So you have a handful of books you want dive into. (If you don’t, check out What to Read, Part 1.) But which one should you read first? Maybe you’re looking at your dauntingly-long “Books To Read” list and thinking, “Okay, um, where in the world do I start?” I’ve certainly been there, and here are a few things I consider when trying to figure out which book to pick up next.
1.Genre. I read somewhere that being well-read doesn’t mean having read a lot of books in one genre—it means you’ve read a few books from lots of genres. I love this definition because it encourages me to explore, to try new things, to develop new tastes. I easily fall into ruts of fantasy-only, fiction-only, and so on, so whenever I’m at the what-to-read-next stage, I stop and think: What kinds of books have I been reading recently? Lots of fiction? Then I’ll try a non-fiction. Lots of young adult books? Then I’ll try a classic 0r adult theology book.
2. Age. C. S. Lewis once wrote that for every few modern books you read, you should go back and read a classic. I’ll indulge in a quote from his essay “On the Reading of Old Books”:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.
To maintain a balanced view of the world, and to guard against becoming blind to the mistakes of our generation, we must read the old books. As a student, I generally have to read older books for school, so I usually stick to more modern books for my fun reading. However, in the summer, I try to ensure that I read at least a few classics. They may be more difficult, but they are far more rewarding.
3. Current needs. Books are not just for entertainment (though let me point out, it’s always not wrong to read them just for fun). They are also teachers, guides, and encouragers. When deciding what to read next, examine your life. Are there any spiritual truths you need to be reminded of? Tackle a book about them. Is there an area in your life where you’re struggling? Consider picking up a book that will help you in this area. Maybe you need to read a book on trusting God or managing finances or, who knows, farming. There is so much information and wisdom available through books, more so now than in any previous generations—take advantage of it!
4. For writers. Writers, we all know that what we read affects what we write. Take this into consideration when deciding which book to dive into next. Do you need to do any research for the book you’re writing? Pick up a book on the topic you need to learn more about. Another great tip is to read some books similar in style to the one you’re writing, because often they can inspire you and keep you in the zone of whatever genre you’re writing in. Conversely, also try books that are different from what you are writing—not only will it make you a more well-rounded person, it will add depth and uniqueness to your writing.
In short, focus on variety and usefulness—dabble in many genres, even ones that scare (or bore) you, and utilize books to aid you in your life. But when all else fails, and you truly don’t know what to read, pick up the book that interests you, that makes you excited to read. Forget about the rules and the lists, and read for the love of it. Don’t become so preoccupied with reading the “right” thing that you don’t read at all. Never let your fear that you aren’t fitting the criteria stop you from reading, and never let rules get in the way of your love for it. Don’t take this too far, obviously, but just remember that these are not hard-and-fast rules intended to make reading a chore.
How do you decide what to read next? What are you planning on reading next?