Read Less in '24

Nancy Beach

I read a whole lot of books in 2023. I won’t say how many because I don’t want to brag! A catchy slogan and goal for the new year might have been “Read MORE in ’24!” But an article in the Chicago Tribune by the Books Columnist John Warner challenged my thinking. Warner’s piece, titled My 2024 Resolution Is To Read Fewer Books took me back to a conversation I had with my friend John Ortberg years ago when I stood at the brink of a sabbatical from ministry. I told John about all the books I hoped to read, and he wisely suggested I consider “reading deeply, not widely.” Back then, on staff at a growing church, I mostly devoured books on leadership. So many books on leadership. As we head into this new year, I intend to adjust my reading goals, to be intentional in a few new ways that I offer for your consideration.

Read Deeply

What does it mean to read deeply? For starters, I need to slow down my reading pace a bit so I can savor and reflect. The goal is not to race through a book – when I do that I miss so many opportunities to examine how the book might intersect with my own story, how I might apply what I am reading or just sit with it in silence to see what comes up. For some books, reading a section more than once can be potentially transformative if I pay attention to the Spirit. My daughters think it’s quite amusing that sometimes I check a book out of the library, read a couple chapters, and eventually realize I already read that one! This could be a sign of reading too widely.

Read A Balanced Diet

What percentage of your reading is Fiction? I know a lot of leaders who can’t recall the last time they read a novel. Look at the last 10 books you read. How many were on Leadership? How many on Spiritual Formation? Have you read a good biography or memoir lately? I have discovered that I can be stretched and moved by all kinds of books, including a great novel. One of my favorite books last year was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Instead of directly challenging me to seize the day, to value the small and ordinary things in my life, Haig artfully told a story that caught me up in some profound ways. I am still reflecting on how one life in very ordinary ways can make a difference. Let’s shake up our comfort zone in reading a bit this year, and venture out to some books we might not have considered. I think we will find some delightful surprises.

Re-Read Some Favorites

A couple months ago, my husband and I moved from our home of over 30 years. I needed to give away about half of my precious books. But there is one shelf – I can see if from my desk as I write – where some of my all-time favorites are perched. This year I want to go back and read many of those again – including books by Sue Monk Kidd, Parker Palmer, Anne Lamott, Frederick Buechner, Pat Conroy, and Richard Rohr. I am curious to see what will touch me now, in this season of life, differently from when I first opened those pages.

I will still keep a list of books read this year. It may be shorter than in 2023, and that could be just what I need! I invite you to be intentional about your reading in ’24. And don’t forget to read a novel once in awhile…

Nancy Beach is most known for her groundbreaking ministry to more fully unleash the arts in the local church, and for leading artists with grace, wisdom, and skill.  For over 20 years she served as the Programming Director of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, building a community of artists who sought to create transformational moments in weekend church services. Nancy also served as a Teaching Pastor, periodically bringing the weekend message.  She invested five years as a leadership team member of the Willow Creek Association, an organization that exists to envision and inspire church leaders all over the world. In over 26 countries and on 6 continents, Nancy has shared her passion, teaching at conferences and workshops.

Nancy now serves as a leadership coach with the Slingshot Group and Ascent Leader. She coaches individuals and teams to help them flourish in life and ministry.

Nancy’s latest book was released in June of 2022. Next Sunday: An Honest Dialogue About the Future of the Church, was co-written with Nancy’s daughter, Samantha Beach Kiley. Together they explore what will be required for the local church to thrive and not merely survive.

Nancy is also the author of An Hour on Sunday and Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church. 

Nancy and her husband Warren live in the village of Barrington, Illinois with their adorable dog, Beanie. Their two daughters, Samantha and Johanna, are both artists.

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