Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Reading Preview

One of the features on my blog is an on-going list where I track whatever I happen to read during the year. I've blogged about reading since 2006 and have kept an annotated list of what I've read since 2008.

Each year I start out with the goal of reading 52 books (an average of one book per week) and 12,000 pages (an average of 1,000 pages per month.) I'm not an especially fast reader so these goals are fairly reasonable. Each of the last three years I've fallen just short of the goal.

As a minister the discipline of reading is essential:

I read professionally. This entails reading books on theology, religion, church administration, governance, and other topics related to the knowledge that I am expected to have as a minister.

I read spiritually. This entails reading books that enrich my own spiritual life. This includes reading collected meditations and poetry.

I read for imagination and insight. It would be impossible to preach somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 sermons per year if I didn't have a reading discipline that includes reading books on a wide variety of subjects. Do not misunderstand me; not everything I preach comes from books. However, what I do read winds up in my sermons and the act of reading itself expands my imagination and enlarges my perceptions.

Every year I set out a course of reading. In a given year I try to read books from diverse fields. Of course I read books on religion and theology, church administration and management, and spiritual writing. But I also read books in other areas as well. Each year I try to read at least one book about sports, one book about business, and one book about math or science. I try to read a book about a profession that is very different from my own.

My favorite genre to read is experimental short fiction, especially the stories found in volumes of McSweeney's. Each year I attempt to read one or two classics of literature that I somehow managed not to read until this point in my life. Another rule that I have is that if I start a book I have to finish it, which is just a tad compulsive. Every year I also pick one book that I had previously abandoned and return to it.

Truthfully, in divulging my approach to reading I think this all sounds quite regimented. This realization is something to ponder. Another realization I recently had was that the number of books I will have the chance to read in my life is limited. Suppose you read a book every week and are blessed to live a long life and live to be 88. That means that in your adult life you will read somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 books. That does not seem like a lot, especially considering all the new books that will be written between now and then. I am now 32 and if I live to be 82 I will read 2,500 more books. That doesn't seem like a lot somehow. On my computer I keep a list of books I'd like to read some day. I just realized that there are over 300 books on my to-read list. Yikes!

So, what lies ahead for me this year? Early in the year I plan to read a book about reading to help me think more about the meaning of reading itself. I've chosen the book Against Reading by Mikita Brottman. I am also looking forward to reading the newest release by Michelle Goldberg, The Means of Reproduction, and a couple of titles by Dave Eggers, Zeitoun, about a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, and Wild Things, his adult rewrite of the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are.

What else? This year I've decided that I am going to re-engage with some academic texts. I've picked out some titles that I hope to acquaint or re-acquaint myself with from authors like Paul Ricoeur, Jeffrey Kripal, and Michel Foucault. Dan Hotchkiss and Tim Keel have each written a book on church administration I hope to read this year.

I eagerly await the new novel by Chris Adrian that is due out this year and am hopeful that David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel The Pale King finally will be released in 2010, although there is some talk about pushing its release back to 2011 or beyond.

Finally, as I write this I am staring at the latest challenge to come in the mail, McSweeney's 33. It is McSweeney's ode to the newspaper, a three pound behemoth. They decided to publish their writers on 15" x 22" newsprint. It runs upwards of 100 pages! This beast also includes a 100 page "magazine" and a "books section" that is nearly 100 additional pages. It features an exciting group of authors.

Let the reading in 2010 commence!