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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reinventing the Rules for Reading

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” ― C.S. Lewis

Good habits take discipline and intentional action . . . two things that our time-starved culture struggles to grab hold of. One of the great habits that drive our ability to engage our world for the better is reading. And on World Book and Copyright Day, we thought it would be appropriate to talk about the discipline of reading.

The need to talk about this is growing more and more necessary. We were amazed recently to read a guest blog post by Justin Zoradi on Donald Miller’s blog that shared some of the recent stats on reading patterns in the United States. One of them was that “80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.”
From you readers out there I can hear a sudden and uncontrollable “gasp!” But from the overall culture, it is probably not that concerning. After all, we are consuming a huge amount of content in many formats each day and few people could argue that we are not being introduced to thousands of messages every work week.
However, consuming media in “twitter-sized” bites and reading a book about a given topic cannot be compared. We use twitter plenty, but when we really need to dive deep we don’t expect that topic’s hashtag to give us the meat we are looking for. Instead, we pick up a good article, a well-thought out blog post or, yes, a book.
We are reading differently today because of all the changes in our world. That’s ok . . . as long as we realize the benefits of reading an idea that has been well thought out, well researched and presented in a compelling way. But how can we decide the place of the book among the countless content options we have today?
C.S. Lewis set out a simple rule many years ago (see the beginning of this article) challenging people to mix the reading of new and old books to get a broader perspective and understanding of the topics that they care about. This can be helpful because it gives value to ideas from different times, allowing us to see beyond the fads and cultural blinders that so often hamper the thinking of a person living in a specific place and time.
But we ask the question, “How would we update C.S. Lewis’ rule for the age in which we live?” What a challenge! But if we are successful, maybe we can help reintroduce the discipline of reading into the lives of the next generation.
“It is a good rule to read . . .

-          A book written by someone from another culture as often as you read a book written by someone from your own.

-          At least one article recommended by your twitter followers each week.

-          Three blogs for every one you write.

-          Books that have nothing directly to do with your career or position at work.

-          Content recommended by your close friends which will give you an opportunity for discussion.
These are some of our suggestions for updating C.S. Lewis’ rule. What are yours? Recommend other options for a chance to win our latest book Through the River: Understanding your assumptions about truth. (We will pick a random entry to decide the winner.)


Anonymous said...

Great list! May I start with a comment to add to your list? How about: Reading one book (a month?) suggested by the professional journal(s) you follow?

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...

Thanks for that recommendation! Very good. That regular reading habit is a key part of discipline.