On Reading A Lot

I remember the late, great John Richardson once saying that the best way to get better at reading the Bible was to read Moby Dick. I haven’t ever managed it, I’m afraid, but I definitely think that reading a lot, and reading widely, and reading good books makes you a better reader. I haven’t read Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well, but I think that might be part of her point, too. Like Jim Packer, my favourite relaxation is reading genre fiction (not so much detective fiction these days, though I devoured that when I was younger).

A Facebook friend recently wondered whether any of his friends had read more than 100 books so far this year. I was certain I had, but then I realised that, since I read almost everything on my Kindle, it’s now really easy to check exactly how many. I basically read Kindle books as I buy them, so although there may be some margin of error for actual reading, I can tell you that I have bought 239 Kindle books this year, of which I think about 20 remain unread (mostly purchased to read on my holiday, but then I lost my Kindle, so I didn’t read them that week and haven’t yet gone back to them. Over Christmas, probably.) I’ve also read some paper books, and I think the number of those is also around 20, so I’m going to say I’ve read somewhere between 220 and 250 books this year. But to be honest, I’d much rather spend my time reading books than tracking the books I’ve read.

Plus, I read the Bible (though technically, I began in Advent 2017).

Other than that, here’s some things I read that I might recommend to you, if they seem like your sort of thing. I’m not much of a one for telling people what they ought to read, and I tend to run a mile from anything I’m told I ought to read. But if they sound interesting to you, these are all things I enjoyed and thought well-written.


Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey. This actually is sort of a murder mystery, but the real draw of the book is the narrator, who has dementia. It’s beautifully done and heartbreaking and lovely.

Phoebe: A Story with Notes, Paula Gooder. Not a novel, but imaginative fiction based on the early church in Rome. Listen to my review of this on the Church Society podcast on Monday!

Then There Was You, Kara Isaac. Romance fiction is my catnip, and Kara Isaac writes romances about Christians. Like, real, actual Christians that I can imagine I might know. This is, I think, her best, but they are all wonderful. She is my find of the year.


Praying the Light: Unfolding the rich intercession of the Bible, Andrew Case. I should go back to this. It’s a book of prayers that teaches you how to pray the Bible. I was praying one every day for a couple of months, but I fell out of the habit.

None Like Him, Jen Wilkin. I read three Jen Wilkin books this year and dithered over which to mention. They’re all good. I really like Women and the Word, but I picked this in the end, because it’s proper theology and, even if there are flowers on the cover, I don’t care if that means women are working harder at loving God with their minds.

A New Day, Emma Scrivener. We read this in my women’s Bible study group at church and I think we all found it incredibly honest and helpful. Highly recommended for anyone who is a person or knows any people.

When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend, Mark Meynell. I talked to Mark about this book here.

The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet. I have never done a diet before in my life. I did this for 8 weeks and spent most of the year happier and healthier than I can remember. It hasn’t completely stuck, but I have no regrets, and definitely plan to do it again in 2019.

Here’s some things I read that I would not recommend:

Party of One, Joy Beth Smith. In my head, this is called Pity Party of One. It’s hard to take advice about singleness seriously from someone who thinks she’s very old at 27.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper. I mean it’s fine. But it’s a huge book, and you’ll spend hours reading it that you’ll never get back, and it could easily be summarised in about three pages.

Things I haven’t got round to but meant to read this year. There’s still time, maybe:
Lethal White, Galbraith
On Reading Well, Prior
Echoes of Exodus, Wilson and Roberts
Revelation, Leithart
I’m also in the middle of All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson. And I skim-read Tim Chester’s Enjoying God, but plan to read it properly with a friend (and do the exercises!) in 2019.