So I don’t have much of a “reading plan” per se, in terms of specifically planning out what I’ll read over the course of a year. But I do have a few guidelines that have been helpful for me, and I thought I’d post a few of them. This isn’t everything I think about related to reading by any means. But the following points apply to how I generally think about a year of books I’ll try to get through, and they help me make sure a year’s worth of reading always has a few certain important elements in it. Then I can kind of fill in around this with pertinent cultural stuff that might come up, throw in some purely fun reads here and there, or include books that don’t fit into these most important categories.
1. Always have one book going in each of the following categories: theology, fiction, and history.
Sometimes the history category drops off the list because of time constraints, or history and fiction become interchangeable. When there’s a time crunch I’ll sometimes have either a fiction or historical book going, but not both at once.
Theology is kind of the non-negotiable for me. I’ve found that it’s really healthy and challenging, and fuels my worship of God, to always be plugging away through a theological book of at least some moderate depth. Christian living books don’t always fulfill the requirements of this category for me, and need to be in addition to good, deep theological reading and not in place of it.
2. Always read at least one Puritan Paperback a year (I’ve been doing this the past few years now).
Puritan Paperbacks is a series put out by Banner of Truth publishers. They’re classic works by the Puritans that are edited and reprinted in handy little pocket-sized volumes. I’ve just found these to be super rich in theological treasure, and it’s always good to get into the heads of writers from the past, and learn from them. The Puritans thought and wrote more deeply than many writers you’ll come across; and I try to read just one of these a year so I don’t rush through and miss anything good. Also, this series is pretty big, so I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me if I hold to the one-a-year rule. As a bonus, Puritan Paperbacks will usually run you between five and ten bucks apiece.
3. Always try to keep one book going, however slowly, that’s in a specific area of interest or expertise.
For example, I’m our church’s director of music and corporate worship. It’s my job, and really my hobby too, and has been for quite a while. I love reading about church music, and worship liturgies, and corporate worship history and practice. So it’s really a joy for me to always be plugging through a book on the subject. I’ve also read enough of these books now, that I can start going back through some of the best ones. For someone else, the interest could be 17th century British religious poets, badminton, or medieval bookbinding. It’s just fun to read about what interests you, and reading widely and deeply about an interest might make you an expert.
I know, that sounds like a lot of books to have going at once. We’re not all wired to read the same way, in the same pattern. But this is helpful for me (and even a helpful reminder to write it out, so I can make sure I’m trying to stay consistent in holding to my own guidelines). I really do benefit from what Tony Reinke calls “inundation” – reading widely in several books at any given time. I’m an imperfect reader, and none of this works out perfectly; nor do I get to nearly all the books I wish I could in a year. So I pick the best ones, set a few guidelines, plug faithfully away, and see where I’ll end up, and what God will or will not allow me to have time for.