Reading to Learn, to Challenge Ourselves, and to Grow as Thinking Christians

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Proverbs 18:15

Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool, And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”

Proverbs 10:23

This is a good day for one of those “What are you reading?” posts. At the moment, having endured a little bit of a slump in my regimen, I am juggling five very different books. My real challenge is momentum, as any one of them would benefit from greater commitments of time.

This is especially true for my most ambitious read, Thomas Wolfe’s 1929 classic, Look Homeward, Angel. I am good with words, and I have a fairly complete functional vocabulary, but Wolfe consistently sends me to the dictionary both for words that have fallen into disuse and words I have simply never come across before. I passed the page 100 mark yesterday evening, and am only just finding the rhythm of the language and beginning to understand the trajectory of the story.

Meanwhile, and featuring more language from another era, I’m reading my dad the original Robin Hood stories, written by Paul Creswick and beautifully illustrated by N. C. Wyeth. Rebekah and I have an extensive collection of children’s classic literature, all of which she read aloud to Andrew and Naomi when they were very young, including during road trips back in the minivan days. There is a gravity and dignity to the storytelling style that elevates the language and makes reading aloud a real challenge. Good stuff.

Then I am still reading Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace as an evening devotional with my mother. Yancey, one of my favorite Christian authors, wrote this book in the 1990’s. The text remains an excellent examination of grace, but reading it today reminds me of why it is important to continue the work of theology, and understanding faith, and understanding God, and communicating, and making sure that – as authors – we are giving our readers access to the Good News in ways that are not mired in some of the limitations and misunderstandings of outdated thinking. I would love to talk with Yancey today about how his approach to some social issues has possibly evolved over the past 25-years.

On my bedside table there are two more books. Book Five in the Harry Potter series (The Order of the Phoenix), and a biography of James Madison. The Madison book is tedious but packed with very interesting history and beautifully articulated ideas. Then the Harry Potter book is light reading so I can keep the story moving along (I first read the series years ago).

Additionally, Rebekah and I are deep into a couple of prayer and devotional books (sampling many classic Christian thinkers) for morning prayers at breakfast.

I think it’s important to keep ongoing engagement with inspirational, challenging, rich, and even – sometimes – difficult reading. I don’t want to exclusively surround myself with ideas that are too easy to digest, and points of view I already agree with. I want to have to look up a few of the words, and wrestle with some of the conclusions.

I find that it is good for my mind and my spirit.

– Rebekah and Derek Maul

Not only am I a better writer when I read widely, I am a better thinker. And if America needs anything right now, it is more people both motivated and equipped when it comes to thinking, and most especially people willing to challenge their own assumptions and cultivate minds open to learning.

Peace – in every way – DEREK


  1. Good list. Here’s mine. Working through Build Hope by my friend Michael Carey, Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, The Wind and the Willows at night, and about to start working a Non-Anxious Presence by Mark Sayers. Maybe we can compare notes at Thanksgiving.


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