James Macpherson recently posted some great thoughts on reading for a change. You can read the full post here. His main point was that as the bible warns, knowledge without application 'puffs' a person up, we must read to change. James suggested some thoughts to help you apply what you read...
1. Read with a pen.
Write all over the book, notes and thoughts etc, just make sure you own the book!
2. Talk with someone about what you are reading.
Discussion will help you process the information.
3. Make a list of immediate applications you can make to your life.
How could you live, act, respond, behave differently because of what you are reading? Practice a couple of those things straight away.
4. Read slowly.
5. Reread books.
I thought I would add a few things to the list that help me to get the most out of my reading. I try to read 52 books a year and want to make the most of the time I spend in a dust jacket.
6. Research the author.
Where possible find out a bit about the author before you read the book. Knowing a little bit more about the author can help you process and asses their thoughts on a particular subject more accurately. It might help you determine what weight to put on what they write. Tiger Woods' keys to church growth wouldn't carry as much weight with me compared to his keys for playing better golf. Reading takes time which is limited, especially with kids, so you want to read authors who know what they are talking about.
7. Learn to reflect.
This will lead into my next point. Reading for a change isn't just about taking in information. It is about taking in information and then reflecting on it and outworking it where appropriate. You have to take the time to work out what the information you have just read means to you and could mean to your world, job, organisation etc. What is applicable, a challenge, irrelevant, convicting etc etc.
8. Tick, cross, highlight and question mark.
I find the books I read are either about something I know only a little about but am wanting to learn, eg, The Only Wise God by William Lane Craig (a book about divine foreknowledge and things like that) or Boards that Make a Difference by John Carver (a book on policy driven boards and organisational governance). Or the book is about something I have a reasonable understanding of but want to increase my knowledge or skills in that area, eg, Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni (a book on staff and team meetings) or Strategies for Change by Lyle Scheller (a book about implementing organisational change). When it comes to a book about something I am reasonably familiar with I try to summarise either on paper or in my head my thoughts on that subject. Then as I read I tick what I agree with, cross what (after reflection) I just don't agree with, highlight new things I have learnt and can immediately see the merits of and finally question mark the issues the book raises that I need to look into more.
9. Read deep.
Most subjects can be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. Take leadership for example, there are all sorts of subjects and skills that can fit under the category of leadership. Organisational leadership, team leadership, self leadership, leading through change, leading through transition, vision casting, running meetings, challenging the process, dealing with complexity, strategic planning, inter generational leadership etc etc. Don't just read general books about leadership, know in your mind what makes up that thing called 'leadership' and read deeper in those areas. General leadership books will only scratch the surface and after a few years in the leadership game may not actually add much to you as a leader. Books that go deeper into a particular subject or field though will help you immensely.
10. Read wide.
While you may focus your reading on particular subjects (do diverge from time to time though) read widely on your particular subject. Sticking with leadership, don't just read books on leadership by pastors. Read what sports people write, business people, academics, industry leaders, etc etc. You'll learn a lot by reading wide.