[Before Christmas we began a conversation about reading for pleasure. The previous two posts can be accessed here and here.]

The journey from the parking lot at the local mall to the Apple Computer store inside runs through the Barnes and Noble bookstore, a not unpleasant feature for sure. After walking through it the other day, I stood at the far end and looked back across that space and thought, very profoundly, “That’s a lot of books.”

I think even Solomon, who was more aware than most (“Of making many books there is no end….” / Ecclesiastes 12:12), would at the sight have run to a safe corner and melted into an overstimulated lump.

I can’t pick a Christmas tree from the mere forty or so on the lot. How daunting picking one book to read can be. The “Books in Print” people catalogue over 20 million books worldwide and the International Publishers Association tell us that over 300,000 annually are added domestically to that list. You might need to hurry to catch up. Or join Solomon in the corner over there.

And yet, if want you to pick one, how can you?

You could ask me, but I’m reticent to do so. I can tell you what I like, but that might not correspond to your passions and may do little to rekindle your wonder. More importantly, I think many of us have lost the ability to feel curiosity and have forgotten how to feed it. I want us to again experience the magic of our desires fixing upon a book that shows itself worthy of our attention.

A recently minted college graduate asked me recently what to read. As we discussed it, I suggested he answer that question by asking himself some questions first. Perhaps thinking about these will help others navigate the myriad choices before us.

  1. What questions do you want to have answered?
  2. What concerns would you like to think more deeply about?
  3. What things interest you that you’d like to explore?
  4. What books/authors have you always wanted to read (or types of books) but have never had time to do so?
  5. What genre of books would you like to explore that perhaps you’ve not explored before?
  6. What people would you like to be better able to communicate with or understand?

Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about this Tolkien fellow (question 4) and have always wanted to check him out. Or maybe mushrooms fascinate you (question 3). Out of 20 million books in print, surely there is a good one on mushrooms. Or maybe you have a Muslim neighbor and want to enter into his experience (question 6). Surely there is good book that will help you do so. (NOT a “How to Share Jesus” book, but one that helps you understand his or her life.)

Of course, I’d be happy to offer a suggestion or two. But my goal is not to get you to like the things I like. My goal is to rekindle the curiosity that possibly our education has dimmed.