A balanced diet: My reading plan for 2017

During 2016, I read more books than I think I ever have previously. I also probably read fewer books directed toward Christians than I have in the last ten years. For me, that was a good thing; it was something of a palette cleanser. I normally read a lot of Christian books, so to cut back gave me a nice break. When you read too much of the same, thing, you get to see patterns pretty quickly… You know who is reading and listening to whom, and so forth. It’s easy to get kind of jaded if you’re not careful.

Believe it or not, that’s actually something that helped me with my spiritual malaise that I was dealing with last year. Reading a really nice variety of books reminded me of how much I enjoy good writing in its various forms, whether fantasy stories, theological meditations or even graphic novels.

Which got me thinking about what I want to read this year. Or more correctly, how I want to go about reading. I generally don’t like to get too specific in what I’m planning to read. Set lists of one book of this or that sort usually don’t work for me (although they are helpful for people who don’t read broadly).

Instead, I’ve been thinking in broad categories, and I do have a few specific works that I want to read in the coming year. Today, I thought I’d share a bit of what I’m planning in that regard:

Cultural figures and historical biographies

I’ve recently become a bit of a sucker for pop biographies. They’re usually fun to read, and can often surprise you with unexpected connections. Learning Steve Martin was in a relationship with Stormie Omartian was a surprise, to say the least (although that’s really not a large focus of his memoir on his career in stand-up comedy). I like these kinds of books because the best of them humanize their subjects, and help me better understand them and (usually) their need for the gospel. That said, I also enjoy learning about more lofty figures of history, such as Winston Churchill and past presidents of the United States.

So in 2017, I plan on reading a lot more of these kinds of books, both the pop bios and the more serious tomes, because learning from the past really matters. It helps us understand our place in history and the factors that have shaped our current time. And learning from people of the past matters more because it reminds us that, fundamentally, humanity is still what it has always been—wonderfully inventive and desperately in need of reconciliation with our Creator.

Worldviews and philosophy

During the last year, I probably did far too little serious engagement with alternate worldviews and philosophy. But this, again, matters because the point in doing so isn’t to demolish what others believe, but to understand why people believe what they do and how the Christianity and its worldview differs.

So, in 2017, this is another area I’m going to invest in more thoughtfully. In fact, I already have a book I’m waiting to start (as soon as Emily’s done with it): The Politics of Prudence by Russell Kirk, though I am considering The Conservative Mind as well. I’m also continuing to delve into books related to Islam (written by both former and practicing Muslims), and am investigating good titles that explore social progressivism as an ideology.

Building up in the faith

A Christian can’t be healthy without actually engaging with material written to help us grow. We need the Bible, but we would be wise to take advantage of opportunities to read the good books out there that exist for us. I’m curious about what I’m going to see out there in the market in the coming year, but I can share two things that are on my plate so far:

First, I’m going to use the ESV Reader’s Set, as a supplement to regular study. I really enjoyed the experience of reading through the four gospels in this format, so it’ll be great to try it with the whole Bible. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll get through the Bible in a matter of weeks, instead of a year or more. (I can dream, right?)

Secondly, I’m looking forward to reading the complete works of Francis Schaeffer, or at least as much as I can realistically get to. Although I was already familiar with him and had read some of his work, I was only first seriously introduced to Schaeffer during my first seminary course a couple of years ago. Schaeffer understood how to make the discussion of worldview accessible to the average reader. That’s something we all need to aspire to, and something I hope to learn to a greater degree through my reading.

Thoughtful and engaging storytelling

Finally, there is the need for good stories. I want to make sure I’m reading fun and engaging tales from a variety of perspectives. My daughter is desperate for me to read The Green Ember, and I am really looking forward to reading the first story of the Superman “Rebirth” series (which I’ve heard great things about). Then, of course, there’s a collection of stories set in the world of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, a new book by N.D. Wilson, and a ton more that I’m probably not aware of yet.

The goal, ultimately, is to be a healthy reader. I want a balanced diet of fun and serious work, of faith building and cultural shaping works. And, Lord willing, I won’t bite off more than I can chew.

Photo by Gioia De Antoniis via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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.