Since writing “A Bookhound’s Folly” a few months ago, I have been thinking a lot about my reading habits. This vein of thought led me to begin reading How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. While I’m only a quarter of the way through, the practical wisdom in the book is already revolutionizing the I read.
Adler quotes Francis Bacon ↑ (1561-1626) when he said,
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
With so many books in the world (Ecclesiastes 12:12) and so little time (James 4:14) it seems fitting that a wise man might choose not to read every book that he begins.
The wise man might “taste” many more books than he chooses to read entirely.
Just as a guest at a buffet table can taste a bit of every dish to discern which he likes and wants more of, a wise bookhound can taste many books before choosing which one to sink his teeth into.
This is a new way of thinking for me.
I’m a person who tends to do things systematically. I appreciate lists. I have a “Books I’ve Read List.” If I’m going to read a book, I aim to read the entire thing, so that I can say, “I’ve read such and such a book.” I slog through the boring parts in order to get them read. That’s not the best use of my time though, since I could skip the dull parts.
All that’s changing. Now I mark the books on my list that I’ve only read part of. This way, I can still remember which books I’ve read (even if only in part), and I no longer feel the need to read the entire thing.
I must say it feels liberating to change the way I read books in order to make the best use of the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).