I recently got a question in the comments here about my reading habits, and thought it might be fun to take a meander through my library, pointing out objects of interest as I go. File this one under autobiographical fragments.
I liked books as a kid, but simply read in pursuit of my interests. Those interests were shaped by the reading our family did together, which is where I found my love for Lewis. Dad started reading Narnia to us when I was about five. The only jag I recall was somewhere near the junior high years, and it was a science fiction jag — that is where I got my Heinlein in. I also remember reading Aku Aku by Thor Heyerdahl when I was in 6th grade. I was in high school when I first got into Tolkien, egged on by my mother. Around the same time, I also stumbled across Up From Liberalism by William Buckley, and my course of political education began there.
When I was in the Navy, I think I read a lot of fiction. I wasn’t building a library because submarines and barracks aren’t conducive to it, but I would pick out whatever seemed interesting from the common shelves. I was buying some books to keep — A.W. Tozer and J.I. Packer were there, I recall.
I got out of the Navy in 1975 and started in on my philosophy work at the University of Idaho. In addition to school reading, I remember discovering Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which was for me a lifeline of sanity. When I was done with school, I also had by that point become, as it happened, the pastor of a small Jesus people-like outfit, and was not in a position to get away for any real seminary training. I did manage to get one set of summer classes at Regent in Vancouver, where I had a class on the atonement by Leon Morris, and a course on the book of Acts taught by John Stott.
But I was more or less done with schoolwork, and had a bunch of pastoral responsibilities, and so I decided I would have to do the OJT stuff simply by reading.
I pursued topics in clusters. I needed biblical studies (F.F. Bruce), I needed theology (Calvin), I needed eschatology (a bunch of guys), and so on. At the beginning of all this, I remember reading an interview with Kenneth Kantzer who was editor of Christianity Today, and it came out that he read a couple books a week. I could no more do that than fly to the moon, but I could do what I could. I started keeping a log of books that I completed in 1979, so I could track my progress. What I don’t have is a log of all the half finished books. They are scattered all over tarnation.
There have obviously been a lot of twists and turns, and changes of regime, and so on, but I have pretty much settled into the following pattern.
I have a set of books that I just read on Sunday morning, in preparation for preaching. I find that these help me get into a preaching frame of mind. Some of these books I replace with others when I am done, but some of them I simply start over at the beginning again. As an example of the former (from my current list), there would be God’s Wisdom in Proverbs by Dan Phillips and A Puritan Theology by Beeke and Jones. An example of the latter would be The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Sidney Psalter and Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer. Somewhere in the lineup, I always have something there by Thomas Watson, C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, and Jonathan Edwards. When I get into the back stretch of one of the “one time” books, I just finish it off and replace it with another.
I have another set of books for my daily reading. There is a core of four books, and then a handful of peripheral books. The core books fall into the following categories: 1. The book I am currently reading, 2. a book of poetry, 3. a book of fiction, and 4. a bucket book. Shall I explain? I want always to be reading a book that interests me, some poetry, some fiction, and a book that at my age I ought to have read by now, and that not having read makes me a bad person. Currently, these four are The End of Sacrifice by Stroumsa, The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, The Pickwick Papers, and Boswell’s Life of Johnson. I read ten pages of each a day, with the exception of the poetry. There are also a handful of other books that I nibble at daily. I also read a couple of pages from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. I am in the H’s, and I hear the plot picks up quite a bit in the J’s.
Most mornings Nancy and I read together with our coffee. We are currently reading Watson’s Mischief of Sin and Richmond Lattimore’s transation of the New Testament.
I do my Bible reading on my iPad, using the reading plan feature on Logos Bible Software. That reading is usually the first reading I do in the day.