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You Are What You Read: the vital exercise of daily reading

What are you reading?

Some say that, “you are what you read.” Now, I know people who have read trash (remember 50 Shades?), and are actually decent human beings. But I do agree with studies claiming that our character is deeply shaped by the books we read.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body and prayer is to the soul.” -Matthew Kelly

I can recall that the seasons of my life filled with more consolation, motivation, and positive energy have been the times that I’ve been consistent with daily reading. And the ones filled with more desolation, anxiety, and lack of motivation have usually been marked by a lack of daily reading. There are many other factors at play, of course. But we can’t overlook the value of reading.

I’m not talking about our daily reading of the Twitter or Facebook feeds, the Pinterest boards, the blog posts, or even meaningful and personally relevant articles. “I’m talking books, Jerry.” And I’m talking books with substance. While the safe bet for this kind of daily reading is non-fiction, there are plenty, though more limited, fiction books that can yield similar effects.

I’m blessed to prefer non-fiction and enjoy reading Christian spirituality, theology, and scripture. But I am cursed to not have the patience to read more than a handful of pages in one sitting. I am both blessed and cursed by teaching theology six times a day. While it forces me to read and reflect on very important topics, it can also wipe me out to the point where I'm like Jim Gaffigan impersonating the pope: “I keep work at work.”


You may struggle with reading, like me. But reading is an awful lot like praying, or even exercising—it’s vital to our wellness. So we need to build the habit. Reading great books with meaningful, inspiring, even challenging content is an essential piece to building our character, to becoming the best version of yourself, growing in holiness, becoming a saint, or whatever way you put it.

Right now, I’m over half-way done with New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. It covers various thought-provoking aspects of living in Christ and is split up into short, digestible chapters. It’s a book that has really spoken to me and I’d already rank it near the top of my favorites. But if my motivation to read dies at the end of this book, it will be just like an isolated exercise binge—short term success with minimal lasting results.

So...what are you reading?