Thematic Reading

Three or four years ago, I stumbled on an idea that has greatly enriched my reading: thematic reading. That is, each year I'll choose two or three books to read that are related in some way (theme, character, nation, etc.).

For example, a few years ago, I read two classic novels back-to-back, which were fascinating to compare and contrast: Jane Eyre (Bronte) and Rebecca (du Maurier).

The next year I re-read a personal favorite, Robinson Crusoe, and followed it with two other books: the nonfiction In Search of Robinson Crusoe (Severin) and the very imaginative novel, Foe (Coetzee).

That same year, I read three books relating to Islam: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid), Infidel (Ali), and I Dared to Call Him Father (Sheikh).

More recent examples were:
  • two books on Nazi Germany: the nonfiction The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Shirer) and the novel, Fatherland (Harris).
  • three books whose relationship should be obvious: Psalms for Praying (Merrill), Praying the Psalms (Brueggemann), and Psalms of My Life (Bayly).
And already this year, I've read two books dealing with hostage situations: A Rope and a Prayer (Rohde/Mulvihill) and In the Presence of My Enemies (Burnham), and plan to read FOUR other pairs of related books:
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Barnes) and Madame Bovary (Flaubert)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (Frady) and Hellhound on his Trail (Sides)
  • Something Rotten (Fforde) and Gertrude & Claudius (Updike)
  • Arthur & George (Barnes) and The Sherlockian (Moore)
Of course, many of us read thematically because we concentrate much of our reading on a particular field or topic: leadership, perhaps, or church planting, and so on. But I've derived so much fun from intentionally choosing books that relate to each other, I'd love it if you would try it...and let me know how it goes!

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