The Dancing Puritan

Friday, August 8, 2014

Enjoying Your Books

A section from my library

Sometimes I take a tour of my library just for a fresh look at my books. All of them have a story beyond the message of the book. Many were purchased while rummaging through old bookstores with a friend. Musty smells of bookstores come to mind mixed with the sweet aroma of friendship. I have purchased books from library sales, retail stores, outlet malls and mail order catalogues. Many books have been given to me over the years. If my books could talk, what stories they would tell. When is the last time that you browsed through your library? Even if you just have one shelf, taking a look at your books again can be a refreshing experience. 

Tim Sanders in his book, Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends has a lot to say about books (see yesterday's post for more). Sanders underlines the importance of encoding the books that we read. By that he means "that you've intelligently and completely digested your knowledge meal." Books are like food, they are to be taken in, tasted, chewed on, and digested. Sometimes there are sections that must be discarded. However, even that which you will not digest and make your own as a matter of practice, can still be helpful to you. For example, you may encounter a falsehood that is sold as a truth. When you do, argue your way out of the lie. You will be stronger as a result. Of course be discerning because error is tricky and you don't want to get tripped up.  

To digest or encode a book, you need a place to read. One of the things that I recommend is to always have a book with you. You will find moments of time throughout the day that can be captured for reading. The book you carry will likely be the main book that you are working through. Other books that you may not need to give as much focused attention to can be strategically placed around your home and office. Therefore, if you find yourself separated from your main book you can pick up another and read a page or two. Sanders writes:

Find spots where you like to read, or where you have time to do so. If you're on a plane, a train, or even a taxi, get used to reading a book. You will begin to associate places where you eat, sleep, travel, and even when you're stuck in traffic with places where you read. Soon you will find that reading becomes second nature whenever you have a spare moment in any of these locales. Unlike computers, books boot up instantly. . . . One of my friends recently stopped driving to work so he could take the train and create a one-hour-a-day MyPlace to read. (76-77). (Sanders coined the term MyPlaces as places to read)

Friends and acquaintances will often tell me that they just don't have time to read. Though they are not intentionally lying, their stories just don't measure up. Like Sanders says, it is important "that reading becomes second nature whenever you have a spare moment." I have heard of people reading while they shave. When I am at the gym I sometimes see a person reading while they are on the treadmill. Audio books are great while driving to work. Recently I was on the road for seven hours and listened to The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. 

Even though you want reading to be second nature, and you want to be prepared to read anywhere and anytime, it is still nice to have some devoted space for reading. By devoted space I mean a place where you can curl up with a cup of coffee and have some undisturbed time (it might be only 10 minutes) for reading, savoring, chewing, and digesting a book. 

An illustration from the wine world might be helpful. Wine connoisseurs say that the way to drink a glass of wine is to smell, saturate, swish, and swallow. This is how they might describe it: After pouring the wine, bring the glass close to your nose and take in the smell. Then put the glass to your lips and take a little bit into your mouth, just enough to saturate your taste buds. Next, swish it around. Finally, swallow the wine. I like to do something similar with coffee. I only grind the beans that I will use for the day. I open the bag, smell the beans, pour them into the grinder, and grind them to a fine texture. Then I take the ground beans and smell them again prior to making the coffee. I enjoy smelling the coffee as it drips, pouring it into the cup and smelling the finished product, and then taking a small drink before consuming it all. The process of making a cup of coffee is fun and it causes me to slow down and enjoy the sights and smells before I drink and feel the effects.

Do something similar with a book. Read the dust jacket (remember we prefer hardbacks), get to know the table of contents, flip through the chapters, and then begin the journey. Smell, saturate, swish, swallow, and digest the book.

I will have more to say about this later but for now, go browse your shelves (or shelf). Take a book and begin the process. I would love to hear from you as to how you have made reading second nature and also anything that you want to share about your reading experiences. Feel free to send me your questions.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries. He is the author of several books and a conference speaker. To contact Ray visit him on Facebook and send him a message here.