I work in a seminary library and help with collection development (i.e., selecting and purchasing books for the library’s collection). Therefore, I spend a good amount of time looking through catalogues from Christian publishers. I also rub shoulders a lot with Christians who like to read Christian books, whether scholarly or more “pop” literature.
Every time I scan through these publishers’ catalogues, I think of Ecclesiastes 12:12 – “Of making many books there is no end.”
Furthermore, as I browse these catalogues with hundreds of new books, find myself in a Christian culture in which these new books are referred to as “the next best thing” and “must reads,” and hear people talk about how they are reading or are so excited to read this or that new book, I find myself a little annoyed.
Here’s a diagram that I think might be helpful in providing a little guidance on how to determine which books you should be reading with the limited time that you have.
You’ve probably sensed my point by now.
Maybe my sense is off here, but it seems to me that in evangelicalism we are rather infatuated with the contemporary to the neglect of our heritage. And my perception is that our selection of books to read has not escaped this tendency.
Don’t get me wrong. Contemporary books are important. They will be more up to date culturally. They will be more up to date in terms of scholarly discussion and advancement.
However, in our general reading habits, why would we give so much priority to books that will in all likelihood be forgotten within 50 years, a decade, or even less time than that? Why not put those books on the top of our stack of books that have stood the test of centuries and have proven helpful to thousands throughout church history?
These are just some thoughts I’ve been having lately. It’s a challenge to my own reading habits (as much as I, a student, am able to determine them) as much as anyone else’s.