The fact is, most Americans just don’t make reading a priority. According to the Pew Research Center, only three in four American adults ages 18 and older claim to have read at least one book in the last year—which means 25 percent haven’t. Twenty-eight percent say they read an e-book, while half listened to an audio book.
You add it all up and the fact is, we’re losing the habit of reading. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans aged 20 to 54 spend only 11 minutes a day reading for leisure—not including computer use.
But you might respond, given all the options for our time and attention, what are we missing out on by not reading?
Quite a lot, actually. There’s an interesting discipline called bibliotherapy that addresses psychological and emotional issues via reading. Instead of “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” it’s “Take these books and put your problems in perspective.”
Now it’s not exactly Augustine’s “Take up and read,” but you get the idea. A recent article in The New Yorker was entitled, “Can Reading Make You Happier?” And a lot of bibliotherapists would answer, “Yes!”
One such provider of bibliotherapy is London’s School of Life, which, according to the article, “offers innovative courses to help people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence.” Author Ceridwen Dovey also says, “Today, bibliotherapy takes many different forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for elderly people suffering from dementia. Sometimes it can simply mean one-on-one or group sessions for ‘lapsed’ readers who want to find their way back to an enjoyment of books.”
Now of course, here at BreakPoint, we’re wild about books. It’s in our DNA. BreakPoint founder Chuck Colson was a book maniac. So much so, in fact, that one of the first questions he would ask job applicants was this: “What books are you currently reading?” And Eric Metaxas would never admit it, but it was my wife’s answer to that question when I was interviewing with Chuck that led him and his wife Patty to pick up "Bonhoeffer."
C.S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” And because all of us at BreakPoint readily agree, we’d like you to come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary to find Chuck Colson’s recommended reading list. Fiction, non-fiction, history, biographies, they’re all there. Chuck loved “The Thanatos Syndrome” by Walker Percy, “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoyevsky, and “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas. In non-fiction, Chuck recommended “Confessions” by Augustine; “Orthodoxy” by G. K. Chesterton; and “Why You Think the Way You Do,” by Glenn Sunshine.
This summer, I’ll be checking out David Brooks' new book “The Road to Character,” N.T. Wright’s new book, “Simply Good News,” and Rod Dreher’s “How Dante Can Save Your Life.” And I’ll be looking at Ryan Anderson’s “The Future of Marriage and Religious Liberty.” Lewis also said that for every new book we should read three old ones, and so I hope you’ve read “The Abolition of Man”—one of those rare books that seems more true each and every year.
Of course, Eric and I have also written books. I loved his biographies of Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce, not to mention his latest book, “Miracles.” And I hope you’ll check out “Restoring All Things,” which I co-wrote with Warren Cole Smith. And in light of the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on marriage, my book "Same Sex Marriage," written with Sean McDowell, should be helpful.
But let me make another point about reading. Do you have young kids? Well, get a glass of iced tea, take them out to the porch or the couch and read to them! My daughters and I are reading through the children’s editions of Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” and the “Case for Faith” and are having great conversations because of them. And my wife is reading through the classic “Little Women” to them.
Well, that’s enough to get us started. Again, come to BreakPoint.org for Chuck Colson’s summer reading list. I’ve also asked some of my Colson Center colleagues to throw in their suggestions.
(This commentary first aired June 18, 2015.)
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: July 30, 2015