Reading Analysis: 2010-2011

19 07 2011

A balanced diet is good for your health, because what you put into you matters. Too much of one food group and you will end up fat, lethargic, or with vitamin deficiencies. I would propose that the same is true of our reading…

What you put into you matters; it shapes what you become. And so for the past couple of years I’ve tried to get a balanced diet of reading, ensuring that I am:

  1. Reading widely
  2. Not simply reading in the categories I enjoy, but broadening my horizons to read things I wouldn’t naturally choose
  3. Reading books that will help me develop the skills I will require for the next 5-10 years.

It’s geeky, I know, but I’ve found it incredibly useful not only to chart what I’m reading, but then to set goals for the next year. I haven’t followed my goals slavishly… reading is an art (and a joy!) not a science, but it has helped me to identify areas I rarely read in, and to readdress the balance accordingly. With a limited amount of time to read, it’s too important for me to leave to chance…

If you wish, you can check out last year’s stats and book list, but here’s what I’ve found for July 2010-2011:

  • In 2010-2011 I started 55 books, of which I completed 47.
  • I completed one more book this year, and started fewer, which is great! I no longer have quite an enormous pile of half-read books languishing on my bedside table. Of course, there are plenty of other books I’ve dipped into for the odd chapter or fact… I haven’t bothered listing those here, only the books I started with a genuine intent to finish!
  • 77% of books were Christian, 23% secular
  • The following table shows my goals for the year, how my reading broke down into each category, and the variance between my goals and achievements*

  • From this I can see that I’ve read more ‘spiritual’ books than I had imagined or intended, but that’s no bad thing. Part of that has been necessity (researching for talks on prayer for example) and some of it was a healthy redressing of the balance from last year.
  • I’ve read far fewer books on ethics, apologetics and politics this year than I had intended. That is a weakness, and I would like to change that in this next year. I’ve already lined up a couple of apologetics books that I could do with reading to strengthen my thinking in that area.
  • I’ve spent little time reading books about marriage, though I’ve listened to plenty of talks on it this year, so hopefully I’ve still invested in it my marriage in other ways!!
  • My reading of drama has decreased this year. I’m happy with that. As I’ve thought long and hard about what I am likely to do with my life, I see less of a role for drama and the theatre, other than being a hobby. So I’ve felt less inclined to give time to it in my reading.
  • My ‘skill development’ figure is low and my ‘fiction’ figure high. This is due to the fact that I really want to develop in writing, and yet as I have read books on writing, I’ve realised that I can learn immeasurably more from just reading well-written books! Books on writing can be pretty turgid, self-indulgent, opinionated, and not overly helpful… So I’ve read a number of novels by skilled writers instead, and have enjoyed them immensely. I’m not usually one for reading fiction, but I’ve gone on recommendations from my wife, and she’s hit the nail on the head every time!
  • Again, I couldn’t quite bring myself to post it here, for fear of irrevocably labelling myself a geek… but if you would prefer to see it represented as a pie chart, your wish is my command.
  • All this has helped me to set goals for 2011-2012. I hope to apportion my reading roughly as follows:

In case you’re curious, here’s the list of books I’ve completed this year:

As I’ve said previously, I’ve found this to be a helpful exercise, which has caused me to take my reading more seriously, and to be more strategic and forward looking about what I read. Socrates wrote:

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have laboured hard for.”

Think about where you want to be in a year. Think about the character traits you want ironed out, the skills you want to improve, then read the relevant books. Make your reading count. Think about the great men and women of history you want to learn from and emulate – and then read their biographies. Think about some of your edges that are blunt, and read books that will sharpen them. Think about your jagged edges and read books that will smooth them. And then join me in public self-humiliation – post a pie chart!

__________

* Given that there is often a significant amount of cross over between categories, I apportioned each book 3 points, which I could spread across the categories as I saw fit.

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8 responses

19 07 2011
Mark Heath

Great stuff Liam, but we don’t want pie charts, we want book reviews! (or at least I do anyway). I’d certainly be interested in your thoughts on Bryn Jones, Tom Schreiner, Tom Wright, John Stott, Pete Greig, Timothy Gombis.

My own reading has taken a bit of a hit this year due to birth of our 5th child resulting in extreme sleep depravation, but I’m getting back in the swing of things now. My normal diet is 40% commentaries, 40% theology and 20% software engineering & DSP, so I could probably do with following your lead and diversifying a bit more.

19 07 2011
liamthatcher

I keep intending to review books, but never quite get round to it… Some brief one-liners then, to keep you ticking over:

Bryn Jones: Clearly foundational for many, but imho exegetically a little weak. I was doing some reading and thinking on the potential weaknesses of restoration theology (not in order to critique it, but to make sure I had my back covered) and my overall feeling about Jones’ book was that if you took Acts 3:21 out of the equation (not that I’m advocating the removal of verses!!) he would be a little stranded… He bases virtually everything on it!

Schreiner: Good. I’m also reading his commentary on Galatians. It’s great to read the two alongside each other – actually, I wish I’d read the Galatians commentary first, and then come back to 40 Qs to answer some of the issues that Galatians raised. Well worth a read. I imagine it’s one I will dip back into regularly for answers to particular questions.

Wright: Virtue Reborn: Ok… A nice finale to the Simply Christian/Surprised by Hope/Virtue Reborn trilogy. Not a must read, but worth it if you have time. It feels a little rushed to be honest, and not as honed as his previous works. But I always love a bit of the good ex-Bishop’s writing

Stott: Fascinating. First half is great, challenging, and really worth grappling with. He raises many exegetical issues I think charismatics dodge all too easily, particularly on Baptism in the Spirit. In the second half, his cessationism comes strongly to the fore, and it begins to sound like he has an axe to grind. Many of the arguments start to sound silly…

Greig: Brilliant! One of the best books I’ve read on prayer, and a great book on suffering. I gave a couple of comments on it here:

Gombis: Interesting. Compelling… and given that I’d read it as well as a number of more traditional commentaries on Ephesians, the thematic approach was refreshing. His section on ‘the powers’ was provocative, and needs some further thought. However, some bits of it seemed a little forced, like he was trying to cram Paul’s writing into a system (a drama) in a way that didn’t naturally fit. For me, I felt he lost some of the simple, fun, wonder-full, awe of Ephesians in places. But worth a read if you have the time…

19 07 2011
Mark Heath

thanks

19 07 2011
timsimmonds

You have a spread sheet of the books you read?

I am sure there is a joke I can make…..

20 07 2011
Sam Roake

What did you think of The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet? Worth a read?

20 07 2011
liamthatcher

Yeah, I really enjoyed it – well worth a read. I’ve never read any of his other books though (I really want to read Cloud Atlas) so I don’t know how it compares with his earlier work.

1 08 2011
Jason Reid

If you spent more time reading and less compiling charts on reading patterns you would have read so much more last year.

14 07 2013
My Reading: July 2012-2013 | Liam and Helen's Blog

[…] This year I shan’t bother to elaborate too much – feel free to read my previous attempts here, here and here – but I’ve personally found it helpful to plan roughly what I want to read each year, […]

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