Think About What You're Reading

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

I read a silly amount of books every week/month/year, and I’ve realized something:

The ones I enjoy the most are the ones with discussion questions.

Recently my men’s small group has been working our way through The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard (it’s a great book, by the way), and one of the most helpful things about it—even more than the content itself—is the discussion questions and application activities.

It’s really easy to read a book (or scan it in some cases) and say, “Yep, I’ve got it. Next!” Especially for me.

I read very quickly, I retain a lot… but if I don’t dwell on the content, it just sits in my head and doesn’t affect my life.

I find that I have to make the time for application. Discussion questions force me to do that, to dwell on the content and chew on its implications.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul is a great one for that, as is Doctrine by Driscoll & Breshears. Both of these contain great questions that are beneficial to personal study or small groups.

Now, there are some things that don’t require discussion guides, obviously. If you’re reading Amish Vampire Romance End-Times books, for example—okay, that might require some discussion (but not of the book itself).

Rescuing Ambition, which I reviewed yesterday, had a lot of questions within the text, which was great. It made me stop and think about the book.

I also appreciate how Francis Chan periodically writes, “Okay, stop reading this book, go watch this video here, read this passage of Scripture and look at what it says about XYZ.” That’s smart; it pushes the reader to interact with the text and not just let it wash over him or her.

So what do you do with a book that doesn’t have any questions?

Ask your own!

As a general rule, I have a few questions for every book I read:

  1. What is the main idea the author is trying to convey?
  2. How does the author support his/her idea(s)? Scripture, tradition, history, illustrations from real life examples…
  3. Do I agree with the author’s main idea? Why or why not? And can I support my position with appropriate Scripture? (Questions two and three are essential for anything labeled “Christian Living,” “Spiritual Growth,” or “Theology,” I’ve found.)
  4. If these ideas are true, what is one practical way I can apply this truth today?

A great book is one that doesn’t just challenge the way you think, but challenges you to think.

Ask questions. Enjoy discussion.

And think about what you’re reading.

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  • theologigal

    In the way that you say your favorite books are the ones with discussion questions, mine are the ones that require a pen in hand to read in order that I may take notes about what I find interesting or questions I have. That’s how I process through the four general questions you listed. The more I’ve had to scribble inside a book, the more I love it :)

    “A great book is one that doesn’t just challenge the way you think, but challenges you to think”
    Love that quote! It resonates with me as a teacher as well because I reiterate to my students over and over that reading IS thinking and they need to think about what they’re thinking as they read in order to be a true reader. That applies to 3rd graders as well as adults!

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks! Y’know, it never fails to amaze me how much more I enjoy reading a book (even if I don’t like it’s content) when I’ve got a pen in hand. Unfortunately (or fortunately from a teacher’s perspective) I like to use a red pen :)

      Thank you for all you’re doing to encourage the kids to read! God bless you!

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