Reading’s been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My parents were both word people, working in journalism, writing, editing, presenting, crafting language to be efficient and effective. My father had collected over many years a library of reference material on all kinds of subjects. One of my favorite memories from my school days is getting assigned a topic for a history paper one day, then coming home from school the next finding out that my dad had pulled several relevant books from our family library. Not only were the books out on the table, but open to important pages, with little marks for pages and photos he wanted me to read. This is the day after the paper has been assigned, and probably three weeks before it is due, but my dad can not wait to get into these books with me, finding something too obscure for the other students to notice, but important enough to impress the teacher.
But it wasn’t just books. Dad was a voracious reader of newspapers, being a journalist at heart. He’d read the local newspaper of whatever town to which his travels took him. After I moved away from home, I could regularly expect an envelope stuffed with newspaper clippings from him. Something he read he just had to share with me. After a few years of this, right about the time he died, I came to realize he wasn’t just reading the paper, he was digesting it. He was finding some meaning in it. With every story, every person interviewed, he discovered something important. I wouldn’t have paid particular attention to those stories if he hadn’t shared them with me. In doing so, he taught me how much there is to learn from reading.
My whole life, I can’t remember my father reading fiction, but he always had a book he was reading. It became an easy Christmas and birthday present to find a new release on a topic that interested him. Before my father’s death almost 10 years ago, I read fiction almost exclusively. Since then, I find myself reading almost nothing but non-fiction.
My mother is a reader, too. Though she’s more of the fiction and literature reader of the family. So, when it comes to crafting a compelling narrative, she’s got a wealth of insight into how different authors paint a picture with words. I think my love of poetic language or a dramatic story arc comes from Mom.
But, my focused reading-for-a-purpose really started about two years ago. As I was exposed to the work of Dave Ramsey, I was moved by how passionately he recommends not just reading, but reading like it is important. Reading has always been just something I did, like watching TV or listening to the radio. But when Dave starting talking about reading as a way to shape your destiny, well, that got me thinking about what and how I read. Dave cites in his presentations a finding by Dr. Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Next Door that the typical millionaire reads a non-fiction book a month. Dave often recommends to the callers on his radio show books by other authors he finds of particular value, such as Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend or 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. He even has on his website a listing of books he recommends his listeners read. You’ll probably notice that many of the books I review will be from this list, but I have other selections as well.
This inspiration from Dave was further reinforced by serendipity. Dawn had recommended that I read The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, saying I would really enjoy it. I stupidly did not heed her advise, though I don’t know why. She certainly knows me well enough for me to take her suggestion as right on the mark. A few days later, Dave Ramsey offered a $10 grab bag on his website, where you could purchase sight unseen various things Dave was unloading. We’d loved everything we’d ever gotten from Dave, so what was the risk? When the package arrived, included was a hardback copy of The Traveler’s Gift. I decided this was God’s way of telling me I should have listened to her the first time. So, I read it and loved it, just like she predicted.
Anyway, the Second Decision of Personal Success in The Traveler’s Gift is, “I will seek wisdom.” It mentions how what someone reads and listens to affects them. We are programed by what we are exposed to, whether we like it or not. I even saw Andy Andrews demonstrate this live by reciting the entire theme song to an Underdog cartoon. Everyone in the audience knew he was correct, too. So, part of living the Second Decision is reading books and listening to recordings that improve our relationships with and understanding of other people. While sometimes this is passive reading or listening, also expected is reading with pen and paper for taking notes, and a highlighter for marking key passages.
The topics on our reading list will be fairly varied, but they should all be something that will attempt to grow the reader to a greater level of understanding, fostering growth in your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives. If you are interested in reading for a purpose, reading as one tool you are using to be more and do more, look at our reviews and consider putting these books on your reading list.