Lit! Some Practical Advice on Book Reading

November 22, 2011 — 2 Comments

9781433522260[A review copy of Lit! was provided by Crossway]

Yesterday, we looked at part 1 of Tony Reinke’s book Lit! Today we’ll dig into the part 2 and see what kind of advice he offers us readers. For space sake, and so I don’t take too many tangents explaining my own approach on some of the advice Reinke gives, I’ll give you an overview of his categories of advice and then focus on a few of them for more detailed explanation.

As Reinke tells us in his introduction, “this book is short and to the point, or at least as short as I could possible make it.” He then explains “this commitment to brevity also means I make points quickly and briefly.” Because of this, he packs a lot of advice into the remaining 90 pages of the book. The dense nature of the advice practically invites a blogger like me to tease it out.

In part 2 of Lit, Reinke gives the following sets of advice:

  • 6 priorities that help decide what books to read (chapter 7)
  • 20 tips and tricks for reading non-fiction (chapter 8)
  • More insights into the benefits of reading fiction (chapter 9, extending the arguments from chapters 5 and 6)
  • 6 ways to find (and protect) the time you need to read (chapter 10)
  • How to overcome the internet habits that undermine reading (chapter 11)
  • How to properly deface your books with highlights, markings, and scribbles (chapter 12)
  • How to build community through your reading (chapter 13)
  • How to raise readers (chapter 14)
  • 5 marks of a healthy reader (chapter 15)

Hopefully you can see how several of these might make great blog posts in the near future. Personally, I found the chapters on prioritzing reading and reading together to be the most beneficial. This is in part because I already strategically read and mark up non-fiction books (chapters 8, 12); I already guard my reading time (chapter 10); I don’t have kids yet (chapter 14); and I read Nicholar Carr’s book and have working on undoing some of the damage the internet has done to my concentration (chapter 11).

On top of that, I already agree with Reinke on the value of reading fiction (chapter 9), though had I read his book a couple of years ago, I might not have. What changed my mind was seeing that your ability to communicate theology is improved by having a good literary sense. While I realize this to be true, I don’t always make a priority of fiction reading, but to be fair, I did read all 7 Harry Potter books during my last semester of seminary in the midst of a full load of classes, working, and writing a thesis. That should count for something, right?

This leaves chapters 7 and 13 as my biggest take-aways. Because of that, I’m going to talk about those tomorrow and roll out to you the personal changes I’m making in response to Reinke’s book. In the remaining space here, I’ll just comment on what is helpful about the advice Reinke gives to readers.

For starters, everyone should have a reading strategy that differentiates between different kinds of books. Reinke covers this in his chapter on tips and tricks (chapter 8). Using a great food analogy, he says that every book is to be one of the following:

  • Chewed and digested like a steak (books to be read, reflected on, and savored)
  • Swallowed quickly like a milkshake (books that are “fast” reads or don’t take too much processing)
  • Sampled like a cheese platter (books that won’t be read in their entirety)
  • Spit out like expired milk (books that turn out to be not worth the time to read)

Correspondingly, some books are better read in certain environments. In his chapter on finding time to read (chapter 10), Reinke suggests the following categories:

  • Desk reading (usually Scripture and deeper devotional reading)
  • Coffeshop reading (books that required sustained attention)
  • Waiting room reading (anything that won’t require sustained concentration)
  • Lunch break reading (books that can be read in short bursts)
  • Evening “my brain is fried” reading (typically fiction or biographies)
  • Bedside reading (Reinke’s spot for “cheese platter” books)
  • Travel reading (books that stimulate thought and planning)

What much of this amounts to is realizing you have far more opportunities to read that you initially thought. If you make plans to read, you’ll find numerous occasions for reading will present themselves. For instance, I always have 4 or 5 books in my car. While I was teaching private music lessons in Dallas, every so often I would have a last minute cancellation. Because of my prior preparation (having books with me), rather than wasting the time playing Angry Birds, I was able to read from a milkshake book or two.

Reckoning with the different kinds of books (steaks, milkshakes, cheese platters) and different reading environments should help you see that starting a reading habit isn’t as hard as it might have seemed in the past. I would imagine the difficulty most people have is that they pick a book (steak) that doesn’t mesh with the environment (end of day/bedside). By taking a little time on the front end to evaluate a book breifly before reading, you should be able to use the above advice to pick the best place/time to dive in. Doing this for several books will help you start your own journey on becoming more of a reader. The 6 closing thoughts that Reinke gives on this process are to:

  • Expect resistance from your heart (like you will with all new habits)
  • Make time to read, not excuses for why you don’t
  • Cultivate a hunger for book by reading (re-reading) great books
  • Set your reading priorities and let those drive your book selections (more on that tomorrow)
  • Stop doing something else in order to make more time to read
  • Try reading three (or more) books at time and make use of the above environments

All in all, I would say Reinke gives good basic advice for people who want to improve their reading abilities and habits. Even someone like me, who has been trying to perfect reading to a fine art over the last several years can learn something from what Reinke offers in Lit! His advice is practical and to the point and he makes his case in a clear and compelling manner. If you want to inject some excitement into your reading, or you never knew the word “excitement” could be associated with reading, then you might want to check out Lit!

You also will want to check back tomorrow and see what I’ve got in mind for a community reading project and how it just might help you start your own theological reading journey.



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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!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. 11 Great Theology Books I Read In 2011 | Think Theologically - December 30, 2011

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  2. Lit! Reading With Priorities and In Community | Marturo - January 23, 2012

    […] Yesterday, we examined the second part. […]

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