The Intentional Reader

© 2011 Bob Hostetler

Louis L’Amour once said, “A writer’s brain is like a magician’s hat. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in first.” That is why I afford reading a high priority in my life. I am an intentional reader, because I have discovered that an intentional, varied reading program will regularly put the rabbit back in my writing.

Thus, I devise a reading plan every January. I set a goal of the number of books I intend to read in the coming year, taking into consideration such things as workload and the amount of travel I anticipate. I also list the specific books (some I have long wanted to read), aiming for maximum variety and depth. My annual reading plan always includes a minimum of:

  • one biography
  • one memoir
  • four classics (e.g., Dickens, Faulkner, etc.)
  • one history book
  • two books by authors I’ve never read before
  • one poetry book
  • a few books by my favorite authors
  • two leadership books
  • two books in a new discipline or field of interest (e.g., logic, gardening, etc.)
  • one children’s book
  • one or two selections from a short list of books I re-read every few years

My reading is not entirely void of spontaneity, however. The above list accounts for only twenty-one books. I have on occasion read more than three times that number in a year. So there’s ample opportunity to read a book on a whim, pick up the latest blockbuster at the mall, or borrow a book from a friend. Nor do I carve my reading plan in granite. I’m free to substitute books or shift priorities at any time. It’s my plan, after all, not the Ten Commandments.

And, while my writer’s annual reading plan may not be magic, it has steadily improved the quality of my own writing—my own thinking, in fact. It heightens my ability to select apt metaphors and allusions. It contributes to the command and refinement of my own voice and provides constant motivation and inspiration to produce the kind of good writing which good reading affords. All of which, more often than not, has been enough to keep the rabbit in my writing.
Bob Hostetler’s twenty-six books include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and the recent novel The Bone Box. He lives near Oxford, Ohio, with his wife, Robin.

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