Guidelines for making wise reading choices

In her book An Introduction to Christian Writing, 2nd Edition*, author Ethel Herr writes about the dangers reading can pose for writers and offers some suggestions for making wise reading choices. 

What dangers does reading pose for a writer?

a) That we spend all our time reading and not get to our own writing.

b) That we read in the correct way to learn what we need to learn.

c)  That we fail to make wise reading choices.

How can the writer make wise reading choices?

Herr writes about a list of books she recommends on various aspects of being a writer and mastering techniques in a section, “Resources for Writers” in the back of her book. Then she states, “For choosing all other kinds of reading materials, I suggest the following guidelines:

a) Read widely. Vary the kinds of materials, subjects, and points of view you read. Don’t limit yourself to your denominational magazine or read only fiction or poetry or biographies. Make a reading plan that encompasses both Christian and non-Christian points of view, and a variety of literary forms.

b) Include the classics on your list. Books that have endured for many years have a quality that makes them worthy of our careful attention (…). Be careful not to use them as models for your writing style, however.

c)  Read daily newspapers and weekly news magazines. Keep up with current events. As you read, notice the commercials. How do businesses sell themselves to the public? These things provide a helpful window on the needs and characters of readers that open them up to new ideas, such as yours. Read sketches about people facing problems and interacting with one another. This is a rich source of education in human nature and a gold mine of idea starters. Observe the trends in thinking and public awareness. Know the world you are living in and attempting to communicate with.

d) Read authors who write as you would like to write. Avoid those who write poorly. Build an admiration file of works and skilled authors you enjoy. (…)

e) Read and study the Bible. No matter how many changes you make in your reading plans, plug your Bible in as the perpetual top priority study for the rest of your life. Master the book. It will take you a lifetime. But only hear will you learn God’s heart and observe the most effective and time-tested methods for communicating on paper. Nothing can prepare you better than this.”

*Herr, Ethel (1983, 99) An Introduction to Christian Writing, 2nd. Ed., USA: Tyndale House (1983), Nashville TN: Write Now Publications an imprint of ACW Press (1999); Highland Books, Godalming Surry (1999), pp. 73-78.

Note from Robin:  Consider the Bible as your anchor to truth. If what you read opposes God’s word, do not take it in as truth! You can learn about other peoples’ points of view to better understand their culture and thinking. Use this information to help reach them for Jesus Christ. Don’t let them pull you away from Him!