John Wooden once said, “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” I believe there is a lot of wisdom in that statement.
A year ago, I made a personal commitment to read 50 books in 2018. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal.
Please do not read this post as a brag. I know people who have read twice that number this year. However, for me, this was a huge accomplishment from which I have benefited immensely. The only purpose of this post is to share what I have learned and encourage you in hopes that you benefit as I did.
This is my first time setting a number for books to read within a year. My purpose was twofold: not only to increase the quantity of books I read but also to improve the quality of books I read. I believe I accomplished both.
Some of the books I read were like coasting down a hill. Some were like fighting an uphill battle. Some of them have already made the list to re-read in 2019. Some I hope to never read again.
Either way, I feel as though I have taken a journey worth taking. It is a journey I plan on taking again in 2019. It is a journey I highly recommend.
My 2018 Reading
Below is a list of the books I read this past year.
The first seven books are my “read every year” list. Each has played a special role in my spiritual and intellectual development, and therefore hold a special place in my heart and mind. So, I revisit them every year.
The rest are in no particular order. I have tried to note the books that stand out to me, looking back. I especially enjoyed and recommend those with a plus sign to the right. Those with an ‘x’, I regret wasting the time to read. This is not because I disagreed with them. I disagree deeply with some of the books I enjoyed the most. The books marked with an ‘x’ were unhelpful, poorly written, misleading, etc.
I would not even attempt a review of each. However, if would like to hear my two cents on any of them, just let me know in the comments section below. I will be happy to share my take.
Even if you skip the list (which I would completely understand), make sure to read the end of this post!
I have given some practical recommendations for anyone setting a reading goal for 2019. These are based on the lessons I have learned and my aspirations for the upcoming year.
Also, I have listed the three books I enjoyed the most this year. I enthusiastically recommend these three books to just about anyone. I plan on reading each again this year. If you only read three books in 2019, I would suggest these. Don’t miss it!
Here is the list…
- Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- On the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen
- Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
- Think by John Piper
- How Should We Then Live by Francis Shaeffer
- How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler
- Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
- He Is not Silent by R. Albert Mohler
- We Cannot Be Silent by R. Albert Mohler +
- The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine +
- The Universe Next Door by James Sire
- Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey +
- A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden
- Pensées by Blaise Pascal
- Augustine in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern x
- Nietzsche in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern x
- Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer +
- Desiring God by John Piper
- 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
- The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
- The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris
- How (Not) to Be Secular by James K.A. Smith
- He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer
- The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer
- The Reason for God by Timothy Keller +
- Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller +
- Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley +
- Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer
- An Introduction to Philosophy by John Warwick Montgomery
- Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness
- The Person of Jesus by J. Gresham Machen
- Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell +
- An Introduction to Philosophy by G.S. Fullerton
- Five Views on Christian Apologetics by multiple authors
- Five Views on the Church and Politics by multiple authors
- A Little Book for New Philosophers by Paul Copan
- A Little Book for New Theologians by Kelly M. Kapic
- Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson
- The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch +
- Who Moved My Pulpit? by Thom Rainer
- This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe
- On Guard by William Lane Craig
- Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris
- The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory
- The Seven Laws of the Learner by Bruce Wilkinson
- A Handbook of Contemporary Theology by David L. Smith
- Is God Just a Human Invention? by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow
- The Handy Religion Answer Book by John Renard
For 50.-52., See below.
1. Set a goal—any goal.
From the frenzy my spring and fall to the doldrums of my summer, that number kept me motivated. There were weeks that I could only read a fraction of a book. There was one week that I read five books. When I got buried in a book with which I really wanted to take my time, I took on a side book or two just to keep me moving. Through it all, I found that just setting a number was one of the most helpful things I could have done.
Whatever number you set, make sure it is doable and worthwhile. You might be able to read one hundred books in a year, but will it be worth it? Will you remember anything you read? Will you have time to process? Do not think for one second that flying through dozens of books a year automatically makes you a smarter and wiser individual.
Think about it this way. The typical American read 4 books in the past year. So, if you only read 5 books in 2019, you can consider yourself an above average reader. Know thyself. Then, know the goal that is right for you.
My goal for 2019 is 60 books. I can tell you now, I am concerned about how this is going to affect my retention and processing. However, I also know how much it helped me this year to push for 50. I guess we will see.
2. Read broadly in every direction.
Looking over my list, if I am disappointed in anything, it is how narrowly I read this year. Most of the books I read are in the vein of my interests: religious nonfiction such as apologetics, philosophy, theology, etc. I only read two fictions, and one was a collection of short stories—not an extended narrative. I read a few authors with which I disagree extensively, but not enough in my opinion.
This year, I am taking the advice of author Kevin Eikenberry when he suggests reading “food groups” to balance an otherwise monotonous and narrow reading diet.
This year I plan on being purposefully diverse in choosing books to read. I do not plan to read less in my comfort zone, only to read more in my ‘discomfort’ zone. It may not be a one-for-one match, but I do want to balance my nonfiction with fiction, agreeing with disagreeing, familiar with foreign, and so on.
3. Increase the more and less important reading.
For Christians, reading the Bible is paramount. However, even non-Christians would do well to have the Bible on their reading list for 2019. There is no other book with more to teach. No self-improvement book will improve you more. No story is more meaningful. No idea is more powerful.
Of all the books in the world, the Bible is more important. So, no matter what your reading goals are, read more Bible this year.
Additionally, keep reading the lesser stuff. Read short reads, long reads, articles, and op-eds. Find a periodical, a magazine, or a blog that seems to have a steady flow of worthwhile material and subscribe.
(I would recommend at least one blog!)
The more and less important reading you do this year will help you stay grounded and growing. I find that my Bible reading keeps me grounded as I launch into my reading list. I also find that the blogs, journals, and periodicals I subscribe to keep me eager for new ideas, books, and authors.
Of all the reading I did this year, three books stand out as my favorites. As I said earlier, I plan on reading all three again this year. They are books that I would recommend with enthusiasm to just about anyone—and I mean anyone. Whether you are a Christian or not. Whether you are politically liberal or conservative. Whether you are young or…chronologically advanced.
If you read only three books this year, make them these three.
(Click the titles to follow the Amazon.com associates links.)
This is easily one of the best books on Christian apologetics I have ever read. It is accessible but substantive. For Christians, it will help you grasp the big ideas of worldview thinking, while both deepening your faith and strengthening your witness. For the non-Christian, you will find a charitable yet challenging discussion of your own ideas.
Senator Ben Sasse writes with keen insight and plain reason with which few would deny. Even if you disagree with his politics, you will find his analysis of American culture enlightening and his suggestions moving forward valuable. In our political status quo, in which few are saying anything beneficial, this book is a breath of fresh air, getting behind the problems we see to the reasons why we have them.
Every Christian needs to read this book. It delivers on the subtitle by analyzing “Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel.” We Christians too frequently react to cultural trends by pushing to the extremes. We either become overly involved or overly isolated. Surveying an array of topics from smartphones to the sexual revolution, this book is a guide to clear Christian thinking in the 21st century.
Happy New Year! Happy reading! Tolle Lege!
Thanks for reading!
I would love to hear your reading goals for 2019 and the books you would recommend from your reading this year. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
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