Chances are, if you want to be a friar, you are bound to be a “reader.” This is assumed. Sure, perhaps you want to be a better reader: quicker, more attentive, sharper of eye, perhaps less easily distracted. For, being a good reader is what being a friar entails. (Being an academic reader, or a scholar, is not, necessarily.) Yet more important is how you get to that point. How do you become a “good reader?” What, in other words, do you begin doing now in order to be somewhere nearer to that mode in the future?
You commit yourself to a Reading Plan.
But a “reading plan” is not just a list. If all it is is a list to you, or even several sets of lists you happen to keep on you, (whether on your iPhone or what-not,) you’ll hardly be motivated in a timely fashion to read the books you commit to and to read them well. You will make excuses. You will say that you just don’t have time to read as much as you’d like to. Or that there seems to be so many other things to do. Or that reading is, after all, a luxury.
Reading isn’t a luxury for a friar. No more than eating or prayer is. Being a “good reader” is not adopting a mere skill-set, it is part of the discipline of virtuous daily living. Again, you don’t have to be a scholar to enjoy or profit from books in a disciplined way.
There is time in your day to read. If you don’t believe me, re-evaluate your schedule by logging all your activities for the average week. I bet you’ll find plenty of in-between time that you can use for personal, smart reading. All you need is an hour or two of that kind of reading every day. As St. Josemaria Escriva says, in a very Dominican vein, “An hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer.”
What is a Reading Plan? It is reading with a direction in mind. It is enacting a kind of reading with a purpose or goal. You do not just read a book and then another book, in other words, but a group of related books, for an intended end/goal, over a designated period of time.
These are the Reading Disciplines you must begin to enact now in order to participate fully in a Reading Plan.
- Read for an hour or two every day. Commit to a routine. Try to read at the same times every day, and only find another time when you can’t keep the regular time.
- Read closely, at a jaunty, but not at a speedy pace. Refrain from speed reading. You have other things to read quickly through in your day: mail, e-mails, text messages, newspaper articles. Whatever you have to read “quickly through” does not count as personal reading.
- Complete the average 250-page book in about a week or two. Try, though, to complete a book within the week. (If you can go faster, great. If you can’t keep up, then, keep at it. You’ll get there. Don’t allow yourself ever to be discouraged.)
- If a book comprises “parts” or sub-books, always complete such a part in one sitting. Reading a book only a chapter at a time will cause you to lose focus. Reading a book in as few sittings as possible is key.
- Read where you will not be distracted frequently. Use good lighting.
- Read upbright and in a comfortable chair. Not in bed. Not lying down on the sofa. Not on the ground flat on your back. Reading, sure, may be relaxing, but you’re not lollygagging. Reading is leisure, which means, it is a different, and a more rewarding, kind of “work.”
- You may take notes in the book with a pencil while reading. For, reading is participating in a conversation with an author. Don’t take notes outside the book in a notebook or whatever.
- You may look up a word you don’t know in a dictionary only after you have attempted to define it yourself based on its context in the book.
- Begin or end each reading session with St. Thomas Aquinas’s A Student’s Prayer. Which you can find online.
- Make it a rule to read imaginative fiction always. It is not a waste of time. It is more worth your time than many other things.
THREE BOOKS WORTH YOUR TIME:
(1) Josef Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture
(2) Antonin Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life
(3) Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book