As a professor of English, I’m often asked what I’m reading outside of my teaching and research duties: i.e. what I read for pleasure. In my case, like others in the professorate that I know, we can have trouble answering this question to the satisfaction of our questioners because they might not believe us if we told them the truth: we read the same things we read for our work. Granted, this doesn’t mean that all we read are texts related to our areas of specialty, but having an “area of interest (or focus)” means that we are genuinely interested in that set of topics. For me, I get to read about C.S. Lewis, classic literature, the history and theories of rhetoric, what we know about writing and the teaching of writing, and most importantly, how to love God with all of our hearts and live lives that glorify Him.
Sometimes this means I’m reading the Church Fathers. Other times I’m reading modern literature from Christian authors. Sometimes I’m reading philosophy, rhetoric, or even psychology. What’s important for me to communicate to students is St. John Chrysostom’s adage (subsequently popularized by St. Augustine) that “all truth is God’s truth.” No matter where we seek it, truth points back to the author of Truth: God. This means that in anything I read, listen, and consume, I seek truth: I seek God.
One consequence of that seeking is that we are called as students, and especially so as Christians, to never stop learning. When Christ says, “Go and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28, the word “disciple” basically means “learner.” In this case, those who ever seek to learn about God and be in relationship with Him. Let us never lose our desire to learn, to seek out truth in all things. The seeking is not a simple process of uncovering, but a deep digging, questioning, reflection, and honest critique of ideas and assumptions.
If I can communicate only one thing to my students in the course of their time in my classes, it is to instill a love of learning, whether found on the football field or in a chemistry textbook, in the biology lab or in a great book. To that extent, when people ask me what I’m reading, I often tell them that I am reading multiple books, in multiple genres, on multiple topics all the time, simultaneously. In other words, there is no right or wrong about your reading process. You don’t have to read only one book or one subject at a time. In fact, it’s often more productive to mix genres. When your academic reading slows down, take a break and read fiction. Alternate intellectually demanding learning with that which is less demanding.
Just as importantly, open your eyes to the myriad of ways we learn: direct experiences, conversations, reading, hearing, watching. Everything we consume through our senses, from watching movies to hearing music, contributes to our knowledge and experience. This means I also listen to lectures, music, sermons, the Bible, and even philosophy and literature in my vehicle. Anytime I’m traveling, especially alone, I have something playing that engages my intellect and often my imagination. There are so many outlets available in our electronically-saturated society to provide quality (and no-so-quality) material that we just need to look and then to discern the value of the content.
To that end, I have included below a list of sources I often visit to locate quality materials for the purposes of reading, listening, and edifying my search for truth.
- iTunes University. Contains thousands of “free” lectures, entire courses, and educational materials from world-renowned universities to local teachers.
- Podcasts. Available in a variety of formats, I tend to use Apple’s Podcast app, which allows me to search using keywords that interest me until I find something I like. Right now I’m listening, for the second time, to a series of lectures on Anglican Studies by Fr. Michael McKinnon.
- Learnoutloud.com. If you want audiobooks, lectures, and anything else in audio format, this is a good place to go.
- Archive.org. Similar to searching Google Books for out of copyright material, this site (Internet Archive) is a repository of texts, audio, and related resources on a variety of topics.
- Google ebooks. I’ll go here when I’m looking for something out of copyright and I want a PDF copy to read on my iPad. From the Patristics (Church Fathers) and ancient philosophy, to Jane Austen, you can get millions of wonderful texts.
- Your local library. Seriously. From your school’s library to the local city’s library, most of us can find audio, video, and print materials that will last us a lifetime of learning. Some is even accessible online.
I hope these resources get you started, or continue your journey and spur your interest. Never stop learning. Never stop exploring new topics. Never listen to naysayers who say you can’t or shouldn’t try something new. You are the only obstacle to your learning. Don’t let what anyone else tells you is “cool” or “not cool” dictate how you live out your potential. The things you learn today may just save your life tomorrow, may provide you with the information you need to be in the right place at the right time for someone in need down the road. Seek truth, and God will reward the seeking. Knock and the door will be opened.Do you feel called to pursuing a profession in the Humanities? The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor offers exciting degrees through the College of Humanities. We invite you to stop by for a visit, and see if UMHB is a fit for you.