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Read and To Be Read

Here it is the first day of the last month of the year. Amid all the increasing hustle and bustle that leads to and accompanies the Christmas holidays, I began to take a few minutes while on the treadmill this morning to assess the results of my reading habit during 2017 and to plan my reading in 2018. I’m a voracious reader, but without a plan, my reading is haphazard at best. I like structure, so I plan. Invariably, that plan gets altered during the course of the year, but that’s okay. Serendipity is sometimes good.

As I looked back over my reading of 2017, I found some surprises, one of the biggest of which is how much fiction I read this year. I seldom read fiction. There are just so many good nonfiction books available, why should I waste my time reading something that’s not true? But I try to force myself to read at least one work of fiction every year. Sometimes I succeed; more often, I fail. But this year, I read four (!) works of fiction. Just to see how they do it. Maybe I’ll try writing my own fiction someday.

First there was Gunner’s Run, historical fiction, World War II. Eh, close to one of my main nonfiction interests, and it seemed to be a historically accurate portrayal of a downed bomber crewman trying to escape capture by the Nazis. Second was Jordan’s Star, one of Gilbert Morris’s numerous books. Hold onto your seat–historical (set in about the 1850s) romance fiction! But I was paying more attention to its historical authenticity than to the romance, and I found it to be generally accurate–until, near the end of the book, Morris referred to something that “President McKinley” did–about 40 years before he was even elected. How unromantic and disappointing! Third was Thomas Wolfe’s “classic” You Can’t Go Home Again. It was set in the Depression, another of my favorite periods to study. Let me just say that, like those who lived through the Depression, I persevered to the end of Wolfe’s book. Barely. The best part of it was the title–and finishing it. Finally, I read Wolf Hook, another story about World War II and spies and double agents and their efforts to escape detection. So now I’m three years ahead of schedule on my fiction reading! On to better things!

Another surprise I found while assessing my 2017 reading is that I’ve read 27 books on writing. The art and craft of it, the marketing of it, and biographies of those who have succeeded at writing. Some of those books were good and helpful. A few of them were worthless, more hype than substance. But when you read as much as I do, you sometimes get a lemon. Perhaps the most helpful were the biographies of writers because they encouraged and inspired me. It helped me to realize that even “big name” writers had some of the same struggles I do with my writing and marketing. They overcame them in spite of battling with drugs and alcohol and dysfunctional families–and without God. It made me think that maybe I, without drugs, alcohol, and family dysfunction (well, okay, some people might question that!)–and with the personal presence of God in my heart–can achieve something worthwhile with my own writing.

The second and third categories of books that I read most of dealt with history (18) and Bible study (5). I tend to breeze through the former, which I usually read while doing research for writing projects, but with the latter I tend to slow down, meditate more, and absorb for application; hence, the difference in the number for those two categories.

The final surprise was that many (I didn’t take time to count them) of the books I read in 2017 were books on Kindle. Almost all of those were FREE! I love books, especially if they’re free! My kids gave me the Kindle for Christmas a few years ago, and I’ve been building an electronic library of free books ever since. It’s taken this old codger a while to get used to reading electronically, and I miss the feel of a real book in my hands, the smell of its pages, and the ability to underline and take notes or argue with the author in the margins, but it surely saves room in my office!

So what will 2018 bring in the way of reading material? Who knows, but I’m already lining up several books I want to read. I’m sure that most of them will involve writing, either how-to for improving my writing or information for content in my writing. History and Bible study will also top the list. And I’m certain that most, if not all, of it will be nonfiction.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

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