Find A Niche
The first step in any reading plan is to figure out what your interests are. For me, this covers a wide range of topics. Since my time and energies are limited, however, I’ve had to narrow my focus down to what I believe is most essential. While this certainly varies from person to person, my main interest resides in the area of “Christian thought.”
Create A Plan
In college and graduate school we are required to read A LOT of books. Therefore, my reading plan consists of books that mostly fall outside of my academic discipline and are meant to keep me actively engaged in Christian topics and ideas. I’ve found that the most feasible plan is to read about one book per month**. To do this, I divided my area of interest (Christian thought) into six subcategories. Since there are twelve months in a year, I cycle through these categories twice. The result looks something like this:
August – Apologetics – These books are catered towards addressing an issue within Christianity that is often disputed by skeptics.
September – “Classic” – A book by an original Christian thinker in history, such as St. Augustine, Martin Luther, or Jonathan Edwards
October – Miscellaneous – I usually try to pick a new book on a specific topic, such as evangelism, culture making, etc.
November – Theology – This is any book dealing with a theological topic, such as God’s love, predestination, etc. Usually this is from the Reformed tradition.
December – “Abstract” – These books are meant to get me “thinking outside the box” and seeing things from a different perspective. C.S. Lewis is a favorite here.
January – History – A book focusing on a topic in American (usually) religious history. Some favorite authors are George Marsden, Mark Noll, John Fea, and Thomas Kidd.
From February to July, I repeat these same subcategories with different books.
By the end of the year, I will have read at least** 12 books (two in each subcategory). Although this sounds like a lot, I get through it rather easily by dividing the number of pages by the number of days in a month. Depending on how long the book is, this usually only amounts to about 15 pages per day – very doable during a lunch break!
After keeping up with this plan for several years now, I have found great benefits. My knowledge is wider, my faith is deeper, and I have more confidence in engaging with those who hold different worldviews. I highly recommend this plan (or something comparable) to those who have similar interests.
**My structured reading plan (as outlined above) consists of reading one book per month for analysis – this includes taking notes on the books and writing a short review. I also believe that it is important to read other books during spare time for information, application, entertainment, etc. For me, this amounts to about 3-4 books per month. The goal of a structured reading plan is to set an attainable standard that can be surpassed.