One of my greatest passions is reading. I developed this passion at an early age, and have continued to strengthen it over the years. In addition to being my passion, reading is also an important part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano. In that role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book summary in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2016 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.
Other parts of my role required reading current trends books, used for social media posting and content writing.
Then there’s my passion area of Guest Experience, in which I am constantly researching customer service books for application for churches.
And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently over 400 volumes and growing!
Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction.
Add those 5 categories all together, and in 2016 I have “read” 286 books.
First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 286 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book.
Here’s how I did it – and, of course it starts with a book!
Literally – that’s the name of a classic book by Mortimer Adler. The first lesson of reading is to learn that you don’t need to “read” each book the same way. Here are Adler’s 4 levels of reading:
- Elementary Reading – What does the book say?
- Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?
- Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?
- Syntopical Reading – What does a comparison of books on the subject reveal?
Some books are only meant to be read at the first level; others are meant to be digested at some of the other levels. Know which is which!
To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:
- Read the title.
- Read the introduction
- Read the Table of Contents
- Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and subheadings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
- Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
- Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.
- Read the first chapter.
- Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph in each chapter. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.
- Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
- Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.
If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!
The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!
With that caveat in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2016 was 157 books.
While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.
Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book in the first weeks of 2017, and sharing its wisdom with others?
Me? Well, I’ve got four books lined up for delivery by Amazon the first week of January, and another two on reserve at the library.