Three reasons to diversify your reading

I probably spend too much time considering my reading habits, but what’s a guy to do?

Every year, I give myself a challenge to read 100 books in the year (one I usually meet well before the year ends). A lot are books on theology and Christian living for reviews—but as much as possible, I try to include some material to break it up with a few biographies, a bit of history, some fiction, some marketing books, and the odd bit of sociology. Because I live increasingly in a Christian bubble—I work with Christians, I minister to Christians in a variety of ways, I primarily review books written for Christians—this is not only helpful, but necessary for me in order to have some sense of what’s going on “out there” as it were.

If you’re like me, you should probably think about doing the same. Here are three reasons why:

1. Escaping the “Bubble.” As I pointed out above, it’s really easy for Christians to get caught in the so-called Christian bubble (in fact, studies indicate that the longer we’re Christians the less likely we are to have non-Christian friends). Reading more broadly keeps our minds sharp and allows us to understand something of the world outside of the Christian subculture.

2. Opportunities to Engage Others in Meaningful Discussion.Now, obviously, there are certain books we shouldn’t read (such as anything including 50 Shades in the title). Books that profit no one except those looking to make a profit are worth no one’s time. That said, reading more broadly allows you to have another connection point with non-Christians that helps you to have meaningful discussions (whether at work, the gym, traditional or online book clubs or Starbucks) that can also lead to opportunities to share the gospel.

3. Enjoying God’s Common Grace. God has not reserved all the “good” ideas for Christian authors. Indeed, in His common grace, He has allowed many non-Christians to have amazing insights into the human condition, given them tremendous literary gifts and fantastic storytelling abilities. If you’re not reading a little more broadly, you might be missing out on something really interesting.

These are a few of the reasons I enjoy reading more broadly. Now it’s your turn: what are your reading habits like—how do you keep yourself from getting stuck in reading only one kind of book?

Updated June 2014


12 thoughts on “Three reasons to diversify your reading”

  1. I have been thinking about this lately and have realized how varied my reading is. My most recent books have included “On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent” by Gustavo Gutiérrez, “To The Castle and Back” by Vaclav Havel and “The Bootlegger” by Clive Cussler among others. I belive we should read and study Scripture but a variety of other books will open your mind for future discussions on various subjects.

  2. I’m taking a few diverse books on holidays with me:
    Howard Schultz, “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul”
    Pierre Berton, “Pierre Berton’s War of 1812”

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  4. Another way that our reading should be diversified, a la C.S. Lewis’ rule for reading: 
    reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you
    have read an old one…keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries
    blowing through our minds…”

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  8. Aaron, I am completely with you! My passion for reading started in church with the Bible when I was very young, but was cultivated by a lot of great secular literature (from grammar school all the way through high school and college). While no work of literature I’ve read compares to the supremacy of the Bible, great books outside of the Christian bubble have given me such great insight into the way people are, they’ve made me laugh, they’ve moved me, and done countless other things to help me grow as a person. 

    Personally, one of the greatest secular books I’ve ever read was “Crime and Punishment.” During my AP English class in HS that book gave presented such a powerful picture of how hard it is to escape from guilt and what it means to set a situation right. 

    Here’s to reading books! 🙂

  9. This post resonates with my situation . . . living in the “Bubble.” Where are you going to seek a list of good books not written for a Christian audience? Will you share them with us?

    1. A good portion will be based on past experience with authors. A guy like Erik Larson (who’s book In the Garden of Beasts is fantastic, by the way) will definitely get a look, for example. For others I’ll be looking for recommendations from friends, looking through reviews on Amazon and keeping an eye on Publishers Weekly. I’ll definitely be sharing good finds with you all here 🙂 

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