a group of professionals who, on average, buys 3.8 books per month per person—92% of whom buy at least one book per month—adding up to between 8 million and 13 million books per year. Compare that to the total population, where less than one-third (29%) of American adults buy more than 10 books in the course of a year."1
When I pointed out the much higher reading stats of clergy to my wife, she looked at me and said, "And what? We seem to buy a book every week!"
Okay, okay....I admit my spouse and I are avid readers. In our new home, we have decided not to have a living room. Instead, we call it our library. As for those who helped us relocate this summer can testify, the Hugenot/Shermer (Shergenot?) household counts among its most prized possessions a good size religious studies section, a literature section, and by my wife's estimation, more than enough graphic novels and single issue comics than a grown man under 40 should own....
I read online book reviews as well as the weekly Book Reviews in the 6 lb. Sunday edition of the NY Times. (I like the Sunday Times in the print, hence my joke about the weight of taking one home....) I look through religious journals and clergy publications. And thanks to eight years with Cokesbury (back in their brick n' mortar days sadly passed), I know how to trawl the "front lists" of various publishers to see what's new or coming soon to the market.
Our cats are named after books. Hopeless, aren't we?
I find reading enlivens ministry. It may seem counter-intuitive given the work load we often find ourselves navigating on a weekly basis, yet those times spent with a good book (comic or otherwise) improves our day to day living. Also, an avid reader preacher finds ways to connect with stories and insights into our weekly preaching.
Ministry can be wearying, yet a good book can be the cure of the preacher's soul. In times of writer's block, I find a book on something else frees my brain from thinking relentlessly about the Sunday sermon text. You need to back up and let tension go sometimes. Some weeks, though, I find a chance reading of something off topic sometimes nudges me homiletically in a different direction. Reading a good book has yet to be counter-productive or less than edifying!
I invite my clergy readers (and lay folk book worms, too!) to consider their recent purchases or findings at used bookstores or while wandering their local branch of a public library system. What book has really made you think? What tome has sparked new insights?
I invite you to comment in the section below and share books you find enlivening (past and present!).
1 Barna poll data analysis: https://www.barna.org/barna-update/congregations/613-reading-habits-of-today-s-pastors#.UiqZuOA_021