Confessing my addiction…

If it’s possible to be “addicted” to books, then I am most definitely addicted.  Soon after I became a Christian (in 1992), I discovered the joy and benefit of reading good, Christian books…and my interest in them has only increased over the years.  As a youth minister, I was required by my mentor to read three or four books a month.  As a college and seminary student, I was required to purchase and study many books for my classes.  Now, as I continue to read, study, teach, preach, and write, books are extremely important to me – only slightly less important, really, than air and food.

Without thoroughly-researched, well-written books at my fingertips (and, of course, THE book – the Bible – which supersedes all other books in it’s importance in my life), I would feel very insecure.  With my limited memory and limited knowledge, I would never feel equipped to impart information to others, because I would be afraid of interjecting my personal opinions in place of what is true and factual, or at least getting the facts badly jumbled in my efforts to communicate them.  Ray Bradbury’s classic novel “Fahrenheit 451” (which imagines a culture in which books are illegal), is a truly horrific story for me, because a world without books – I think – would be a terrible place.

Fortunately, though (…or unfortunately, depending on how you’re looking at things…), there is an ever-increasing number of truly excellent books that are well-worth reading.  The novice reader, who is not really well-informed about what’s available and hasn’t learned what’s most edifying to read, will often make very poor choices in books.  This, of course, is clearly illustrated by the fact that “fluff” books are continually the best-sellers in the popular bookstores.

Many people will choose to read the “easiest” books that they can find for pure enjoyment and escape from the daily drudgery of life, and – for some – they are quite content to read these simple books throughout their lives.  This is unfortunate, though, because the better books – even the better fiction books, if that’s your preference – have so much more to offer to us than the books that are written for the sole purpose of making money and achieving celebrity status.  This is not to say that only difficult books should be pursued (though they are often more rewarding), but rather that truly good books should be our primary interest.  And if you have any trouble determining what those “good” books are, then you need only find an experienced book lover that you respect and ask their advice to start learning about them.

An appreciation for excellent books is a wonderful thing, and something which I wish every person in the world shared with one another.  How wonderful it would be if everybody realized how much our minds can be sharpened, our wisdom deepened, and our lives enhanced by committing ourselves to investing the energy and resources in the reading of good books!  For me, however, my realization of this years ago has turned into something of a problem for me now.  I find myself – as I said – “addicted” to books.  It is all but impossible for me to walk by a book display in a store – no matter what kind of store it is – and not at least look to see whether there is some new title which I might be in urgent need of.  If you could see my current library, though, you would know beyond doubt that I’m not in “urgent need” of ANY more books!

Recently, in applying for my new insurance policy, I needed to have an estimate for the value of my personal library, as well as for our other possessions.  All in all, I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200 books.  There are some small bookstores that don’t keep that many titles in stock at a given time!  Needless to say, this poses a problem for Karen and I as I struggle to get all of the books into bookcases (I believe I have 15 or so large bookcases.), particularly since we are now living in a small church apartment!  So, I find myself having to – out of necessity – say goodbye to a small portion of my book collection.  Needless to say, this is a slow, difficult, and at times painful process.

Some of the books are admittedly outdated and less valuable to me now.  Most, however, are at least “good” if not truly “excellent” books, and these are much harder to sift through.  Deciding which ones to sell or give away is something like deciding which body part to let go of.  Is there one finger that’s less necessary to me than the others…perhaps one toe that doesn’t play too significant a role in my ability to stand or walk?  Hardly!  Yet, when I’ve assembled and filled every bookcase that will possibly fit into our apartment and I still have stacks of books all over, then changes must be made.

Anyway, I share this with you partly because I know that many of my minister friends have had to deal with a similar “book addiction” as I have, and perhaps you have some useful tips to offer to me in this time of personal struggle.  To other readers, though, I want to share that – in spite of the spacial complications that my book collection is currently causing in my life – I have, nonetheless, been greatly enriched by the good things that I have read.  Most of my knowledge and a great deal of my conviction is due to God working in my life through the things that I have read.  Reading is such a fruitful exercise – so much more so than the TV and movies that most of us enjoy far too often these days.

If you are comfortable checking books out of the library and returning them when you have finished reading them, then you will never risk having to manage your collection as I am now.  Besides, it has taken me many shopping sprees over a number of years to reach the point of having more books than I can comfortably store.  Whether you buy books or borrow them, though, please hear my challenge to READ GREAT BOOKS!  There are so many books to choose from, and the effort required to read them is so richly rewarded.  I once stumbled upon a quote, though I can’t recall the source of it, which said, “The man who can read but doesn’t is no better off than the man who can’t read.”  True indeed!  Please make time to read good books, and be blessed as a result.

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