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Studying or reading?

I was working yesterday, preparing my lesson for Sunday, when I wanted to refer back to a book I'd read over the summer. It was Iain Duguid's commentary on Esther. As I leafed through the section I wanted, I didn't really remember the things I had underlined. I thought to myself, "Did I even read this book?" 

Of course I had. In my notebook, I even had notations showing my thoughts about the commentary. I could blame this on middle-aged brain, I suppose. But I wonder if something else is actually at the root of it. I took down another book I had read by Barry Webb, called Five Festal Garments, which included a chapter about Esther, and I saw all of the notations and the underlining, but I had only vague memories. I read the book in July.

Over ten years ago now, I read David Wells's book No Place for Truth. I can still remember many things about that book. Is the difference my brain, or perhaps, my reading practices? I read the David Wells book when we were homeschooling, in the days of dial up, when I checked the internet once a day, for about thirty minutes. I simply was not presented with the vast array of books available. There was no WTS Books or P&R Publishing telling me about new releases. My reading habits and dynamic in life meant that I couldn't read a lot of my own material because homeschooling meant reading what the kids read, and knowing it well.

I think my situation is that I've stopped studying what I read. In a hurry to consume as much as I can, I've stopped slowing down to really think about the books I read. It's probably my own fault. I see everywhere that so-and-so has read fifty books this year, or someone else has set a goal of 150 books in a year, and I wonder if I should be reading more than I am. 

I'm quite sure that even though I don't remember specific portions of some books, they have been taken into my head and influenced how I think, but I would still like to remember more of what I read. In a week when a book (that I am, of course tempted to read, but think I will force myself to pass on) called Crazy Busy is coming out, I wonder if maybe I'm not alone. It may be that some people are smart enough to eat a book in about two days, despite its 300+ page length. I'm not mentally equipped to do that unless it's a very light fiction read, and I have nothing else to do.

I want to slow down. I want to think hard about what I'm reading. I suspect, though, that it means emptying my mind of other things to make room. I'm quite sure I could start with far less time on social media. Facebook, in particular has been a huge source of discouragement for me lately, and that may be a signal to step away more often.

Not long after I read No Place for Truth, I read How to Read a Book. That thing was as dry as toast, but I remember learning from it. I've loaned it out. Maybe it's time to pick it up again; or perhaps another, like The Well Educated Mind, or How to Read Slowly. Can this old dog be taught some new tricks? Or at the very least, be reminded of some she once knew?

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Reader Comments (4)

I'm going to take your advice about "soaking" in a topic for a while. Instead of choosing what book of the Bible I want to read next, I'm going to spend my week immersed in the book we're studying in worship. Hopefully I can find resources to go along with it as well. Slow, intentional reading is my goal.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Yes! I feel myself always looking for the next thing to read, to make sure that I'm reading "enough" (whatever that is). I'd rather read fewer things and really read them. I've been trying to cull my reading list and putting books on a wishlist to go back and really evaluate whether or not it would be worthwhile, rather than just ordering the latest and greatest.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Really good points, and I appreciate your thoughts. I read different books differently. Before I read a book, I'll consider why it is I am going to read it. One book I may indeed read slowly and carefully (studying it) but others I may read more quickly and superficially because I am primarily interested in the big picture and that is all. I do find that I am unable to read for as long of periods of time as I could years ago, and I am quite certain it is because of the darn internet!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLLM

Yes! I'm glad I'm not the only one! I'm still in the trenches of homeschooling and while I love to read, just don't have the time for a lot of leisure. And then I'll read a book and feel like it didn't really stick - so frustrating!

But you know, it has influenced my thinking. Though I may not recall the details, it has become part of my "mental furniture", so to speak. But thank you for the encouragement to let go of the pressure to read more and instead to read more thoughtfully.


September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

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