2012 reading goals

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I love to read. That might be an understatement. Frequenters of this blog also know that I try to set seasonal and yearly reading goals for myself. I do this because there is so much time and so little to read. Wait a minute, strike that, reverse it. So decisions have to be made as to what to read. Thus, I find myself gravitating more toward weighty things lately, and less away from controversial or current trends. I’ve also been more picky, especially in which books I request from publishers to review (i.e. no more MacArthur or Driscoll). I don’t want to be isolationist or provincial, but instead more thoughtful as to what will benefit me the most.

I continue to make lists and goals for myself, though I don’t hold as rigidly to them as I once did. While Adler advocated for disciplined reading in the seventies, Jacobs more recently argued for a more organic reading style, driven by serendipity and whims. As with most things, I think the prudent thing is probably somewhere in the middle. I’ve found this to be true for my reading, making lists in pencil and leaving room for whims. I keep a rough outline of books to read each season, viewable on the right sidebar. But if one books leads naturally to another, I’ll change it up. As a related aside, many of you have asked where I hear about books and how I decide what to read. The vast majority of them are either personal recommendations or ideas from readings: recommendations within books, passages quoted in books, or authors mentioned somewhere.

Lists help me maintain good reading habits, so as not to overload on one type or genre of book. I try to read at least one from these areas each season: biography, modern theology, classic theology, family, fiction, essay, and other nonfiction. I’ve added poetry as a category this year, which brings me to my yearly goals.

I read Calvin’s Institutes in 2009, 50 books in 2010, and the Bible in 2011. What will 2012 hold, you might be asking? Well, it’s not as ambitious as previous years, but I’m still excited about it. In 2012, I’m hoping to read at least one collection of poetry each season. It’s a small goal, but I hope to exceed it by the end of the year. Poetry isn’t easy for me to jump in to, so I am starting small. Eliot, Neruda, and Frost are on the docket to start, and I might sprinkle in some Shakespeare as well. Some selections from anthologies is also on the menu. The back-of-my-mind goal is to work my way up to reading Milton’s Paradise Lost this year. Since I use recommendations heavily, any poetry recommendations from y’all?


4 thoughts on “2012 reading goals

  1. Joel, to be honest, I don't think of Paradise Lost as something you need to 'work up to.' I read it several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I had trouble putting it down at times, and I'm not much of a poetry guy by nature. I actually found Milton easier than Frost, or say, Wendell Berry. I think this was because I was very interested in the story and the theology of Paradise Lost, whereas I have trouble reading a poem about a wooded hillside, because, well, I like a wooded hillside as much as the next guy, but clearly not as much as Berry. You might also check out Gerard Manley Hopkins, he's a master of alliteration, one of my favorite poetic devices.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations, y'all. And Jeff, thanks for the encouragement. For some reason, I'm intimidated by Milton even though I've never read him! Berry does like him some wooded hillsides. I'm looking forward to adding some of these guys to my list. And Aron, I have Bloom's edited Best Poems leftover from my undergrad days; I hope to read extensively from it this year.


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