With the new year having just begun, it’s interesting how so many hold onto the idea of starting fresh, even though it’s simply another day of life. How this change in years from 2015 to 2016 can cause and compel people to make these pledges of how they will make changes in direction in their lives. Changes like losing weight, being a better spouse, paying off debt, or the like of such year long commitments. In the spirit of this season of making such oaths and commitments for the new year, I would like to write to you as to why I am an avid reader and why you should be too. But first let me share with you three different true stories revolving around the importance of books and reading.
In Pastor Jon Courson’s daily devotional, A Pillar By Day, he writes of an interesting exchange between two men of immense power in the ancient world, in it he writes:
“A story is told in the Mishnah (a collection of Jewish teachings and writings) of a certain Persian king named Arteban who sent to Judah, the prince of Jerusalem, the largest diamond in existence. Upon receiving this gift, Judah sent back to Arteban a copy of the book of Deuteronomy with the accompanying note: What you sent me requires guards to protect it. What I have sent you will guard and protect you.” (P.360)
Twas the night of May 10th, 1933. Adolf Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, held a nationwide book burning across 34 university towns in Germany and burned 25,000 total books by fellow Nazi-influenced university students as they held the Nazi salute (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goebbels/peopleevents/e_book.html). Books included, but were not limited to works by Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and even at the end of the ceremony, copies of the Bible were burned last. It was a night where the existence of free thinking was challenged by those indoctrinated by the Nazi agenda and who were dependent on the thoughts of a tyrant that instead wanted the youth to read Pro-Nazi works such as Hitler’s autobiographical work Mein Kampf.
John Lennox, a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, grew up in Northern Ireland in a Christian upbringing by his parents during the 1940s and 1950s in Armagh. His father, a Christian man, taught him that one ought to know what they believe before they learned what others believed, so he read what he could on Christianity, which included the Bible as often as possible throughout his childhood. His father then taught him that in order to avoid being one sided and biased in his beliefs, he should read what others have to say coming from different belief systems to be a more rounded individual. So his father gave him a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and told him to read it.
The reason I share these three stories is to show how important reading is in the life of anyone willing to learn. Why it’s so crucial to learn by listening and reading what others have to say on a matter, whatever that matter may be. With the first story showing the value of reading is worth more than the greatest diamond the world can offer, the second story showing the cost of reading the ideas of others that some might disagree with, and the right to know what you believe, as well as what others believe. I mean, do you ever wonder why nearly every dictator or tyrant worldwide first and foremost removes books? Because as the old saying goes, knowledge is power to those who tap into it. It’s absolutely critical to be an avid reader because in reality, there might possibly be no better way to learn something than to simply read.
Various studies show that reading has immense benefits like the following:
- Improves Analytical, Memory, Writing, & Vocabulary Skills.
- Reduces Stress.
- Prevents Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Of course, these are not the only benefits, but are the most profound effects that reading can have on the human condition. It’s a little ridiculous as to how beneficial reading really is and how it helps make you a more rounded individual. For me, it aids me in comprehending and understanding the world I inhabit, while at the same time providing me with answers to life’s greatest questions. It’s easily one of the most useful skills that one can use on a day-to-day basis, but in an age of social networking, is left to die amongst the desert of old fashioned ways of doing things.
Admittedly, I’m not one to talk because I too neglect the power of reading. Yet because it’s a new year I have made a promise to myself and to others to read at the very least 10 books. Not just any ten books though, but specifically these 10 books:
- “The Sacred Search” by Gary Thomas
- “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
- “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis
- “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers
- “The Real Kosher Jesus” by Michael L. Brown
- “Rise” by Trip Lee
- “Why Suffering” by Ravi Zacharias & Vince Vitale
- “Against the Flow” by John C. Lennox
- “Warranted Christian Belief” by Alvin Plantinga
- “Rebel With A Cause” by Franklin Graham
Now I have already finished reading The Sacred Search, which was great and have started Mere Christianity, which is also great. So at this point I’m at a great pace. Of course to some this may seem like a lot, but if you think about it, it’s basically a book a month. Actually closer to a month and a week per book. That’s 5 weeks to read one book. That is very doable. In fact I challenge those of you who do not usually read books to make a list of 10 books and try to read them in a year. Or you could make a list of 12 books and read a book a month to challenge yourself. All I’m saying is that you should take some measure to test your mind and keep it fit by simply reading books. Whether that’s just one book a year or 365 books a year, it’s up to you. Nevertheless my challenge to you is to read 10 books. You can accept my challenge or decline it.
To all of my avid readers out there, I know what you’re thinking: “Chris, why is your list so short?” Well, in reality, I was never just going to just read 10 books this year. This was merely the starting point of my 2016 reading list and these were just the first 10 books that I wanted to read. Since I have made my list, it has grown to about 25 books for the year, which amounts to basically a book every 2 weeks. Not exactly lightning fast, but a good amount that’s manageable for me. And again, everyone has their own speed that they can read a book like I know for some a book a month is a struggle, while I know others that can read a book in a day. For instance, growing up Dr. Ben Carson and his brother would read 2 books a week because his mother wanted them to get out of their poverty stricken lives in Detroit, Michigan by educating themselves for successful careers. Needless to say, they are both very successful individuals, whether or not you agree with everything they believe.
The bottom line is, what are you waiting for? Get out there and learn for crying out loud! Educate yourself or entertain yourself with some truly amazing books waiting to be read. Whether they be historical, fictional, or comedic, any book will due. The point is that I am an avid reader and you should be too because every benefit outweighs every detriment to reading books. So why not start this year with a positive change that will greatly impact you by taking time to crack open a book and learning something new. The choice is up to you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!