Books: 10 Ideas

This week is a great time to pay some attention to your books. Whether you have books for ministry or for personal benefit, it doesn’t matter. Here are 10 quick ideas about books that might be helpful if you get an hour or two to consider your books (and your reading in the coming months!)

1. Books are a blessing – thank God for what you have! You probably know someone with a more impressive library than yours. Great, now get back to saying thank you for what you have! If we aren’t thankful, then we will tend to take them for granted and whether you have 20 books or 20,000 books, they will most likely sit dormant on your shelf.

2. Books are a blessing – join the elite club of book givers! It seems like there are fewer and fewer book givers left in the world. But what a strategic ministry they have! What was the book that helped you most in 2020? Perhaps it was Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. Why not buy five or ten copies and pray about who to give them to in the next couple of months. Then do it again with another book that you have appreciated. You might change some lives and you will enjoy the prayer and the process. (And since you’re being generous, feel free to use our affiliate link with 10ofthose to order your books in the UK or in the USA – thanks!)

3. Books are a blessing – but they don’t have to fill your shelves forever. It is usually possible to find another cheap bookcase on Facebook Marketplace, but even if you have maxed out your space for adding shelves, that should not stop you adding books. Why not do a purge? Maybe some books could be sold. Others could be given away. Perhaps some would really be best dedicated to recycling. If you haven’t touched it in years and can’t imagine touching it in the future, why is it still there?

4. Books are a blessing – but an unfinished book should never make you feel guilty. I have lost count of the number of people who say, “I love the look of this book, but I must not buy it because I have too many I haven’t finished yet.” We need to dismiss this crazy thinking once and for all. If you aren’t motivated to finish a book you’ve started, you almost certainly won’t. If you are motivated to read something else, you should get hold of it. My approach is to treat an unfinished book not as a burden, but a book that I was glad to read part of. Perhaps I paid £5 or £10 for chapters 1-3. Chapters 4-8 were free and I might read them later! Read what you want to read in a book, don’t let the dead weight of unfinished sections hinder your spiritual life, your ministry or your joy!

5. Books are a blessing – but if they are disorganised . . . not so much. If you can’t find a book when you need it, why have it?

6. Books are a blessing – but some are worth less than others. C.S.Lewis wrote that the test of good literature comes when you pick it up, start reading and realise you’ve read it before. If it is junk literature, you will feel like putting it down. If it is good literature, then you will want to keep going. That might be helpful. Some books are reference tools that are worth their weight in gold. Others are one-exposure pieces that, once read, are not worth the investment of shelf space (lots of bestsellers are really disposable!) Discern the difference. Discard or deliberately shelve accordingly.

7. Books are a blessing – make time to read. We live in a time when the urgent pressures of email, social media, internet news, etc., are all conspiring to get us away from books. I find an hour with a book is always an investment, even when compared to spending an hour reading the same author online – and the time with a book is always more enriching than frittering time on YouTube or wherever. If we are going to read, we need to make plans and carve out the time.

8. Books are a blessing – plan how to use each book. If it is an immersive page turner, great, grab a drink and curl up with the book. But if it is not a novel, but rather a book on a specific subject, what should you do? Take a few moments to plan your approach. Time spent on the table of contents, reading conclusions, etc., will make the rest of your time so much more productive. Perhaps you really need to jump into section 2, or maybe one chapter is all you need in this visit?

9. Books are a blessing – plan what kinds of books you need to spend time in. As a preacher I need to read directly related biblical and theological books, but I also need to read for cultural insight (The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray has been disturbing but so helpful recently, for instance). I also benefit from investing indirectly in my ministry by reading someone from church history (Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man is due another read) or a book about Greek Grammar. And then there is the purely relaxing (I am enjoying The Body by Bill Bryson at the moment, when I choose to take a few minutes.)

10. Books are a blessing – who can you share the journey with? It is great to give a book away, but it is also great to read a book with a friend and meet up to chat about it. I have had some wonderful conversations with a good friend this past year as we read through a John Eldredge book, and then Dane Ortlund’s Gentle & Lowly.

I want to make more of my time as far as reading is concerned in the coming year. A lot of that motivation has come from taking a couple of hours to organise my shelves over the Christmas break. Go for it, while you have the chance!


And since we are talking about books: here is one you can easily add to your shelves (or give away!)

My Highlight Books of 2012

BookIt seems fashionable to offer a list of the best books of the year during these days.  I can only offer some of the highlights in terms of what I’ve read.  Consequently, not all these books were published in 2012, but they were read by me in 2012!  I won’t include any of the books I am currently reading, even though there are some real gems, with bookmarks in them, next to my reading chair.

To be effective preachers we need to be readers.  Readers for the sake of our preaching, our biblical studies, our theology, our cultural awareness, our personal spirituality and our growth in all aspects of ministry.  So here are some books I’d encourage you to get hold of if they weren’t in your stocking yesterday or on your shelf already:

Best Theological and Spiritually Stimulating Read of 2012: The Good God, by Michael Reeves.  This book is appearing on lists far more comprehensive and purposeful than mine.  Hopefully people will get the point – this delightful book is well worth reading! It is rich yet accessible, theological yet heart-stirring, historically alert yet relevant and enjoyable. (It was released in the UK in March 2012 by Paternoster, and in the US in the fall by IVP under the title, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian FaithClick here to buy the book in the UK.)

Other Theologically Stimulating Reads in 2012.  These are not new, but worth grabbing if you get the chance.  Holmes Rolston’s John Calvin Versus the Westminster Confession is very thought provoking.  Janice Knight’s insightful analysis of the Antinomian Controversy in New England in the 1630’s is a golden piece of work (at a golden price, it must be said).  The contrast between a God obsessed with His own power and a God who gives of Himself in love is as fresh a discussion as any from all those centuries ago.  Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism buy or borrow if you can.  (To buy in the UK, click here.)

Best Freely Accessible Historical Document of 2012: I have thoroughly enjoyed time with both Luther and Edwards this year.  Edwards is not always the most accessible, and Luther is not always the most consistent, but both are worth some reading time!  For starters, why not try The Freedom of a Christian, by Luther (aka Concerning Christian Liberty – easy to find online, but why not get The Three Treatises on your shelf – to buy in the UK, click here.)

Biblical Studies Book of 2012: Jesus on Trial: A Study in the Fourth Gospel, by A.E.Harvey.  This is an older book, published in the 70’s, but worth its weight in gold.  This book helps make sense of the continual legal tension between Jesus and his accusers.  I will long remember reading this by flashlight in the sleepless nights after our youngest was born – she was worth being awake for, but this book only made it even better!

Not Overtly Christian But Well Worth Reading Book:  C.S.Lewis’ Experiment in Criticism is a delightful read on literature and how it engages people.   Instead of evaluating readers by what they read, what if we evaluate literature on how it is read?   This is well worth pondering on a spiritual, as well as on a literary level.  (To buy the book in the UK, click here.)

Insight Into Human Psyche Book of the Year: A New Name, by Emma Scrivener. – This was published this year.  It will make a mark on you if you read it.  Autobiographical, profoundly vulnerable and deeply gospel-centred.  This journey through the agony of anorexia gives insight into a world many of us know practically nothing about (but many in our congregation do).  (To buy in the UK, click here.)