How do we develop good reading skills and habits?

(Theja Tseikha) #1

As apologetics deals mainly with the questions of the mind and as we are to be well read and equipped in diverse topics or subjects, is there any good way to read books?(any books). What should be our attitude when we read any book? How do we develop good reading skills and habits? Any answer is heartily appreciated.

(SeanO) #2

@Theja It will be fun to hear everyone’s thoughts - I find different people benefit from different methods of study. Personally I try to do the following:

  • Get the big picture
  • Understand the author’s worldview
  • keep a record of what you learn
  • only dive deep where necessary
  • commit the essential to memory

Get the Big Picture

I generally start by reading the table of contents, the introduction and the conclusion. These three portions of the book help me understand the author’s flow of thought - the big picture. It also helps me decide if I really think reading the rest of the book will be beneficial.

Understand the Author’s Worldview

Every author wants to communicate something to you. But I think that as apologists a more important question may be - what is the author assuming? What is their worldview? What are they taking for granted? Every author has biases and identifying those biases, whether we agree or disagree with them, helps us think about the book critically.

For example, you may read a novel in which all of the characters seem devoid of hope. You wonder why. You find out the author does not believe in an afterlife and perhaps has had bad experiences of the world themselves. These unspoken ideas and experiences of the author contribute to the book.

Or in Lord of the Rings - it is so obvious the author is Christian. Tolkien admitted the book was inevitably influenced by his Catholicism, even though it has nothing to do with Catholicism.

In a sense, understanding the person behind the book helps us understand the book better and evaluate the ideas presented in it more accurately.

Keep a Record of What You Learn

Whether you highlight, underline or put significant quotes in a journal or database, it is important to keep a record of things you feel would be helpful later down the road. Reading on the Kindle is great imho because all of your highlights are viewable online in a condensed format.

Only Dive Deep When Necessary

I am not trying to advocate skimming the book here - but I confess I am a big picture person and I only cherish details when I need them. There are benefits to that approach - if you skim a section or chapter first to isolate the parts you really need to read (if you need to read it at all) it saves you a great deal of time and allows you to read more broadly.

There is a counterargument here - you have to be careful not to skip things that would be helpful. It is a skill that comes with practice I think.

Commit the Essential to Memory

If there is something truly life changing for you or something you feel will really help you as an apologist - try to commit it to memory. That way you always have it if you need it. Obviously you have to be very selective about what goes into this category unless you just happen to have an amazing memory.

For example, when I read C. S. Lewis, there were a few things he said I absolutely had to remember. Now, I would love to memorize his entire collected works, but I do not have a photographic memory. But I did memorize this quote - “God does not love us because we are good, He makes us good because He love us.” Wow, so valuable, such a treasure - I plan to keep that one in the ole noggin.

(Anthony Costello ) #3

Great Question. And, yes, there is actually a classic book on how to read!

in Christ,

(Anthony Costello ) #4

Also, I like to start with the table contents, then the preface or introduction and oftentimes, unless of course it is a work of fiction, the final 2-3 pages (i.e. the conclusion).

in Christ,

(Tabitha Gallman) #5

Shouldn’t that only be audio version?

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #6

I usually look at the table of contents first, followed by looking for the year the book was copyrighted because it helps to know a bit about era the writer was in and how it influenced them. I also read the acknowledgements to see how many people helped the author in the writing of the book. I really like to look through the bibliography at the end as well as the subject index. As I read the book, I underline lines I want to remember plus I sometimes like to go back and skim the chapter I’m currently reading or just finished (especially if it’s a long chapter).

It may seem exhaustive, but that’s how I read (but it’s different when I read fiction novels).

(Trisha Wood) #7

A wise man advised, “Take a professor not a specific course”. In that same mindset, I take an author and not a specific book. Then you can apply the advice of others who have offered good processes here about how to read that author!

(Tabitha Gallman) #8

@Truthseeker7 - Good advice. This gives you a point of reference as all authors are fallible and as @SeanO said:

“Every author has biases and identifying those biases, whether we agree or disagree with them, helps us think about the book critically.”

Of course there are books that are no brainers obviously because I remember a co-worker of mine didn’t care for my witness and said I was very narrow-minded. He suggested I read the Satanic Bible. He said it’s very misunderstood. I actually went into a bookstore in the early nineties and purchased the book. I felt very unnerved buying it. Maybe that was the Holy Spirit trying to convince me not to buy it? I only got passed the first couple of passages because it was so blasphemous. I should have burned the book, but I gave it to my co-worker and told him the book was very bad!

(SeanO) #9

@tabby68 Yes, there are some books not worth reading at all because there is no question that the content is not edifying.

(Trisha Wood) #10

I don’t know if it was the Holy Spirit or you own spirit that was warning you about the evil author and book you were buying, Tabitha, and the dangerous territory to which you were choosing to expose yourself, but something wise surely was. Even though I probably shouldn’t be surprised that such a book is readily accessible in a book store, I was!
Praise God for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, but as the end draws nearer and the world continues to become more and more evil and immoral and corrupt under the influence of the author of that Satanic Bible, we are going to have to be even more discerning about what we read and the authors we choose (and to whom we listen).