Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
- Daniel 1:3-5
Even Daniel read literature other than the Scriptures. Being well read is important.
When I was working at the NASA project in Mississippi, I often brought a lunch and a few mysteries to read during the lunch break. During lunch one day, in the middle of an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine short story, one of the secretaries asked me, “How much do you read in a day?”
The question was rhetorical, but you never ask an engineer a question like that. He is going to measure things and find out. By the end of the day, I had several spreadsheets prepared. Part of my job was to ensure that everything that was done on the NASA project was done according to the federal acquisition regulations (FARs). I was responsible (direction and guidance) of all personnel training throughout the project. So, I had to know everything from an admin point of view and a technical point of view. There was a lot to read.
Within a few weeks after creating the spreadsheets, I had learned that I averaged about 2000 pages per week. My pleasure reading of mysteries was about 500 of those pages. But then the project manager in me took over. My high week was over 3500 pages, and my pleasure reading for the week climbed to nearly 700 pages per week. In my first year, I read 66 mystery novels, followed by 89 the following year, a year that I was unemployed due to the NASA project closing.
This gave me the idea that I could work and still average 100 books per year in my spare time. I have done the 100 books per year for the past 14 years, on average. The spreadsheet has grown. My best pleasure reading week was in November 2013 when I read 1332 pages in one week. I was in China by myself. I never turned the television on and the drive to work was an hour each way, driven by a Chinese driver. I got in a lot of reading, and the flight home was the busiest reading day ever for pleasure reading, 544 pages in one day. Of course, the day was about 36 hours long due to crossing the international date line and reliving the day.
For the past three years, the spreadsheet includes inspirational, self-help, and biographical books. I had read them all along but lost the separate spreadsheet that I kept them on. Thus, I have read more than 2000 books, just many not recorded.
Of my most read mystery authors, I have read 60 books by Rex Stout, 50 by Robert B. Parker, 41 by Dick Francis, 40 by James Patterson, 36 each by J. A. Jance and Stuart Woods, and 34 each by Clive Cussler, Georges Simenon and Ed McBain. But I have read all the Dorothy L. Sayers, Tony Hillerman, and John Mortimer that I can get my hands on. The only author that I have read each year since keeping the spreadsheet is Agatha Christie (34 books total), Parker and Jance started the second year.
Of my inspirational authors, C. S. Lewis, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, and A. W. Tozer are among my favorites.
What was book 2000? The Crucified Life by A. W. Tozer.
Tozer wrote in The Size of the Soul, “All else being equal, it is desirable that Christians, especially ministers of the Gospel, should be widely read.” And he wasn’t just talking about the Bible and Bible studies. In the same book, he talked about asking the famous holiness preacher, Joseph H. Smith, about reading secular books. Smith replied, “Young man, a bee can find nectar in the weed as well as in the flower.” You may have noticed that I quote from a mystery on occasion.
Of course, none of this includes my Bible reading, having read, during that period, the Bible from cover to cover in the NIV (a few times), the NASB, the Message, and at present, the CSB.
Reading is one of my most enjoyable activities, but the most enjoyment of the day is when I am in my quiet place, spending time with my Lord and Savior.
I am signing off with my usual final words, for if it were not for the Grace of God, I would not have reached this milestone.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.