Six Guidelines for Choosing a Good Book
Every New Year demands a new reading list, but how do you find a good book worth your time? The following six guidelines help me to select the most worthwhile books, since I can’t read them all.
- Identify and fill your ‘reading categories.’ Whether you plan to read two books or twenty books this year, identify ‘reading categories.’ Your reading category is whatever topic you want it to be. Once you have compiled your categories, be sure to choose a book for each. I try to find the best or most helpful book I can in each category. I’ve already selected 16 categories for the coming year, such as ‘Worldview,’ ‘Adventure,’ ‘Ministry,’ and ‘Writing.’
- Expand your horizons. Is there a type of book that you are always found with, a topic that you constantly read about? It is great to be an expert in a topic, but be sure to read other topics. Is it any better to be a mile deep and an inch wide, than to be a mile wide and an inch deep? If you normally read fiction, try nonfiction. If you are a scientist, pick up a history book – and vice versa. Learning about a realm outside of your own will not only be interesting, but may yield important insights into your own areas of interest.
- Select truly great works. Mark Twain quipped that a classic is “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Most people read books about the classics, but few people read the classics. Whatever the topic is that you are interested in, find the truly great books on that subject and delve into them at some point. As another writer said, “”If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” (Murakami)
- Be sure to include biographies. A good biography inspires you to live life the way it was meant to be lived. It reminds you of the lives that others have lived. Hopefully, it will also remind you that some people have taken daring chances, risked everything for great ideas, and sacrificed for principles. Biographies challenge you to rethink your own life.
- Read the books already in your library. It is great to acquire new books, but what is the value if you don’t read them? Don’t imagine, as you add books to your collection, that one day you will find the time to read what you can’t find the time for now. Even if you did find the time, you will also find other good books. If it’s worth owning, it’s worth reading.
- Improve yourself. Reading in general is one way of improving yourself, but there is great value in reading books that will help you think wiser, work harder, and plan better. Your mind is your most valuable tool, so it is worth it to read at least one book this year that will directly sharpen this tool.
Do you need some specific book recommendations? Stay tuned for next time, when I will release my list of 16 books from 2016. In the meantime, you might review my list of 15 books from 2015.