How to Be a Book “Harvester”- It’s Not What You Think!

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matt. 7:24

That Jolly, Candy-Like Button

A part of me wants to buy every fascinating new book I see on Amazon…  with my mind slyly whispering, “And it’s so muchcheaper… on Kindle!… Look how much money you’ll be saving, Stephen!…. What great content! Go for it! Click that jolly, candy-like button. And it will be all yours!

The problem lies in the fact that I have a million more new books lying on my shelf that I haven’t even picked up and read- Books that were just as tantalizing and tempting to me last summer when I bought them! And yet, here they are, collecting dust, and growing mildew while sitting on my humid bookshelf.

The Dangers of Squirrel-like Behavior 

There’s a part of me that really enjoys buying new things, learning new things in the books I read, thinking about new ideas, or starting new projects. But I think I’m beginning to see the danger in this squirrel-like tendency I have, to get, and then get some more, without defining how much I really need, and without using what I’ve already got. I end up with way too much stuff, I clutter up my house, I spend a lot of time cleaning it up, and I can’t get focused on what’s most important.

Learn to Cut Back

I’ve really become convicted over the past few years about the need to cut back on consuming things, and crank up my productivity. But I’ve found this to be one of the hardest things in the world. It doesn’t come naturally. I have to cut back on certain things that I like, and possibly say no to things that are good, all in order to make progress in the areas that I think are more important. It’s not easy.

Call of Duty

A case in point: In the past, if you walked into my bathroom you’d see a stack of my books on a shelf above the toilet, teetering dangerously close to the edge. Why were there so many books? Well, because I would start one, get bored with it, and the next time I went in for my daily “Call of Duty: Operation Detox,” I’d bring in a different book.

Eventually, throughout the course of a year, I would get through several books. But before I knew it I would forget what I read in those books. And the piles of unfinished books on my desk, or in the bathroom would never shrink in size. Then one day my wife asked me, “Honey, why do you have so many books in the bathroom?” I smiled, and confessed the reason why. And then I decided to do something about it.

You Have to Plow the Ground to Get a Harvest

I remember, a few years back,  reading a book called (of all things), “How to Read a Book,” by Mortimer J. Adler.  And in this book he goes over the different stages of reading- elementary reading, inspectional reading, and analytical reading.

In the section titled “How to be a Demanding Reader,” He talks about the importance of writing in the margins of the book, asking questions about the text, pointing out key points, and so on, so as to really solidify the content in your mind. He also talks about the different ways to mark a book while reading it, which requires a pen in hand.

This was all very convicting for me. But that conviction finally lead to action when my wife asked me about my tower of books. Thank you, Honey!

And so now, God-willing, gone are my days of passive reading. Now I gotta show up with my game face on, and a pen or pencil in hand. Like a farmer plowing through the soil, or the miner searching for gold ‘n gems deep within in the earth, I have to plow through the leafs of each book, underlining, searching, asking questions, and thinking about the author’s main points. At least for non-fiction.

My 7 Resolutions for Book Harvesting

If I was to hold myself to the higher standard of reading a book in the way Mr. Adler describes then it would require me to make some changes. I would have to do the following 7 things:

  1. Cut back on buying new books until I’ve gone through the books I already have on that same topic.  (a.k.a. “Decide what crops I need to plant this season”)
  2. No more stacks of books in the bathroom or on my office desk (a.k.a. “Lighten my load/burden”)
  3. Read 1 book at a time (a.k.a. Focus on 1 “field” at a time)
  4. Write notes and questions in the margins, have a dialogue with the author as I read (a.k.a. “Plow the field”)
  5. Read it all the way through (a.k.a. “Finish the whole field, before going to the next”)
  6. Compile & share my notes with family and friends through a book review, blog post, or video (a.k.a. “Scatter seed”)
  7. Try to apply what I’m learning before I go on to the next thing (a.k.a. “Reap the Harvest”) Stop reading, listening, or watching, and just go do it! If the book has a non-physical call-to-action, then decide if I agree with the author’s opinions or not.

Not everyone has the same problem as I do. Nor do I intend everyone to take the same path that I am on. I’m just trying to be honest and open about my weakness and how I plan to face it. Of course these resolutions are open for change, but I’m gonna try this first!

Desired End Results

Here’s what I desire out of all this-

  • I desire to be wise: I want to work on that beautiful balance between hearing and doing. In Jesus’ parable of the wise man, He exhorts us to be a doer of God’s word, and not just a hearer. Wisdom is found when both are practiced.
  • I desire to equip my mind for the long term: I want to remember what I learn. By interacting with, and talking about the texts we read and the videos we watch we can better internalize what we’re consuming.  Just say no to “FACS,” or “Forgetting-All-Content Syndrome.” I just made that up… and that was pretty lame…
  • I desire to be a better “doer”: I want to improve my skills by applying what I learn, on a daily basis. As I wrote in #7 above, the true harvest comes when we apply what we hear and learn.

Well, my children are awake now, and the day’s harvest awaits. Until next time!


What are your thoughts about balancing the hearing and doing in your life? I’d love to hear from you below.

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Photo credit: Smudge 9000 via / CC BY-NCmichael_d_beckwith via / CC BY

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