The Roman Catholic church kept various lists until the 1960s (known in short as the Index) of books their faithful should not read. Below is a good overview. Note well that the works of the Marquis de Sade were taken off while those of Calvin and Pascal stayed on!
When people ask Pastor Tim Keller why he reads so much, he simply says, “I’m desperate.” Keller is desperate for insight to help himself and others. I resonate deeply with this sentiment. In fact, it seems very odd to me that any Christian, especially pastors and those in full-time vocational ministry, would be needing to explain/justify the need to read. I should also say that I am constantly stunned by how many pastors and those in full-time vocational, Christian ministry do not read or read books not worthy of their time.
I was recently asked by a friend about my own reading habits. Here is what I told him:
I usually have a book with me wherever I go. I have them for appointments so don’t mind at all when someone is late! If I have a package to take to the post office, a book will be with me. And the DMV or waiting for a haircut are great times to read. You get the picture. There are lots of places/times to redeem the time.
On top of these haphazard things, I read intentionally 50-60 important books per year and peruse hundreds. The 50-60 include lots of highlighting, marginalia, and then sifting out what is most beneficial for teaching, discipleship, and writing projects. I also read several dozen journal or magazine articles.
As I get older, I am rereading the most formative books in my own personal canon. So The Great Divorce was recently reread. Interestingly, C.S. Lewis famously said legitimate readers are re-readers of important books. I think that is true.
Of course, I am always reading Scripture which this year means 2-4 chapters of meditative reads with note taking and highlighting. Scripture memory and review are daily disciplines which go back over forty years ago to my early college days. Then ten verses of my Greek NT along with some vocabulary review and basic grammar.
People regularly mention that I have a good memory. I think that is true to some extent. However, let it be known that review, review, review is a major staple of my life.
If you scroll down to the post for Dec. 19, 2018 you will see a heavily annotated copy of Finnegans Wake. My friend and regular reader of this blog, Dr. Dave McCoy, made a comment about his own copy of Finnegans Wake. I asked Dave to send me a picture and he has.
I love looking at the marginalia people put in their books and Bibles so enjoy a real pro at work here. And make sure to click the picture to enlarge it!:
Probably my favorite pages in Finnegans Wake (although it’s hard to choose). I’ve been annotating this copy of the book since I was 16, and I now can’t decide whether I’ve created a palimpsest or a midden.
Note from David Moore: look up the definitions of palimpsest and midden if you don’t know them. Great words!
When I spoke at Wheaton College I paid a visit to the Wade collection. It houses collections from the libraries of C.S. Lewis and many others. I asked to see a few of the books that were in the library of C.S. Lewis. The curator made the decision, but to my delight she brought up a copy of one of my favorites: Paradise Lost by Milton. I could not believe how many notes Lewis made in the margins, all in his meticulous penmanship. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take a picture.
The picture you see is a Latin text where you can see the written notes of Lewis at the bottom in both Latin and Greek.
Lesson learned: If a scholar like Lewis finds it helpful to write in books, what does that mean for the rest of us?!
Picture: HT Timothy Willard’s Instagram account
I will be interviewing Professor Karen Swallow Prior next month, but this is a terrific interview on what great books can do for us:
We spent several days last week visiting with friends from Brenham Bible Church. This is the church I preached at from 2010-13.
During a break between visits, Doreen and I went to Starbucks to read. I met a man there from New Orleans with a thick accent. He was curious about about the books I write.
During our conversation he said he “liked to read about oil wells.” I thought he said Orwell so I enthusiastically replied how much I “loved Orwell.”
He laughed and said my confusion was due to his heavy accent.