I’m an avid reader. Started as a pre-teen and my first “job” (volunteering) was at our little public library in the summertime where I would put away books that people returned. I thought it was the best place ever and my dream to become a librarian was born. As an adolescent who lived in the country, far away from friends and a neighborhood setting, I had all the time in the world to read. Now granted, there wasn’t a whole lot of beneficial content to what I read—mostly novels, although early American history was my favorite setting so I did learn quite a bit about the American Revolution and the Civil War eras. My blissful reading days continued for the next dozen years until … kids arrived, along with juggling a profitable, but time-consuming business. No. More. Books. For. Fun. I did read great business and personal growth books but it was always challenging to find the time.
Fast forward to the last child finishing up high school and the life re-evaluation that frequently happens when we turn 50. As I evaluated my next decade, one of the things I realized was that reading good books was one of the biggest things missing in my life that brought me joy. At first, I felt so guilty taking the time to read for pleasure again! I only allowed myself to do so while I was exercising or eating lunch so I wouldn’t be “wasting” time. But it didn’t take long to allow myself that pleasure without guilt.
After a short time, I began to broaden my genre of books beyond the novels that had been missing from my life for the past 20+ years. Then I read a book by Chip Ingram, called Good to Great in God's Eyes. So much good content on 10 practices great Christians have in common. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the habits is “read great books”. Oh happy day!
During my years of reading the personal growth books, one of my greatest frustrations was trying to remember where I had read a great idea or concept, or even the details of the idea. But beyond highlighting a book, whether a physical copy or e-book version, I wasn’t sure what else to do. But reading Chip’s book, I pulled a few ideas together into one that has become one of my most treasured belongings … my Reading Journal.
I have a journal that I simply date the top of each page with the month and year. Then as I am reading—whether it’s a book, blog, or email—I simply write down any of the main concepts that stand out to me as something I would like to remember or refer back to in the future. Most of the time I include the author’s name so I can find it again if needed or so I can know where the thought came from. I don’t worry if the quotes seem pretty random from each other as I’m regularly reading multiple books at the same time. I just keep going with however many I come across that month until a new month begins and I’ll start a fresh page.
This has been such a blessing in my life on so many levels. First, the primary reason I started it…I now have a place I can reference when an idea comes to mind of something I read but I’m not exactly sure of the details. By dating the pages, another insightful thing has happened. At the beginning of each month, I will go back and read my journal entries for that month each of the previous years. Even though the thoughts I wrote were not mine, it is amazing to recognize what I was going through in my life in those pages. Just like when you’re looking for a new particular car, you will all of a sudden see that type of car everywhere you drive. When some trial or season is going on in your life, you will pay attention to and take note of what you read that applies to your situation. So by re-reading these pages each month, not only am I reminded, instructed, and encouraged from past books but I am reminded and encouraged of what God has brought me through and especially what I learned while going through that difficult season.
The journal entries have also been extremely useful when I’m talking with a friend or family member about different challenges they may be going through. Frequently, my written quotes come to mind and I am then able to share and encourage those I am walking alongside—as well as recommend the book it came from. This journal book has become so valuable to me that it is right up there near the top of my list of things I would want to grab if my house ever caught on fire.
What I love about this method is how easy and cost-effective a habit this is that can make such a huge difference in your life. All you need is a little $4 journal that looks appealing to you and a pen. How about you? Do you have a system you use to keep track of great thoughts you have read? If so, please share your ideas in the comments below. I truly hope this is a practice you will adopt, and if you do, would love to hear of the value it has added to your life.
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