Saturday, March 17, 2007

On Reading

Douglas Groothuis has a good post on reading. I think he has some great advise. I don't agree with everything, though. I figured I'd provide some commentary on some of his points.

3. Mark up your books, underlining key ideas and jotting ideas in the margins. Keep an index in the front of the book of the most important ideas. If the book is especially profound, take detailed notes on it.

This is a good idea. Regarding keeping notes, I must state that most notes people take are very ineffective. First of all, they are normally far too volumnious. Secondly, they are usual illegible anyways. A mind map would serve the purpose much better in being more clear, more visual, and more succinct.

5. Reread important books. This is a mark of the literary person, as CS Lewis notes in An Experiment in Criticism. I have been rereading much of Francis Schaeffer recently, a man I first read nearly 30 years ago as a young Christian. It is well worth it.

Very true!

6. Never get rid of a book you have read. I have thousands of books, but lament that I let go some I read (and some I didn't).

I disagree with this one. I believe getting rid of some of your book is a good practice. Here are many reasons why I say this:
  1. It will make you evaluate which books you really liked and which ones you plan to re-read

  2. Rather than holding a copy of a book that you may never read, giving away some of your books will recirculate them

  3. You could give some books for free, helping out a friend

  4. You can trade them and receive another unread book in its place (ie. Title Trader

  5. The cycle of is good for helping to avoid being attached to books as objects. This helps you to realise that what is really important are the ideas, not the physical object. Collection-mongering, while not inherently wrong, is sometimes problematic when one collects for the sake of collecting :)

  6. If you are really taking notes (or mind maps) of the key points of a book, you should be able to give it away because you've condensed the important/crucial points

Now that I've said this, I think I might have scored some major points with any serious theologian-husband's wife. She now has some points to provide in favor of getting rid of that pile of books! :) But, alas, I'm not advocating indiscriminate elimination. I keep many books and probably have some that I should get rid of. However, I just disagree with Doug's idea that books should never be gotten rid of.

A good book collection not only grows, but also shrinks. Shrinking is not ridiculous, it is refinement. Use shrinking to enhance your collection, not decimiate it.

7. Read and reread old books. Don't be taken captive by fashion. Savor the classics.

Yes! Yes! I'd just add that a good way to get to the old classics is to read the citations in modern books and read those authors. Then also see who those authors cite, and read them.

8. Ask smart people what their favorite books are and why. Then read them.

Great point!

10. Always look up and learn unfamiliar words you find in your reading. From 1976-1994 or so, I filled a blank book of over a 100 pages with such words. Use such words in conversation, even if the person you are conversing with may not know them.

Good vocabulary builder! One suggestion, though, if you always interrupt your reading to do vocabulary, you might find yourself slowing down too much. I suggest reading through the chapter, underlining words and looking up them all later together. If you write them down in a book you are losing the context. If you underline them, you can later flip through the chapter or the entire book and see them in their original context.

12. When in doubt, buy a book.

A questionable ending to a good list! :) I haven't bought a book yet in 2007. Why must we buy a book? Do we not have 100's unread sitting on the shelf?

Douglas, thank you for providing a thought-provoking list as you so often do!

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