I got a letter from a pastor up in Seattle, and in it he had these questions:
–how many book do you usually have going at a time?
–how do you mark-up/make notes in your books?
–how do you file/make notes for future reference and/or research from the books you read?
This blog has changed my reading habits. I used to read one book at a time, and never more than one. But, because a blog requires diversity and since some of my blogging has to do with books of interest to Christians and pastors, I now read about 3 or 4 books at a time. My blog reading is done sporadically — I read my Friday is for Friends chapters on Wednesday evening or Thursday evening.
Right now I’m reading only for writing projects — on my days at home I’m working on the biblical passages and writings about fasting for a book on fasting called (right now) BodyTalk. Also Darrin McMahon’s brilliant book Happiness: A History (for a piece for Books and Culture). I’m reading Darryl Tippens’ Piligrim Heart for Friday is for Friends and Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways. Publishers now send me books to review on this blog, and I usually store up 3-4 and work through them on weekends.
On marking books… I use a fountain pen at all times. (I’ll not impose another eulogy about fountain pens yet.) I underline what I like or what I think is worth quoting; I write notes in the margins — a stimulating thought or a point of disagreement. No highlighters for me. I like the sound, feel, and smell of underlining with a fountain pen.
On note taking: I jot down notes of interest to my writing or speaking engagements in my “Journal” that I keep with me. (I used to use sheets of paper but I’ve found I lose them and they begin to float around my office.) I don’t take official notes and then store them away; too much time filing and worrying about future use. Some people are notebook builders. I’m not.
But brother, one of my themes when “advising” about reading is this: Read what you want to read. If you are reading something that doesn’t grab your attention, put it down and read something else. Avoid reading only what you have to read; avoid reading only things useful for sermons. Read things that get your fires going. Read good writers — especially good writers. I prefer the the word “desultory” for what I read: whatever comes my way that strikes my attention.