Book Review

The Process

If you’re like me, your reading habits probably change with the seasons of your life. For a while I was tearing through books like it was my job, but lately I’ve been slowly plodding my way through them. By the time I finish, I’m not at all inclined to sum them up. I’m processing them differently, and I’m realizing the way I chew on my books (and the way I let you into that process) ought to be different too.

So let me tell you where I am right now, which is no less interesting (for an interested party, anyway) than reading a comprehensive summary of a book I’ve finished.

I just completed Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. I don’t remember how I came upon it, but McKnight had a lot to say that I needed to hear. The whole point of the book was that Jesus summed up all of his teaching by saying we should love God and love other people. McKnight talks about how Jesus kept emphasizing this point and how the whole idea plays out over and over again in the Bible. In many ways it was a meditation on what that means for Christians as a whole and what it means for me as a person whose life is (or should be) an exercise in loving God and loving others. That’s been on my mind of late as I try to figure out what the things I do say about who I am and where my priorities are. How does what I do line up with what I believe? Are my priorities those of loving God and loving others? Do I see that to be true when I examine my actions?

Great big questions.

After The Jesus Creed I moved on to Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I’m two chapters in, and I love it so far. 7 is about Hatmaker’s conviction that she was too concerned with things like having stuff and seeking approval from others and that many aspects of her lifestyle were wasteful and/or selfish. I’ve got my own ongoing battles there, so it’s nice to see someone else write about the good, the bad, and the ugly of dealing with these convictions. In 7, she takes seven months in which she focuses on limiting herself to seven of a certain thing. Chapter one is seven foods. That’s all she gets to eat, and–as she points out–it’s a lot more variety than some people in the world, and never once is she unable to afford eating, a luxury. In month two, she pares her clothing down to seven items. From over 300 to seven. This chapter about clothing was a kick in the pants.

I’ve read about and been intrigued by capsule wardrobes before. The idea is that you limit the items in your closet to about 30-37 pieces. They should be seasonal. They should fit right now. If you buy a new piece, you should remove an old piece. Every three months, you “re-mix” your wardrobe and choose 30-37 new pieces that follow the same rules. For every piece that doesn’t make the cut, if it doesn’t fit or you’re never going to wear it, you swap with friends or give it away. If it’s out of season but you’ll wear it in the future, it goes in storage. Ultimately you learn to live with less and how to spend your money more strategically. It’s really cool, and I’ve thought gee, I’d like to try that! a thousand times. But 7 inspired me to actually put it into action!

When I got home from work tonight I took EVERYTHING out of my closet. I knew there was a lot of stuff in there, but it was embarrassing to see it all laid out in my bedroom. So. Many. Clothes. But I’ve pared it down. Including shoes, I’m closer to 50 items than 37. I know that isn’t technically following the rules, but I’m going to consider them loose guidelines. I’ve also hung everything backwards, so if I haven’t worn it and turned the hanger back around before time to re-mix in the spring, it’s gone. So thanks, Jen! I’m hoping to learn more from you about confronting excess and living simply.

I’ve been wordy, but writing this post has proven my point. There’s so much to talk about while reading a book. And when you’re moving slowly, it’s so much easier to have a comprehensive thought on your books if you’re processing them while you read instead of waiting until the end to sum up all those weeks of reading. I look forward to sharing my reading journeys with you instead of just the destinations.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading and how it’s going! Are you in a heavy reading season, or are you taking your time with every book?

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