“Write this down,” said God to Moses and various prophets, as recorded in Holy Scripture. If He wanted His story written, God surely intended it to be read.
The sharpest people you know are readers; the dullest never crack a book. My parents both read constantly. There was never a time in my growing up years when we did not take the newspaper, and sometimes more than one. In 2007, when God took our Dad the family had to cancel a half dozen subscriptions to magazines he was taking. He was nearly 96.
At the moment, my bedside table holds books on history, politics, music, and westerns. Every couple of weeks I go through those I’ve read and ship some off to family or make a delivery to Goodwill. Otherwise, we would be running over with books around here.
And I love it.
In her book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells how several presidents came to develop their gifts for influencing others and leading the nation. Early on, with Abraham Lincoln, there was a love for books.
Left on his own, Abraham had to educate himself. He had to take the initiative, assume responsibility for securing books, decide what to study, become his own teacher. He made things happen instead of waiting for them to happen. Gaining access to reading material proved nearly insurmountable. Relatives and neighbors recalled that Lincoln scoured the countryside to borrow books and read every volume “he could lay his hands on.” A book was his steadfast companion. Every respite from the daily manual tasks was a time to read a page or two from Pilgrim’s Progress or Aesop’s Fables, pausing while resting his horse at the end of a long row of planting.
Then, Goodwin says about his technique:
“How to read a 500 page book in 30 minutes! And retain 90 percent of what you read!”
That’s the come-on which led some of us to pay for the Evelyn Wood speed-reading course many years back. It was not money well spent in my judgement, although I did discover how a few people in this world manage to pull that off. (If your experience with that course was better than mine, congratulations.)
An editor for a Christian news service suggested that, since I’m a constant reader, I should write on how to read faster and better. Editors, she says, tend to read critically and thus slowly.
I remembered the time another editor asked me for an article on gluttony. The timing was perfect for I had consumed three large meals that day. I thought, “Who better than me, who knows the subject so well?” I wrote the article and it’s still circulating the globe in cyberspace.
Before starting the article, I decided to ask Facebook friends for tips on reading faster, better. The answers were many, some helpful and several delightfully goofy.
I’m a letter-writer. That should surprise no one since I’m part of the last generation of Americans to have been birthed and brought up on letter-writing. As a child of the 1940s, I remember so well the joy of my mother as she opened letters from her sister and mother on the Alabama farm. Living in the coal fields of far-off West Virginia, Mama missed her family so much. Aunt Sis would often include a couple of sticks of Juicy Fruit gum in the envelope. Mom would tear off a piece and make those two last a week.
When I went off to college, I wrote letters–to my parents and to my girlfriend.
Somewhere in my files now are personal letters to me from Dr. Billy Graham, Cartoonist Charles Schulz, and western author Louis L’Amour.
I’m 81 years old (don’t look it–ha–and certainly don’t feel it) and count it a privilege. Five minutes ago, I put in the outside mailbox four envelopes: two of them paying bills, one to a minister in Alabama and one to a cousin who is battling cancer.
I believe in letter-writing. But it takes effort.
As a pastor, when I use a story found while reading a book 50 years or more older, the one thing I am dead sure of is that no one else is using it. That’s just one of a dozen reasons I love old books. Following is something I wrote in 2010 after reading one such book.
I particularly love the older books.
In Cincinnati, I discovered a used bookstore that filled several floors of an ancient downtown building. I could have moved in.
I know where to find the best used bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi, and in Birmingham, Alabama, and never pass either city without a brief stop-in.
But there is reason to this madness. And it’s far more than a nostalgia kick. (There is that too, but it’s not the major thing.)