The Shocking Truth About Jack Popjes: How to Read 52 Books a Year

I admit it. I’m a book junkie. Without a reading fix each day, I exhibit withdrawal symptoms.

Read Books Not T-Shirts

Our two-bedroom apartment bears witness to my addiction with 25 metres (80 feet) of packed bookshelves. (The rest of the books are stacked on the floor.) Marcus Cicero said it for people like me, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

When people discover my book habit they have questions that I try to answer as succinctly and helpfully as I can.

Q: How much do you read?

A: An average of about one book and periodical a week. A little less when I travel on speaking tours.

Q: How do you find time to read?

A: I don’t just read when I find time. I make time. I deliberately sit down to do nothing but read. I read with my first cup of coffee in the morning. I read humorous material to Jo in bed every night. Sometimes I read to her while she is making supper. I always have three or more books on the go at any one time and I keep at least one within reach just in case I find some time. Jo and I like to watch some TV together but we are mindful of Groucho Marx’s opinion, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Q: What do you read?

A: A variety of books and periodicals. A balanced literary diet. That’s the succinct part. Here is the more detailed and helpful part:

Spiritual Development: I have read through the Bible annually for many years. I read it early in the morning, with my first cup of coffee. My wife and I also read through the Psalms together once a month. I also keep a small book of short, daily meditations handy to dip into during the day. And I usually have books on spiritual development, Christian issues, or theology going throughout the year.

Personal Development: Books that help me be a better father, husband, grandpa. Some that help me get organized, do financial planning, and in general those that help me focus on how to live.

Professional Development: Books on cross-cultural missions, writing, speaking, publishing, marketing, blogging, language, leadership, organization, technology.

Biography: Reading memoirs and life stories sometimes inspires me, sometimes it fills me with longing, but I always learn something—either great examples to follow or horrible ones to avoid.

Information: Material on history, current issues, science philosophy, and psychology.

Entertainment: Novels of all sorts, science fiction, mystery, classics, and for bedtime reading some humor. Reading poetry tends to give me unique insight into common situations. By the way, a book is often informative and entertaining at the same time.

Q: What do you plan to read?

A: More! I plan to read more, way more! To help me do this, I’m buying an ebook reader and plan to read a dozen books at once, all there in the same pocket. I occasionally pick a book to read that  I know I won’t agree with, just to keep my mind sharp and thinking on all sides of the issue.

One question no one has ever asked me but which I’ll answer anyway is:

Q: What books do you not read?

A: Anything that would arouse my desires in humanity’s basic problem areas: Money, Sex, and Power. I don’t read material that inflames my desire to get rich. I don’t read pornographic stories, and I don’t read about gaining power over other people, and I especially avoid reading about practicing the occult that promises demonic powers.

This column is biographic, hopefully you will find it an example to follow, not a horrible one to avoid. I’m not only a book addict, I’m a book pusher. My goal is to get you addicted too.

The shirt I’m wearing in the photo has a picture of Charles Dickens and the words, “Read as if your mind depended on it.”

More Readers, Reading More.

I admit it. I have an ulterior motive for writing this column. I have a personal agenda. Yes, some would even call it a conflict of interest. In the next 500 words, I will try to do everything I can to create more readers. Since I write books, I want many readers. The more people I turn into avid readers, the more books I sell. You can see the conflict.
The two most powerful influences in our lives are the people we associate with and the books we read. Unlike passively watching movies or TV shows, reading books actively involves the whole mind, both emotion and intellect over an extended time. We can’t control who we meet, but we can certainly choose which books we expose our minds to.
Jo and I wanted our daughters to love reading, so we took them on our laps and read picture books to them before they could even talk. As they played on the floor, I would read funny stories to Jo and as we laughed together, our girls would look up and connect reading with fun.
We did the same thing with our grandchildren. One time we sat down with their parents and tape-recorded ourselves reading some fairy tales like, The Three Little Pigs, and Three Billy Goats Gruff, each of us taking different parts. The grandkids loved it! Would you believe that Tyler, now 20 years old and in seminary, told us he still has his tape and enjoyed it recently?
I read to our daughters on Family Nights even after they could read themselves. When they became teenagers we listed the great books we wanted them to read and paid them when they finished a book. I had many good talks with them about the books they read. I told the full story in A Kick in the Pants.  
A father of four teenage sons recently wrote me an email saying, “I read your ‘pay them to read’ story and thought I’d try this with our boys encouraging them to read through the entire Bible.” All of his boys started reading, one sometimes listening to a narrator reading it through his smartphone. His youngest son is on a two-year plan, but one completed the project in three months!
During the months Jo was in recovery from several hip surgeries, she sometimes woke up at night with pain and spasms. She found listening to Scripture on her mp3 player had a calming effect. I have listened to many books on CD while driving, and now listen to books on my mp3 player.
“I used to read about one book a month,” a friend told me as we chatted after church. “But in the past two or three weeks I’ve read seven books”. Whoa! I thought. That is double what I’ve read. And I consider myself an avid reader.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Simple, I bought an ebook reader.”
He then explained that he used to read only business related books, but now loads up his reader with a wide variety of books. He carries his ebook reader in his pocket and pulls it out to read whenever he has a few minutes, switching between genres according to his mood.
More readers, reading more. I love it! Reading more is good for you. . . . and for me. 

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