Make Reading a Priority—and Let Books Change You—in the Coming Year

Ivan Mesa’s intro to The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 book awards is terrific, which is why I’m featuring it below. First, no, none of my books received an award, second this is a great list, and third, please click the link and look through the books and choose one or more and buy and actually READ them. Though I do read ebooks, I still believe that overall the brain connects better with the physical book you read, and carry and put in a coat pocket or brief case, and underline (yes, I know you can highlight ebooks, and I do).  

PLEASE turn off the television and open a great book and begin to read. Tell yourself you will read a minimum of ten minutes before watching something or looking at a device. I guarantee you that if you do this every day, some days you will never turn on the TV. An hour or two will go by and you’ll realize how much better reading is than watching. I love good movies, though they’re hard to find. But nothing shapes you more than books. The problem is you don’t read passively, but actively, while watching is mostly passive. Let God feed you from His Word and great books—don’t let your television spoon-feed you.

“Let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1). To do that, we need to READ! And to teach our children to read—girls certainly but boys all the more because their literacy rate tends to be lower than girls, and we need more mature thinking men to lead their homes and churches.

Here’s what Ivan wrote:

“Books are long enough to change you.”

I can’t determine who originally said this (and neither can the internet), but it’s something I firmly believe—and never more so than today.

In her recent book, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (Harper, 2018), Tufts University professor MaryAnne Wolf examines how digital distractions are rewiring our brains, and we’re losing the ability to do deep, sustained reading. While much of her focus is on raising little ones in this new media landscape, she worries that

“[W]e, their guides, do not realize the insidious narrowing of our own thinking, the imperceptible shortening of our attention to complex issues, the unsuspected diminishing of our ability to write, read, or think past 140 [now 280] characters. We must all take stock of who we are as readers, writers, and thinkers.”

This is no less an issue for the books editor at The Gospel Coalition.

Sometimes the best wisdom I give TGC readers is to stop reading TGC—and all other digital voices demanding our attention now. TGC’s desire for our local and national events, as well as the bookscurriculumarticlespodcastsvideos, and reviews we publish, is to resource (but never replace) the local church. Each year we review around 300 titles between our academic journal Themelios and our regular book reviews section, so we’re firmly committed to the written word as a means of supporting church leaders. And at the end of each year we take stock of the most helpful titles across various categories, using the following fourfold criteria:

  • offer gospel-centered argument and application;
  • include faithful and foundational use of Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament;
  • foster spiritual discernment of contemporary trials and trends; and
  • encourage efforts to unite and renew the church.

So here’s my advice this year: Buy one or more of these books (preferably in print); log out of social media; and recapture the joy of immersing yourself in a book.

As our attention spans decrease and we’re sucked into the social-media vortex with its trivialities and Outrage of the Day, one way we can quietly resist is by reading a book. Such a small act, when joined to an abiding walk with Jesus and a life of service in his church, makes a radical difference in our lives and those around us.

See the book awards list.

Also check out Tim Challies’s 2019 Reading Challenge.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries