Branch Out! Three Reasons to Diversify Your Reading in 2012

I’ve been spending some time considering my reading habits over the course of 2011. A challenge I gave myself in 2011 was to read 100 books in the year (I completed the goal in mid-November). A lot were books on theology and Christian living for reviews—but as much as possible, I tried to include some material to break it up with a few biographies, a bit of history, some marketing books and the odd bit of sociology. Because I live increasingly in a Christian bubble—I work with Christians, I minister to Christians in a variety of ways, I primarily review books written for Christians—this is not only helpful, but necessary for me in order to have some sense of what’s going on “out there” as it were.

This coming year, I’m giving myself a new reading challenge—to branch out and make sure I’m intentionally reading at least one good book a month that’s not written for a Christian audience. Here are three reasons why I think you should do the same:

1. Escaping the “Bubble.” As I pointed out above, it’s really easy for Christians to get caught in the so-called Christian bubble (in fact, studies indicate that the longer we’re Christians the less likely we are to have non-Christian friends). Reading a little more broadly

2. Opportunities to Engage Others in Meaningful Discussion. Reading more broadly allows you to have another connection point with non-Christians that helps you to have meaningful discussions (whether at work, the gym, traditional or online book clubs or Starbucks) that can also lead to opportunities to share the gospel.

3. Enjoying God’s Common Grace. God has not reserved all the “good” ideas for Christian authors. Indeed, in His common grace, He has allowed many non-Christians to have amazing insights into the human condition, given them tremendous literary gifts and fantastic storytelling abilities. If you’re not reading a little more broadly, you might be missing out on something really interesting.

Those are just a few reasons that I’m going to be very intentional about reading more broadly next year—feel like joining me?

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  • Lenae

    This post resonates with my situation . . . living in the “Bubble.” Where are you going to seek a list of good books not written for a Christian audience? Will you share them with us?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      A good portion will be based on past experience with authors. A guy like Erik Larson (who’s book In the Garden of Beasts is fantastic, by the way) will definitely get a look, for example. For others I’ll be looking for recommendations from friends, looking through reviews on Amazon and keeping an eye on Publishers Weekly. I’ll definitely be sharing good finds with you all here :) 

  • http://sightregained.com Louis Tullo

    Aaron, I am completely with you! My passion for reading started in church with the Bible when I was very young, but was cultivated by a lot of great secular literature (from grammar school all the way through high school and college). While no work of literature I’ve read compares to the supremacy of the Bible, great books outside of the Christian bubble have given me such great insight into the way people are, they’ve made me laugh, they’ve moved me, and done countless other things to help me grow as a person. 

    Personally, one of the greatest secular books I’ve ever read was “Crime and Punishment.” During my AP English class in HS that book gave presented such a powerful picture of how hard it is to escape from guilt and what it means to set a situation right. 

    Here’s to reading books! :)

  • http://twitter.com/nitoygonzales nitoy gonzales

    great post but i cant still believe u read 100 books in 2011

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Yep, it looks like by the time I’m done, I’ll be coming in around 107. I’m a crazy-fast reader though. 

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  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    Another way that our reading should be diversified, a la C.S. Lewis’ rule for reading: 
    “…after
    reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you
    have read an old one…keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries
    blowing through our minds…”

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  • AWHall

    I’m taking a few diverse books on holidays with me:
    Howard Schultz, “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul”
    Pierre Berton, “Pierre Berton’s War of 1812″