Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Discernment

A fellow blogger and bibliophile, Sarah Reinhard, asked the question on her blog, Snoring Scholar, (a fellow alliteration blogsite), How do you pick what to read next?  I thought I would answer on her comments line, but I figured it was pertinent to the blog so here we go.

To have so many books one has not read the choices are vast.  I tend to "collect" books.  More books just seem to appear on the shelves, or when all the shelves are taken on the floor.  Which one do I choose to read next?  Should I read Dostoyevsky's The Brother's Karamozov or St. Catherine of Siena's Dialogue or Karol Wojtyla's The Acting Person or Pope Paul VI's encyclical Evangelii Nutiandi or Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth: Part One and Part Two or G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.  All good.  All worth reading.  None will disappoint.  All with be fruitful.  Some will be more difficult than others.  Over the years, I have developed a system for myself to help guide me choice of reading.

First of all, anyone who sees my Goodreads current reading list will find upwards of six books.  I don't multitask well going from one to the other.  Rather, each book is for a certain "area" if you will.

Life of a Saint

First, there is the life of a saint, which saints say is good thing to read.  The more lives of saints I read the more they tell me to read more lives of the saints.  That is my bedtime reading to give me peace as I prepare to sleep.  It's usually read in bed.  Fifteen or twenty minutes a night is a good preparation for rest.  My current book is The Curé d' Ars by Abbé Trochu.

The Library

Since I was a child, when my father said he was going to the library, he had in his hand the daily newspaper and was heading towards the bathroom.  Since then, I have connected reading and taking care of business.  Sitting near the toilet is some small book that can be read in short intervals without being burdensome.  I tried reading Theology of the Body, and it just didn't work to dense for the time period.  This current book is Dawn of the Messiah by Dr. Edward Sri.

Spiritual Reading

The seminary has tried to foster spiritual reading in our lives.  I have taken to read 15-20 minutes each day from a certain work on the spiritual life.  Sometimes it is recommended to me by my spiritual director, which makes choices easy.  This book at the moment is Discernment of Spirits by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV.

Regular Reading

This is the book that suits my fancy at the time.  Usually, it some theology or philosophy book, but on occasion to cut the density I'll read a novel or collection of short stories.  I have my "library" of books sectioned off and I have tried to go through, Scripture, then Theology, then Philosophy, then Literature, then History, then Psychology, then Church Documents, trying to go in some sort of pattern to get a well rounded reading experience.  On the whole, this has been wholly unfollowed.  I'm too ADD to be that organized, but at least, it provides some sort of parameters for choosing, if nothing suits my fancy at the time.  This is usually the book I will spend the most time with in a given sitting.  The current book in this category is This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin.

ADD Ebook

This section is for those time when I don't have anything to do, but have no available book in front of me.  I unlock my iPhone and start reading from iBooks or from a PDF saved on GoodReader or a word document on iFiles.  This has two books right now that I swap between both by Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles and The Innocence of Father Brown.


This will usually pertain to a certain time in the liturgical year or some other important event.  They have short runs and usually end up unfinished only to wait to be taken up by one of the aforementioned categories.  I have been reading for Lent Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre Caussade.

Hope this is helpful Sarah.

1 comment:

Sarah Reinhard said...

What an answer, Kyle!

I have found that I can't have too many things going on at once either. So I usually have a novel (that's my favorite reading, and reading that feeds a deep part of me, believe it or not, so I have prioritized it) and something else. Currently I'm reading something in the mornings, a spiritual fare, and the novel at the rest of the time. Other times, I'll rotate, novel then nonfiction (which is often something spiritual, but not always).

Love the ADD e-book section...I do that sometimes too, except then I want to FINISH. So...I don't do well just holding off on those.

Thanks for such detailed thoughts on this! :)