3 ways my reading habits have changed

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Over the last few years, I’ve read a lot—like a lot a lot—of books. (I may or may not have read enough to qualify for a seminary degree. But, sadly, only from a sketchy school.) Because I enjoy books so much, I find it periodically helpful to examine my relationship with them and to see how my habits have changed. Here are three things I’ve noticed recently:

1. Focusing on one book at a time

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea I could multi-task and read a bunch of books all at the same time. False.

A chapter here and a chapter there doesn’t really help me. Although I feel like I’m admitting a weakness in saying it (since we’re all supposed to be epic multi-taskers today) I need to focus on only one book at a time. When I do, something interesting happens: I read more!

When I’m trying to read multiple things, it just gets messy and I get scattered. Which is no fun at all.

2. Getting okay with quitting—and finding new homes for—books

If you were to look at my “currently reading list” on Goodreads, you might see four titles. Two have been sitting there for, give or take, about eight months. Another has been slowly being picked away at for five. One has been up for two days. Guess which I’m actually reading?

The one I’m picking away at is one that requires much long-term processing, so it’s no wonder I don’t come back to it all that often (despite it being excellent). However, the other two I just had a hard time getting into. And, despite having a peculiar need to finish every book I start, I’m getting pretty okay with saying, “nope, not going to finish.”

I’m also getting better at getting rid of books altogether. Our bookshelves are double and triple-stacked. I’m kind of afraid we’ve accidentally become hoarders (but just of books)! This week, I took a big box of books (enough to fill one shelf) to work and said to my coworkers, “Take whatever you want!” They, happily, took me up on the offer.

And you know something? It felt pretty liberating. (This thrills my wife immensely.) While I’m still taking baby steps with this (figuring out what to get rid of is probably harder than actually getting rid of them), it’s helpful for me to know I can actually do it!

3. Getting okay with reading “just for fun”

Reading’s always been fun for me, but reading books that don’t necessarily have a lesson to be learned or an insight to be grasped. This summer I read The Princess Bride, and it was excellent. But there’s no lesson to be learned there. Ditto a rather ridiculous book spoofing the end of days (long story…). I love learning, but sometimes it’s okay to read some brain candy.

What about you? How have your reading habits changed over time? What do you need to change (if anything)?

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

Reader interactions

9 Replies to “3 ways my reading habits have changed”

  1. I also love reading articles that focus on reading. I think that reading style varies from person to person and it’s important to try different styles and see what works best for you.

    I find that I get more read when I have several books at once. Aside from reading the Bible, I typically have a devotional-type books that I can read quickly aside my Bible. At the moment I’m reading The Incomparable Christ by Stott. Several times a year, I do go straight through a book that grips me so much that I cannot put it down. Usually I have a mixture of heavy and light reading. When you read a heavy book, like The Holy Trinity by Letham, there is only so much of tracing the doctrine of the Trinity through church history that my mind can take. So I switch to another book when my brain needs a change of subject or something a bit easier. I also find that I read different books in different places. When I was commuting to work on the train I would read lighter, smaller books–I wouldn’t try to read Kingdom through Covenant here! If I go to the local coffee shop for an hour by myself, I’ll bring Kingdom through Covenant, and enjoy with a great coffee.

    One area where I need to improve on is reading fiction. I rarely read fiction but would like to read more of it.

  2. I’m reading fewer books at a time these days too. Not down to just one like you, but I usually have something fun, something work-related, and something theological going at once.

  3. […] 3 Ways My Reading Habits Have Changed I’m also back to the “one book at a time” approach, and I agree, you get much more reading done. […]

  4. I have started to read books that aren’t novels. I’ve learned to be far more careful of what the author believes even when it is a novel. I’m learning to study the Bible as well as simply reading it. I’ve gained a lot more discernment. It was easier to be naive but not better.

  5. Reflecting on reading habits is such a good way to grow as a learner! I find it helpful, in those seasons of dryness, to be okay with only reading a short theological essay on a specific topic, just to keep you thinking. Sometimes a heavy book is just a bit overwhelming. A good friend always reads a poetic work, a theological/academic work and a novel at the same time. A discipline I wish I could hold! Nice post!

  6. […] done. This is what works for me, but it might not for others. In fact, in another blogger’s post on reading, they expressed the exact opposite. They only read one book at a time. When they try […]

  7. I’ve been trying to read roughly two books at a time – not counting the Bible. Spending 15-20 minutes in a classic (like Jonathan Edwards) in the morning, and then as long as I can afford in some other book in the evening before bed. When I actually stick to it, I find it a very good balance. That way I can pick and plunk my way through the weightier classics or maybe a Systematic Theology, and then have something a little lighter in the evening. But, like you, I definitely think it’s important to read just for fun, on a fairly regular basis.

  8. I always enjoy posts on reading! For me, #1 is the exact opposite. I got much less reading done when I used to only read one book at a time. For me, when I have several books going at a time, this allows me to pick the book to read that best matches my present mood, mental acuity level, frame of mind, etc. In the end I read much more. I generally read several chapters at a time when I pick up a book, and for me things don’t get messy/scattered.

  9. Some good thoughts Aaron. I too have read several books at one time. Because of that it takes a long time just to go through one book and often I lose the flow of the book. I now read only one pleasure book and one theology book at a time. Much more fruitful. Thanks for the post.

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