometimes all it takes is a strong moderator.

    I’m part of two book clubs, one for recent award-winning literature (anything in the decade) and one for graphic novels.

    1) The first has a good set of rules that have made it a worthwhile experience. The group is limited to 8 people. We meet every two months and each meeting’s book is chosen by a different household. Michelle and I are the only couple involved, so that means each member gets to choose a book every fourteen months. This is good because it forces a variety of books.

    Beyond that the member who chose the book hosts the meeting. We have a dinner based on the food or culture represented in the book. And we can’t begin the discussion until the meal is over. Discussion is moderated by the host, so obviously some are going to be better than others. But fairly frequently, we’ll have people who come to the group having not liked or appreciated a book and by the time we leave, their opinion has turned around. Discussion always makes reading more valuable.

    2) The second group (the graphic novel one) runs differently. It’s open invitation and intended for those who are not “into” comics. Instead of a meal, we simply meet after dinner and enjoy some desserts, beverages, and wonderful conversation. In our inaugural meeting, we discussed Footnotes in Gaza and about half of our group had never read a graphic novel before. Because of my relative level of expertise in the medium, I moderate all of these meetings. The great thing is seeing all the perspectives on a single work come out to breathe.

    Basically, book discussions are a great way to open up reading to those who don’t read and to enrich reading for those who do.

  2. Its interesting that you bring up the subject of book clubs because I have thought about starting one. I don’t know whether I could generate enough interest in such a club in my setting, but I would like to. The women at my church have a pretty active and fairly well attended book club and honestly I am a little jealous. Some the more girly books are not that interesting to me, but several of the books they read are.

    Also I very nearly mentioned that graphic novels can be a good way to generate interest in reading. I am a novice in graphic novel reading–I have only read some of the more well-known ones (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Maus, etc), but I am currently reading The Walking Dead series and really enjoying it. From what I can see of the graphic novel world is that there is some really great writing if you look hard enough for it, which I think could help some people bridge the gap into reading other things as well.

    Also, I should say thank for your book recommendations–I have finished a number of them and am working on others. I finished Shadow of the Wind, Never Let Me Go, and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Shadow of the Wind was my least favorite but it was still interesting–but Octavian Nothing and Never Let Me Go were fantastic. I am still working on Brave Story but really enjoying it–I have found that it doesn’t bother me to take my time on that one for some reason.

    I am currently listening to Incarceron which I picked up on Audible and very much enjoying it.

  3. You should see if you can join their book club when they’re doing something interesting or find out if any of their members are interested in being a part of an additional book club. If you’re finding it hard to find others who’d be interested in joining in on the endeavor, that is. With our bookclub, I’m often the only male involved (since the other two guys who are in it often can’t make the meetings) and its been a blast. (The rules for book choices we’ve employed help keep us from reading anything “girly” or even from reading anything not worthwhile—the notable exception being Lovely Bones which, while not girly, was also not at all worthwhile. Save for the fact that now I am fully justified in railing against it every time it comes up in conversation.)

    Speaking of comics though, if you’re looking to start a book club but can’t get any bites the usual way, you might try a graphic novel book club. While the monetary barrier of entry is slightly higher (unless you have a good library system), the barrier in terms of time investment is substantially lower. And there are a number of great books to discuss out there. As we continue with our own group, I’m going to be putting up study guides for all the books we’ve so far covered as well as some we haven’t, so you’ll have a good resource starting point for moderating a discussion.

    While I powered through Brave Story in a little less than a week, Michelle read it over the better part of a month (dividing her time between it, a biography on Roosevelt, two comic book series, and keeping up with the reading for teaching a lit class). She very much enjoyed it herself. I found it a very rewarding book. What didn’t you like about Shadow of the Wind? I would totally agree that Never Let Me Go and Octavian Nothing (which our book club will be discussing on Friday) were both the better novels, but I did very much enjoy all of Shadow save for the part in which the woman is describing her angelic vision (I have no patience for dream sequences in literature). The brisk plot and sense of atmosphere were both nice enough but there were two things I loved about the book: 1) Fermín and 2) the sense that the book was something of a love-letter to books.

  4. Like I said, I really enjoyed Shadow of the Wind mostly for the same reasons you laid out here. Probably what I enjoyed most about it was its depiction of postwar Barcelona. I guess my biggest frustration was that Daniel really gets pinned in a corner in the story in some significant ways and in the end is basically miraculously rescued out of it with no consequences. Most notably in his relationship with Bea–just didn’t feel very realistic that everything went wonderfully for him in the end. Love was presented as an emotional thing we cannot control–that didn’t feel very realistic to me either–that is probably more of a personal pet peeve of mine though. All that said, the story certainly had the right amount of intrigue and a well paced story and interesting Characters–most notably Fermin.

    For those reasons Shadow of the Wind didn’t wow me or provoke reflection nearly as much as the other two.

    My issue with Brave Story is definitely that my interests are tied up in a lot of different things right now and its pretty long! But I think it is fantastic so far–I am about 500 pages in.

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