My Reading Pattern is Changing

Kingdom in the Midst

I remember a pastor from years ago making this comment about a seminary professor he’d had:

I believe he was so broadly read he could contribute meaningfully to any conversation about almost anything.

Considering the breadth of possible conversations, it is quite the assertion.

Since before I have a specific memory of learning to read I have loved to read. Comic books, novels, history, current events, theology, biography, science–even a little philosophy. Some subjects proved outside my grasp, but few outside my interest.

I even have a book on math beside my bed, but it has not multiplied my knowledge as of yet.


Many subjects call for many books and to the accusation that the “house is filled with books” I plead guilty without shame. Amazon has a lot of my money as does the stray used bookstore in my path, and not a few yard sales.

Beginning 2018, however, I am adding a new strategy: annual themes. Each year until I die, I’ll attempt to read several thousand pages on the same subject each calendar year. While this does not replaces a college degree, it should, in the words of one popular author, make me “less stupid” on my chosen subject.

For 2018 I’ll be reading about the Civil War (my book list is below). I have already decided 2019 will be on economics and currency, specific books TBD.

Does it surprise you to learn by reading only eighteen pages a day, six days a week, for 52 weeks, you will consume more than 5,600 pages next year, just over eleven 500-page volumes? Imagine how much “less stupid” you will be after reading 5,600 pages on World War 2, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the world of Genghis Khan, the history of the Christian church, Native American history (or individual tribes), biblical theology, banking and finance, investing, cooking and baking, teaching, business, home-improvement, the scientific revolution, the Renaissance masters, and on and on. Your range of interest and setting aside the time are your only limits.

Here’s my 2018 list with a brief explanation why the volume is included.

Before the Mayflower (Bennett)—This book was recommended by a local pastor and gives a history of the transatlantic slave trade that led to the war.

What This Cruel War Was Over (Manning)—Letters from Confederate and Union soldiers reveal why the participants thought the war was fought.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass)—The war’s realities cannot be understood without Black voices. Douglass is the heaviest of heavyweights.

Trial by Fire (Smith)—A lesser known volume I found on the cheap. It’s part of a multi-volume American history series.

Battle Cry of Freedom (McPherson)—This volume is near universally recommend as the most thorough ever written. I learned of it through Ta-Nahisi Coates recommendation.

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom (Clinton)—The first of two biographies in the list, Tubman is a heroine of the first order.

Ecstatic Nation (Wineapple)—I want to see whether a female author has different emphases than men writing on the same timeframe.

Out of the House of Bondage (Glymph)—Another Coates recommendation, this scholarly work focuses on life as a plantation slave.

This Hallowed Ground (Catton)—Originally published in the 1940s it purports to be the first Civil War history written from a Union point of view.

Grant (Chernow)—The second biography in the list has been recommended by many friends.

Forever Free (Foner)—This volume covers Reconstruction. Foner is recognized as an authority on the period.

When Heaven and Earth Collide (Cross)—This volume examines how the church failed to bear witness to the gospel in the antebellum South through the Jim Crow South.

The Souls of Black Folk (Du Bois)—Because Du Bois was a leading intellectual and he seems like a fitting end to the effort.

(At this moment, I’d like to thank McKay’s, Amazon Marketplace, Goodwill, and Christmas for keeping costs down. You may find your local library beneficial, helping lessen your stupid for less.)

What do you plan to read in 2018? In what subject would you like to become “less stupid”?

All links are through my affiliate account.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Jiminy Jillikers

    I’m planning to read The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll this year. And based on this list I’ve added a couple to my list as well. Thanks!

  • Keith Keller

    I just finished The Underground Railroad this week. It’s a novel, and not specifically about the civil war, but it is about the tragedy of slavery set in Georgia and the south. It is also a Pulitzer prize. Killer Angels won the Pulitzer too. I read it several years ago and it’s a great read. If you wanted to keep the subject but throw some novels in mix.