How I Organize My Reading

January 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I’m very overdue for a post on reading and reviewing books. I spent most of December reviewing books, so that’s probably why. If you’re keeping score at home, the last post was on the bibliographic details. Before that, I explained the three types of book reviews I typically do. For other posts, you can check back with the table of contents.

This post goes more in tandem with the post about how Goodreads meddles with my reading habits. The question left unanswered was “Just what are those reading habits?” Goodreads will tell you what I’m currently reading, but this is how I track what I plan on reading (rather than using Goodreads “To-Read” section).

I’ve tried many different things, but the basic way I keep track of what I want to read is through the Clear App (pictured above). I’ve found since I’ve started doing this I have a better focus for my reading and it helps keep curiosity in check (an issue I’ll talk about in another post soon). There is some consistency in the above outline and the current setup of the book review page. There the categories are:

  • Apologetics
  • Biblical Theology
  • Christian Worldview
  • Christian Living
  • Commentaries
  • Historical Theology
  • Hermeneutics
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Philosophy
  • Practical Theology
  • Systematic Theology

For actual reading purposes, I’ve simplified it, and here’s what that entails

Biblical Studies

This includes almost everything Bible related. I don’t differentiate between Old and New Testament like I do in reviews, which is more to help you find things. Biblical theology falls under this category, as does any commentaries I might be working on. Typically though, I don’t just read commentaries. If I am, it is because I’m working toward a review, or because I’m doing research for a pastor’s sermon. Sometimes, it is for my own class prep, but if that’s the case, I’m using the introduction not necessarily planning on reading the entire book.

Christian Living

This is my list for all things practical when it comes to the spiritual realm. I distinguish Christian living and practical theology by seeing the former as more directly application based, and the latter being more on the theoretical side. Paul Tripp might be an example of someone who bridges the gap, but on this scheme, his books would more readily fall under Christian living. If it is more theological, even though it is about the Christian life, I would probably file it under the theology list.

Hermeneutics

This gets its own list primarily because it is of special interest. I could file this under Biblical Studies, but I’m reading on the more philosophical side. Anything on the theological interpretation of Scripture falls under here, but so does the recent collection of essays by Anthony Thiselton which are more philosophical than theological (though there is both). This probably qualifies as my special research interest, and I’m gathering a general idea of what I might like to write a dissertation on. Hence, separate list from other reading.

Philosophy

Though my review habits don’t include a lot of philosophy, it has its own list on here because it is something I enjoy reading, and may potentially be reading much more of it in the coming days (I’ll explain later). So far this year, I’ve read 3 books with the word philosophy in the title, and used my Amazon Gift Card to get several more. Also, given the nature of much of the apologetic reading that I do, most of it would be filed here.

Theology

Theology on this breakdown is all theology except for biblical. I consider that more a part of biblical studies, but it could just as easily be put here. Instead, I put titles here that are more overtly theological. Mostly it books dealing with the topics of systematic theology, but I also include heavier practical theology titles, as well as historical theology. Given the way the lists are setup, it is pretty easy to distinguish between what falls under this heading and what fits under a different one.

Worldview

This is kind of catch-all category. On the book review page I call it Christian worldview because the books that I review come from Christian publishers. Here, anything that is aimed at shaping the way you look at the world falls here. So this would include psychology books, leadership books, literature books, as well as some how-to books that don’t fit under Christian living (like a book on writing better or dieting). The idea is that these books are not primarily drawing on Scripture and are not primarily theological or philosophical. That makes it a kind of non-fiction grab bag, but so far it works well.

Review

Now, what you cannot see in the screenshot above is that I have a separate list called “Review,” which is just what it sounds like: all the books that I have to read and review. Because you’re curious, currently the number is 18. Regardless of what type of book it is, if I’m reading it for review purposes, it goes on that list. I tend to order the books in priority, but there is generally no set due date, so I do some shuffling (almost every day to be exact).

Overall, I found this system a good way to keep running lists of my reading intentions. This keeps it organized somewhere outside my mind, so I really don’t fret or worry about when I’m gonna read what or whether or not I’ll finish a book in time. If there is a set due date, I’ll make it a to-do item in my 2Do app. If not, I’ll just read what I see fit in the spare time that I have (which is usually before most people wake up). If you’re really interested in reading and reviewing books, you need some kind of system to keep track of what to read and when. This is what works for me. If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you!

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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