My love for reading was slow to develop. During my teenage years, I perceived reading to be a nuisance and necessary evil. At some point during my college years, however, I learned to enjoy reading, not just for assignments or entertainment, but for personal growth.
In my current stage of life I need books like I need food, to satisfy cognitive hunger and to probe intellectual curiosity. Books stimulate my thinking, exercise my memory muscles, and challenge my presuppositions.
Typically, I read a variety of genres including fiction, spirituality, theology, history, and biography. And I usually keep from three to five books going at the same time, a discipline that was recommended by Opal Lovett, one of my favorite university professors. This practice invites a variety of conversation partners into my internal dialogue.
As the current year comes to a close, I make a list of books that I plan to read during the coming year. While I hope to read 40-50 books this year, I have already compiled a list of 16 of the books I plan to read in 2016:
- Grounded: Finding God in the World__ A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass
- My Southern Journey: True Southern Stories from the Heart of the South by Rick Bragg
- The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul by Adam Hamilton
- Chosen?: Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Walter Brueggemann
- Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
- Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Niewhof
- Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
- I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Thom Rainer
- Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
- Thinking About God: An Introduction to Christian Theology (3rd edition) by Fisher Humphreys
- Did God Kill Jesus? Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution by Tony Jones
- Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
- The Guilty by David Baldacci
- Albert Einstein: The Life of a Genius by Jack Steinberg
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design of Our Life Together by Scot McKnight
I have discovered that reading authors who write from diverse perspectives stretches my thinking and expands my capacity to relate to variety of people.
This year don’t just read the spiritual stuff that reinforces what you think you know with certainty. Dare to read something that challenges you to think about life and faith from a different point of view.
Happy reading in 2016!
(Barry Howard serves as the Lead Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola.)