Author Bob Hostetler shared one of his writing secrets at last Saturday’s meeting of the American Christian Writer’s Association, Indiana Chapter: his annual reading plan. Bob’s topic was “Read, Pray, Write,” and he shared several stimulating ideas with our group. I was especially impressed with his annual reading plan, which he draws up about this time of year to assure he has a healthy variety of reading in the year ahead.

Bob reads more than a hundred books a year (only a few of which are the picture books he shares with his grandchildren). A robust and variegated reading diet is his way of “sharpening the saw,” to borrow Stephen Covey’s phrase. And his mental saw is quite sharp, as anyone can see by his prolific output.

Bob regularly reads the New York Times Review of Books, marking new titles he wants to read in the coming year. He’s constantly looking for suggestions in the blogs he follows, conferences he attends, etc. He’s looking for books in each of these categories to diversify his study:

  • Biography
  • Memoir
  • General History
  • Classics (4 or more)
  • Books in an unfamiliar field (2 or more)
  • Leadership books
  • Christian inspirational books (“a few”)
  • Prayer books
  • Collections of poetry (“at least one”)
  • Writing craft (12 books or so)
  • Books to reread (1 or 2)

One might ask, How does he have time to write when he does so much reading? As he sees it, voracious reading is essential to prolific writing. Call it whatever you like–sharpening the saw, restocking the shelves, deepening the well, etc.–it obviously works.