Blog Books

Habits of Reading

Revised: March 24, 2016.

At Behind the Books, Jon Boyd described his “Seven Kinds of Reading” and he invited readers to let him know about their own routine or habits of reading. so I thought I’d post about my own habits. I’d be happy to hear about your own reading routines too. You can let me know by commenting below.

Here’s how reading happens in a normal day in my own life at this time:

Like Jon, I have particular times throughout the day when I can read, and I have books for each of those times. I also have books in various rooms of the house. For good or ill, I am getting fewer books read than I did before the digital revolution. I now read many blog posts and articles on line. I find this beneficial, particularly in keeping me up on what is happening in the church, the theological sphere, and the world, but I do miss the time I used to have to read through whole books.

1. While dressing or puttering around in the bedroom, I listen to a Christian audio book – generally one that I have gotten as a free monthly offering from

2. Doing chores in and around the house, or jogging, or driving, I listen to an mp3 player. I subscribe to a number of regular podcasts which I download each week, and I have begun to add to that mix Utube items suggested by FB friends, blog posts etc., which convert to mp3 files. When I get through those items in the course of the week, I listen to a novel, generally a free one from Librivox. I am working my way through the list in 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die, and I’ve read some fascinating stuff.

3. I read at breakfast and lunch, but then I generally read magazines, journals, or academic papers which I have requested from conference presenters, so books don’t show up in this slot. A fair bit of blog material arises from this – more  than I have been finding time to write up, unfortunately.

4. As part of my morning and evening prayer times, I usually work my way through a devotionally oriented book or Bible commentary.

5. I have a novel on my Kindle (often another from the “1001 Books list”) which I read for relaxation, while travelling on public transportation, or in dentist’s offices etc., where concentration is difficult. This may be interrupted by a book of interest from the public library, usually of the non-fiction genre, biography, self-help etc.

6. I usually have one or two theology books under way for careful reading and interaction on my blog. These can take a while because I generally deal with them a chapter at a time rather than in the style of a journal book review. They end up being serialized review articles, in which I get a chance to work out a fair bit of my own theological development on the topics at hand.

7. I read through a book with Gail after supper when we are on our own.

I think that pretty much covers my routine. It entails reading numerous books simultaneously, so that it can be a long time before one gets finished, but it is interesting how often they inform one another – kind of like preaching from the lectionary.

On my blog site, I have two lists up and running. One lists “Books I’m reading,” and the other lists “Books I finished,” starting in 2010, which was when I began to digitize my record of  these, after many years of a hand written list.

What are your reading habits? 


By Terrance Tiessen

I am Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, Canada.

One reply on “Habits of Reading”

I love reading, and I use the website to record the list of books I am reading and have read.
Thanks to you and your blog post from Nov. 29, I am reading the Fathers! Although I have often missed days, I have managed to catch up each time. I have to admit, I find a lot of these ancient writings to be strange, but always interesting. I try to do this reading right after breakfast. Since I read this one electronically, I can use spare moments anywhere and anytime by using my iPhone.
I am also currently reading poetry and essays by Hermann Hesse, in German, both because his writing is enjoyable and because I would like to brush up on my German. I keep my iPad handy to translate unknown words. This is reading I try to do in the quiet of evening.
I am rereading Patience With God by Tomáš Halík, as it touches on some of the life problem issues I am dealing with.
On my “currently reading” list is also a “supernatural” thriller of the vampire/werewolf/spurting blood/gratuitous sex genre, only because the young author is a close personal friend of my children and myself. She is a good writer, but the subject matter is not in my area of interest, so this book is actually languishing on my list, and I will have to force myself to finish it, for friendship’s sake, which makes it worth it.
Most of my reading time, though, is spent on fiction, some of which is uplifting in quality and story matter (Salley Vickers, Jacqueline Winspear, Dorothy Sayers, many more) and a lot of which is escapist distraction (Maeve Binchy, M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series, Alexander McCall Smith). There is a therapeutic factor, for me, in reading easy-going fiction, and on difficult days I will wish myself a stretch of many hours to indulge myself, and often take them.
So I try to balance off my leisure reading with more edifying brain and spirit fodder, another example being Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent, which I may not reread entirely, but pick up occasionally. I also read theology or apologetics, with a varied number of current and historical authors. I am at a point in my life where I have space for bookshelves and enjoy collecting books to fill them.
I was expecting a lot of comments on this post. Maybe everyone’s too busy reading.
Thanks again for introducing me to the Read the Fathers website. I enjoy your blog.

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