Not all books are created equal. I remember as a child literally drinking books. Adults would be in awe as I downed literally hundreds of pages a day. Then, a teacher handed me a Frances Schaefer book, The God Who Is There. Oh my goodness. It’s amazing. And literally impossible to read . . . quickly. I felt something was wrong: I wasn’t interested, it wasn’t well written (seriously?), or I just wasn’t smart enough to understand. Then, my teacher explained, “It’s expresso. It’s meant to be sipped, not gulped.” Oh. How you read and whether you will be successful at using reading to get better in every area will in large part depend on your awareness of what kind of book you are reading and how much of any category you can consume without overload. Here are my classifications of books in a rather liquid motif. Bottoms up!
Soda - these are your novels, trashy or lovely, whatever your flavor. I’d classify these novels as having absolutely no purpose other than entertainment. These are great for the beach, but if you live on soda, you will be fat and your tummy will hurt. Daniel Silva, Danielle Steele, Dan Brown - basically all the D’s. My beloved sci-fi also goes in this category.
Hot Chocolate - these have high sugar content but warmth to create great emotions or expose you to new ideas or provide motivation for the way forward. These are the books that become traditions, that heal your heart on tough days, and that give you the strength to fight again. Once again, not something you can exclusively live on, but oh so necessary for those cold days. Some of Max Lucado would fall in this category. I’d also throw in Love Does, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and When Breath Becomes Air.
Medicinal Tea - this is the book you want to throw across the room because it kicked your butt and stirred your heart in all the right ways. Joyce Meyer, I’m talking to you. I hate every one of her books and would recommend them all. CS Lewis has more tact, but also is a good medicinal tea. On the leadership side, Leadership and Self Deception and The No Complaining Rule will be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Coffee - these are the books that are heavy on information, but written in a style or depth that still allows you to drink two or three cups a day without anxiety or hair loss. John Maxwell is my favorite cup of coffee. Christine Caine, Lisa Bevere, Chip and Dale Heath, Dr. Dweck, Seth Godin (his blog is amazing) all great very different cups of coffee. I encourage you to include coffee in every day!
Espresso - well, you just can’t drink it in gallons. These are the books you read a chapter in and then walk away and ponder for a week before coming back. They can often change your life, awaken a passion, or correct a mistaken way of thinking. However, they won’t do it all in one sitting. Ravi Zacharias, Francis Schaeffer, Thomas Sowell, Lawrence Fuchs, Edward Said and many of the classics fall in this category.
Now, you can say some books are a little of both. Maybe so! Some trick you by looking like soda but really being medicine like grape flavored Motrin (I’m looking at you Jon Gordon). The point of the categories is to help you determine how to approach a given set of books. Don’t guzzle espresso, don’t try to live on soda, and don’t reach for medicinal tea when you are in the mood for hot chocolate.
What about water? I feel, very strongly, that water describes the only book that always nourishes my soul. That is the Christian scriptures. From Jesus’ story to the stories of the Apostles to Paul’s admonitions to the early church, I’m obsessed. And I need my daily water to move forward. The Hebrew scriptures (also called the Old Testament) are also amazing (obviously and inspired), and I read them often, but there is something about reading directly about Jesus and the aftermath that puts me in a different frame of mind.
So, there you go! My categories. My thoughts. What are yours? Any disagreements? How do you determine how much of one type of book to read?
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