My name is David, and I am a reader. I am learning to manage my addiction.
Ironically, I had no trouble avoiding reading in my younger days. I considered it a challenge to persuade my teachers that I had actually read the assigned literature. I was such a slow reader, with pitiful comprehension, that I gained more from class discussion anyway. Reading was often punishment and always drudgery for me. I watched in amazement as my cousins would choose to read books as we gathered for Thanksgiving—missing a perfectly good football game. My mind could not grasp the notion of reading for enjoyment.
At one point in my freshman year of college, while reading Kafka—of all authors—I suddenly understood that reading could be fun. No longer did I believe that readers suffered from wrong-headed priorities.
Today I look for ways to indulge my reading addiction. On my phone I have iBooks and the Kindle reader. This week I read a few pages of The Iliad, as I waited to see the doctor. Habitually, I take at least one book with me wherever I go. I never know when I will have a chance to read. The phone apps make it so easy.
Actually, there are lots of free books available on iBooks, including most classics. I have books from the ancient Greeks, the Founding Fathers, and American novelists. Some books I have bought, but most I have acquired free of charge. It is like going through a candy store where some of the best candy is free. You just load up.
That leads me to another problem. When will I read all these books? I already have a house overrun by hard copies. I look through my own library thinking, “Oh, I need to read that one…and that one.” I have begun and not finished many books as well. I have been reading through Augustine’s Confessions for over twenty years; I am about two-thirds finished.
A few years ago, I had a startling realization: I may never finish reading all the books I want to read. My life is too short. If I were to read for forty hours per week, I would never finish them all. I need to prioritize. Several times, I have worked on a reading list, prioritizing the books I want to read. I still refer to those lists. But inevitably, a new book will burst forth into my life—at a conference, practicum, or in conversation. Of course that book makes its way to the top of my list and before I finish it, there is another must-read book. (Sigh.)
I am still a slow reader, so my book-reading career has significant limits. I want to read only the best stuff. Every week I hear of another book that I know I really should read. The classics always tempt me. I want to read the ancient philosophers, Shakespeare’s plays, the treatises on freedom by our Founding Fathers. Then I want to read about reaching the world for Christ, innovative ways of ministry, and making disciples of Jesus. Oh, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this appetite for books?
And so my struggle continues. How can I prioritize my reading? How can I choose the best books? I need to ask God to guide me. There is so much I want to know. What does He want me to know? What will make me more like Jesus? What books will most help me become the man God intends me to be?
Looks like I have a new prayer request.