On Reading and Writing – It’s What I Do

Writing and reading lovers might enjoy this:

We are all different, and we all have different gifts and talents. If you are a Christian, you know that these are given to us by God, and we should use them for his glory. Sometimes a unique gift or ability you have are to be used for Christ and the Kingdom, but sometimes you may be asked to give them up.

I think here of the committed Scottish Christian Eric Liddell whose story was made famous in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. He was born in China to missionary parents, but studied in the UK. He became a terrific runner and even competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics. But he gave this up, returning to China in 1925 as a missionary, where he died 20 years later. He said he ran for the glory of God.

Often the abilities and talents that you had as a non-Christian are what God will have you make use of in Christian service. Before I became a believer I read a lot and I wrote a lot. Of course I was reading a lot of stuff I now no longer embrace, and I wrote things (such as articles for underground newspapers) that I now no longer agree with.

But where did that talent or ability come from? I believe God gave it to me, and for a while I used it for pagan purposes, but upon becoming a Christian God took those same talents and baptised them into his service. So something I always liked and was good at God used for his work.

Sure, I still often commit the ministry of CultureWatch back to God, telling him if he wants me to give this up and do something different, I am willing. Thus far it seems I am to keep going in the sort of ministry I now am engaged in. But a change of course is always possible, even in my old age.

Here I want to speak a bit more about reading and writing, by means of a few anecdotes and stories. Since I mentioned my own ministry, let me begin there. This will be my 6099th article posted here. Unless God has me do something different, and as long as I have good health and eyesight, I will keep writing – usually an article a day.

If each article averages around 1500 words, I am getting up to ten million words. I consider myself to be an OK writer, but there are many others who are far better than I. But I use whatever abilities I have – like Liddell’s athleticism – for the glory of God. Speaking of writing articles, I like what Jonah Goldberg said in The Tyranny of Clichés:

“According to legend, when George Will signed up to become a syndicated columnist in the 1970s, he asked his friend William F. Buckley, Jr.—the founder of National Review and a columnist himself—‘How will I ever write two columns a week?’ Buckley responded (I’m paraphrasing), ‘Oh it will be easy. At least two things a week will annoy you, and you’ll write about them’.”

Hmm, I must be really annoyed then, given that I write a daily column! But as I just mentioned, mine are not anywhere as good as these two of course. But I thought that was one useful bit of advice. For me, just opening the morning newspapers (online or otherwise) usually provides enough fodder to write something about.

As to large personal libraries, while mine is around 8000 books, I am aware of others who certainly had more. When I first went to Trinity College in Chicago, I would often go to the Trinity Seminary library. If my memory is correct, the great American theologian Carl F. H. Henry had donated his own personal library of 72,000 books to it.

And a former boss of mine, the late great B. A. Santamaria was said to have left a personal library of 30,000 volumes when he died. So my own collection is rather small compared to some others. And as I have said now and then, my one earthly desire would be this: to have a home big enough with enough bookshelves to store my entire library in one handy location, and not have my books scattered throughout every room in the house. Hey, I can dream can’t I!

As to personal libraries, and how nice they can be, let me discuss a few. You can see a video tour of the amazing library of pastor Rick Warren in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5EYOX735Eg

In stark contrast, you can see my smaller and much less beautiful library here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Upm_VYolksw&t=156s

Let me finish with a story about the noted intellectual and Christian Reconstructionist, Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001). He too had a huge library, and he wrote plenty of books and articles of course (I only have 13 of his books).

A while back on the social media Christian apologist Douglas Groothuis posted about Rushdoony and his library. He said this in part:

I visited Rushdoony in the summer of 1979 at his home in Valecito, California. I had taken classes at New College Berkeley and had just graduated with my undergrad degree from the University of Oregon. Mr. Rushdoony was generous with his time. I took notes on what he said. He showed me his voluminous library and offered to sell me a number of his books at a good discount. I took him up on that, although I didn’t have the money with me. I later sent a check and often contributed to his ministry, Chalcedon. Rushdoony wrote that his library and writing area was a mess because it was a sign of life and activity. It certainly worked for him, and works for me as well, although I am less productive. I wish I had the capacity to read and write that Dr. Rushdoony possessed. He did so almost entirely outside of the academy or of any well-established educational institution.

But Groothuis also linked to an article written by his son Mark Rushdoony called, “My Father’s Books.” Here is part of what he said:

While a student at the University of California Berkeley, my father routinely used his lunch money to buy used books, then commonly available for five or ten cents. . . . When my father found a permanent home in Calaveras County in 1975, construction was once again necessary, this time a detached 1,500-square-foot library building. Thus, considerable capital went into not just the purchase, but the housing and moving of what was, not a hobby, but a ministry necessity.


The library continued to grow. Trips were often followed by the delivery of boxes of books. Always on a budget, my father carefully examined discount book catalogs and selections on clearance at bookstores. Soon the library was full and the house began to fill up. Any other flat surface became a storage area. By his easy chair a stack of reading was piled high, each at various stages of completion. (He liked to read in multiple books at a time.)…


My father’s literary output was remarkable. This was largely due to first, his reading. I picked the four years I was in high school as an arbitrary sampling. In his work journal, he reported reading 879 books in the years 1969–1972, noting that these were those he had read “carefully and fully,” i.e., not those he had skimmed or read in part. A book was often skimmed quickly to evaluate its value. If he deemed it worthwhile, he read it more carefully, underlined it, and often made index notations with page references inside the back cover.

He continues:

Moreover, he never had a catalog of his books or their organization. They tended to be shelved wherever and however he could make room for them. After his passing, I had to move the books from his house into his library, necessitating a fair amount of reshelving. I made several dump runs of orange crates, planks and jerry-rigged shelving and replaced them with 22 seven-foot bookshelves to house them more efficiently. Books were essential to my father, but bookshelves were a luxury that was often improvised. Despite their hodge-podge arrangement, my father could usually find a book he needed. When he could not, he would offer us an incentive of ten cents to find a book he would describe in detail. Unfortunately for us, his wage never caught up with inflation on the increased difficulty of finding a lone book in his growing library.


In addition to his reading and memory, a third factor, his work ethic, pushed his productivity. He wrote because he felt it was his calling. He wrote manuscripts for which there was little prospect of publication. He wrote chapters for books and placed them in a file folder on the shelf. Many manuscripts I never knew existed until after his death….


People have often asked me if it is true he read a book a day. At times, he probably did, but, from the numbers I have cited, it was not a typical pace. He could have done so if he had not had so many other responsibilities. His journals reveal that he also, for instance, answered upwards of 1,000 pieces of correspondence each year, and spoke scores of times a year, often flying cross-country, speaking or testifying at a hearing, then boarding a plane to return the same day. Many times he was home only for hours, long enough for Mother to wash and iron his clothes and feed him before he left again. You would think such hectic travel would be enough of an exertion, but travel days often appear in his journal as days he finished two, three, or four books. Again, always present was a ruler and the pencil.

You can read the entire article here: https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/my-fathers-books#fbclid=IwAR1AqhL51XpDxKDkDiKucLIOpGKfhcIyU7sO_MI9IF9Ih8pqcR8_ceVYhmc

There is so very much I can relate to here! From underlining important bits, to storing books wherever they can fit, to even having the kids help out now and then when a volume cannot be found. But I do have one minor disappointment with this article: nowhere does his son tell us how many books he had – obviously tens of thousands of books were involved.

Again, I am nowhere in the league of someone like Rushdoony, but it is fun to read about other like-minded folks with similar habits and interests. I like books – I cannot lie. And I like collecting books. But as I get older, the big worry is not finding enough time to properly read them all – and not having enough room in my house to store them all.

First world problems perhaps, but still…

[1780 words]

6 Replies to “On Reading and Writing – It’s What I Do”

  1. I too have always been a reader and a writer, joking that I was born with a pen in one hand and a sketch pencil in the other. I had a callous on the middle finger of my right hand where the pen rests by age 8. Writing so far has chiefly consisted of decades of letter writing – letters of length, not just brief notes, but I also have a massive file of semi written articles, stories, jottings etc to further develop one day. Circumstances of life prevented me from giving myself to reading and writing as much as I would have liked for several decades, so these loves were ‘on ice’ for a while, and, while those difficult times are behind me, I now work full time so still cannot give myself fully to these things. But I’ve made the room for one of them – for reading which best feeds my soul at this time – getting up at 4am to read before going to work, but still feel an urgency, as you say, that there will not be enough time to read everything I want to, and often need to make myself slow down to digest what I’ve read. And after several interrupted starts over those lost decades, my library is at last getting off the ground – though it will be limited by the confines of a small two bedroom house.

    However, there is one ‘talent’ far removed from reading, writing and art, where God has made use of me, with skills first honed in childhood, if I may be indulged sharing it, but please edit out if you prefer. As a child, when my parents quarrelled, they struggled to make it up – you could cut the tension in the air with a knife as they manoeuvred around each other in the confines of a small house. My 5 siblings always scattered while this was going on, but I held my ground, determined to get Mum and Dad to make peace with each other. My childish solution to resolve the tension was a game of Cluedo, needing at least 3 players to play it properly. So I would plead with Mum and Dad to join me in a game, knowing that this would force them to sit together with me to play. I engineered it so that I sat at the head of the table and they had to sit face to face. Their mutual love of me never could turn down such a plea. By the end of the first game, Dad had turned on the record player and put on their favourite soppy love song, and by the end of the second game they’d be talking to each other again, and my siblings would be slowly creeping back out of their bedrooms. And now I’ve found God has put me in a situation where I earn my living doing this very thing – trying to make peace between warring separated parents – but I haven’t tried suggesting a game of Cluedo to any of them yet.

  2. ‘First world problems’ like yours are the ones that help lead the world towards solutions. ‘Readers are leaders’ is true. Perhaps, if more people read books, or learnt to read, instead of watching screens (I confess to watching selective podcasts), the world would be in a better place, starting with the Ten Commandments. Thanks for the books you have turned me onto, Bill. No need to apologise for being a bookworm. I met a young woman in a second-hand bookshop recently who told me that she was one and didn’t have a television. Two attributes we shared. I love talking to people in bookshops.

  3. What I find interesting is the new discoveries regarding how alphabets emerged. In the past academics had no idea where phonetic alphabets originated but they saw how they were popularised throughout the Mediterranean by Phoenicean traders around the eleventh century BC (around the time of Solomon and his perceived wisdom.) Because they saw no evidence of prior writing they discounted the biblical evidence for fairly ordinary people being literate prior to this. Recent discoveries however, including a recent nit comb with writing, have pushed this back to somewhere around the seventeenth century BC and suggest phonetic writing and alphabets came from Caananite people’s interaction with Egypt. Sound familiar?

    The beauty of phonetic writing, unlike pictogram writing, is that it uses the sound of the term to connect the mind’s understanding to the concept and uses relatively few letters to achieve this, meaning that even kindergarten children can now learn to read and write and literacy can be spread far and wide. Surely this was a gift from God in His will to give us all understanding of His truths and the fact that we see the widespread use of writing and reading in Old Testament scripture means that the recent discoveries have now vindicated the scriptures in this respect and shown that it is quite reasonable for academics to now accept that Moses wrote the Torah just as Jesus told us clearly he did.

  4. I watched the video of your library Bill. Thanks for that. I notice at the end there were 5 Bills in the library. Imagine how much work and reading you could get done if you could actually get the other 4 Bills to do the work you cannot do, especially while you sleep.

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