I have friends who can accurately reference specific footnotes from books they read 20 or more years ago! Those friends not only read a lot, they remember just about everything.
I find this very discouraging.
I recently finished A. Lincoln, a 676-page biography by Ronald C. White, Jr. And yet when I closed the book and communicated to others how much I enjoyed the book, there was really only one sentence I clearly remembered—which is one reason why I dog-ear and mark paragraphs and sentences in my books.
I try to read a lot but unfortunately I forget a lot, too. (Did I mention how discouraging this is?) But over the years I have read many unforgettable sentences and paragraphs that have made a lasting impact on my thinking and on my ministry.
Is reading worth the time investment when so much is forgotten? John Piper says yes. In a message long ago (July 12, 1981) he said this:
What I have learned from about twenty-years of serious reading is this: It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge, some resolution to a long-standing dilemma, and these usually come concentrated in a sentence or two. I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book or article I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.
Read, but not to remember everything. Read because that 1% that you remember has to potential to change your life.
Although I remember only one sentence from A. Lincoln, that sentence has informed my leadership in a number of ways.
So keep reading.
-C. J. Mahaney