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Friday, May 11, 2012

Think Before You Read ~ Steve Laube

Steve Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in 2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona.

Think Before You Read 
by Steve Laube

I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually I get enough to eat or have found the right morsel to consume until it is finished.
It helps make me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, where I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.

I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at those in the ministry. But I thought it applicable to everyone who reads. Especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.

Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.

Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.

May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it.


  1. This statement stopped me in my tracks this morning: a "modern era of content consumption without digestion."

    I love blogs...I am a blogger. But I wonder if our huge smattering of blogs of all kinds has contributed to this at all? That, and media. You've really made me think about the way I read this morning Steve. Thank you.

  2. "Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility."

    I was actually doing this very thing to today's post - skimming over to see if I'd catch something too vital to pass up - and caught this. Busted. :-) Good food for thought. Thanks!

  3. Any recommendation's on books about writing that are worthy of the reading for the benefit of writing better? As you noted, we should pick wisely what we read; that we may attain good from it.
    I agree with both Camille and Brooke about your post. I too was skimming over the article to see if it was worth the time to read. Thanks for posting.

  4. Hopefully Steve will add to the list, Cindy, but here are a few that were/are helpful to me:

    1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
    2. Techniques of the Selling Writer
    3. Stein on Writing
    4. Word Painting

  5. Thanks, Steve. The plethora of information that bombards us every day makes this even more vital. Great reminder to guard our minds as well as our hearts. :) Marcia

  6. Wow. I needed a smack, as my Southern friends would say, "upside the head." Your post accomplished that.

    I've noticed certain books made me want to do more than skim. Certain writers don't allow me that lazy privilege. And these writers also leave me with the desire to write. I don't understand the connection, but I appreciate it.

    I want to write more than junk food. And I want my readers to do more than graze or nibble. Perhaps in order to write like that, I need to read like that, too.

    Thanks for an inspiring post.

  7. Great argument, beautifully stated. Thanks!

  8. Steve,

    Thank you for sharing those delectable words from Charles Bridges. As I look at the pell mell rush into all things "e' ... e-publishing, e-ntertainment, e-motion, e-vites, etc. I cannot help but think too often I find myself glucking down a soda of words and being left with indigestion, and I daresay, the follow-on emptiness.

    As I watch the tsunamic wave of e-books pouring over the walls of publishing, I am grateful for the curators out there who can help by pointing us to streams of words that become a tonic to our souls, in this flooded world in which we live.

    This post of yours is a model of that. Grateful!

    david w. fry


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