I enjoy reading. It’s a good thing because the number of pages I have to read in a semester of seminary would be a killer for the person who doesn’t enjoy books. Reading, however, has not always been a favorite past time of mine. Growing up, I was more interested in the physical activities of tennis, basketball, capture the flag, and playing in a band. Thankfully, over time I developed a greater enjoyment of sitting contently on the couch with an open book. Much of my increased appreciation of reading has come from my wife who thinks heaven will be a place filled with books.
I suppose before I say anything else I should mention that I never read fiction. I can’t get through a page of fiction without wanting to pick up the other biography, church life, or bibilical studies book I am working on. I get my fair share of fiction, it’s just through the medium of Law&Order and House.
There is one overriding frustration that I have with reading. I will finish a book and two days later when I look at the book on my shelf, I will struggle to remember the content. I remember in general what the author was talking about and the basic argument made, but specifics can be difficult to come by. That can be quite a determent when you spend several hours with a book only to forget the specifics a few days later. And I, for the most part, have a pretty solid memory.
So, I was comforted when I read this little paragraph from Tim Challies:
“I’ll be honest and admit that I forget a great deal of what I read. Anyone who tells you otherwise may not be telling the truth (unless he has a Spurgeon-like photographic memory). I used to be discouraged if, a year (or a month or a week) after reading a book, I could barely remember the content. I have since realized that this is inevitable. I focus on remembering what I can and trust that simply because I do not remember the complete outline of a book, this does not prove that a book has not been edifying to me. After all, if this was our standard, just about every sermon would be a complete failure. I trust that the Spirit works in me as I read good books and that He works despite my imperfect memory.”
One of the things I have started doing is to outline the books I read. I know this sounds quite boring and scholastic, but it is really simple. Keep a pencil or pen in your hand while you read and mark important sections. Then, after completing a chapter, jot down a simple outline for that particular chapter. It doesn’t take long and shouldn’t be exhaustive. Just write enough so that you can refresh yourself over that chapter with a glance. When you finish the book, you will now have a nice, solid outline for future recollection. Instead of picking up a book and reading through it again to get the author’s point, you can now simply refer to your summarized outline. This will both safe you time in the long run and will also help you remember the points of the book without needing additional help. Give it a shot, I think you will find it refreshing.