Breaking out of the reading rut (the re-read recap)

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At the end of 2013, I shared about a project I was undertaking to diversify my reading a little more in 2014—reading at least one book a month that I’d read and enjoyed in the past. This week, I’m finishing up the last book of this endeavor, Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.

In a lot of ways, this wasn’t a major challenge, at least when it comes to quantity of reading. The challenge came as I continued to read more recently released titles, and found myself less feeling kind of… meh.

I realized my reading habits had become a bit boring.

There wasn’t a lot of risk. Many of the books I enjoyed, I was fairly certain I’d enjoy before I finished the first chapter—and often, before I’d turned to the first page. The authors are trustworthy and reliable, and I therefore knew what to expect. But I found the same issue crop up with the books I didn’t particularly enjoy, too. Not that I was intentionally pre-judging, but that there wasn’t really anything that surprised me. The arguments were predictable in most cases, and often far too easy to refute.

But even going back a few years to Why We Love the Church, and Why We’re Not Emergent before it, I remembered reading these with a sense that there was some risk in writing and publishing these titles. Writing critique books that don’t come across as crabby or needlessly divisive is difficult, to say the least. Being willing to call a spade a spade, or in these books’ case, the trajectory of the emergent movements and churchless Christianity cuckoo for Coco Puffs… Well, that takes some guts, especially at a time when many of the major publishers were supporting and profiting from the message.

And moving back further in time, to a book like The Screwtape Letters, there’s risk involved in the book’s concept itself. For C.S. Lewis to write from the perspective of a senior demon to a junior one, as those plotting to cause a Christian to stumble… It’s a clever idea that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would have completely and utterly failed.

Many of the other books I read had much the same kind of feel to them—there was a freshness that comes from an author trying to do something interesting or different (though rarely coming across as trying to be s0). I didn’t get that same sense from many of the more recent books I read, which is a shame. And when that’s missing, after a while, it’s easy to get bored. Going back to older books is helping me shake off my reading rut—and more importantly, reminding me why I love about reading good books.

The re-reading project: diversifying our reading in 2014

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

One of the difficulties that can arise when you read a lot is you sometimes forget to re-read the really great books you’ve enjoyed from years past. This has been my problem for the last couple of years—I’ve been reading so many new books that I’ve been missing out on the really great books I read years ago and actually want to read again.

So, this year, I’m doing something about it by sharing with a plan I’m calling “the re-reading project.”

(Super clever, I know. Can you tell I’m a writer and stuff?)

Here’s how it works: every month, I’ll be re-reading one book from my library and sharing a few thoughts on each here. These books will almost certainly be pretty broad—there will be a mix of books by Christians and non-Christians, as well as (I hope!) a bit of variety in terms of genre. Here are some of the first books I’ll be re-reading as part of this project:

So far, there’s nothing on the list less than 20 years, old, although that could change. The point of the whole project isn’t simply to read “more,” or to read older books instead of newer ones—it’s just to read (and re-read) better. When all we take in is first-time reading, we miss out on what we can discover about a book that we might’ve missed the first time around.

I’m pretty excited about this little project—wanna join me?