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What will you read in 2013?


John Baillie was a theologian and minister in the Church of Scotland, perhaps best known for his classic devotional book, A Diary of Private Prayer, published in 1936. I picked up the book earlier last year after learning about it from a friend, and I’m glad I did. Each morning and evening in December I prayed through Baillie’s prayers, a practice I found deeply meaningful.

As the blurb on the back cover puts it, Baillie intermingles “adoring and meditative thoughts about God with a concern for the social and individual good.” And that intermingling is precisely what I most loved about the substance and the focus of his prayers. Whereas the prayers for Monday through Saturday have a lot to do with consecrating the work of our hands, the prayers for Sunday presuppose the practice of Sabbath. And one paragraph in particular made me smile as I read it each Sunday morning:

O Thou who art the Source and Ground of all truth, Thou Light of lights, who hast opened the minds of men to discern the things that are, guide me to-day, I beseech Thee, in my hours of reading. Give me grace to choose the right books and to read them in the right way. Give me wisdom to abstain as well as to persevere. Let the Bible have proper place; and grant that as I read I may be alive to the stirrings of Thy Holy Spirit in my soul.

As I reflect on the books I read in 2012, and as I consider which books to read in 2013, I’m making this prayer my own. I’d like to invite you to do likewise. If the books we read shape who we become, our reading choices have a lot to do with our very well-being, and by extension, I think, the well-being of others.

Which books are the right books for us to read in 2013? And what are the right ways to read them? Which books deserve our abstention, and which ones merit our perseverance? And how do the books we read relate to the Good Book itself?

Byron Borger, independent bookseller extraordinaire, offers some helpful clues in a guest post for Bob Robinson’s (re)integrate blog, describing what he calls “a crisis of vocational distinctiveness and innovative faithfulness in public life.” He proposes three (admittedly partial) solutions: Reading wisely, reading seriously, and reading attentively:

Such wide reading helps us realize that all of life is being redeemed in Christ, that we can witness to His grace and point towards His Kingdom most fruitfully as we live out a uniquely Christian perspective in our callings and careers. An integrated Christian way of working and living requires a framework, a foundation, a coherent narrative, which some call an intentionally Christian worldview. Reading faithfully is one tool for developing a Christian worldview, way of life, and normative way of working. In order to grow in such faithfulness, we must see ourselves as life-long learners.

I think this is good advice, as one would expect from a guy like Byron. By the way, in the same post he recommends – by my quick count – 73 solid books in eight distinct categories, each available from his bookstore with a nice discount. And while you’re at it, check out the additional book recommendations from contributors to Fieldnotes magazine.

With these ideas of “faithful reading” in mind, what are the books you’re most looking forward to reading in 2013?

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  1. I love this post. I had the notion last year to only re-read books in 2013 that I’ve realized had a profound effect on my life. The list isn’t finalized, but I’ve already started on Mere Christianity. It’s amazing how much more I pick up from Lewis compared to reading it 3 years ago.

    Some of the other books I’m planning to re-read…
    Good to Great by Jim Collins
    Reason for God by Tim Keller
    The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
    Today We Are Rich by Tim Sanders
    Strong Fathers Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker
    Drive by Dan Pink
    The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

    I’m backing down my reading goal from mid-20s, to just 12 – one great book a month so I can really digest it. Wish I would have heard about “A Diary of Private Prayer” last year, so I could have read it and maybe added to the list of this year’s re-read :)

  2. tjh

    Great plan, Jem! I was telling your bro-in-law David the other day that I often find myself living in the tension between reading a lot, and reading a little, but reading that little with slow, careful, attentiveness. There’s so much great stuff out there to read, and so much to learn, but I think there’s definite value in an experiment like yours. I look forward to hearing how it goes!

  3. I’m still thinking through what I’ll be reading this year, though I hope to focus more on poverty and women’s and children’s issues as I choose my books. However, I am currently re-reading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck because I received Further Along the Road Less Traveled and I’ve been wanting to get to it. Since my life is pretty much dominated by my young children, meaningful reading comes in small snatches so it could take me all year to get through those two. Additionally, I always read haiku poetry and usually another poet or two to read through (Mary Oliver is my current read).

  4. tjh

    Sounds like a good plan, Jenn. I’d love to spend some more time with poets, so I’ll look Mary Oliver up. Thanks!

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