My journey with books

Paul Boag

For me that is the key. Whether I am reading a work book, a novel or a christian book, I always look for something that will inspire and spark my imagination..

Its funny how I have begun to see patterns emerge in the types of emails I receive. One of the most common is an interest in what I read. I am not sure whether people mean just in terms of web design or generally speaking, but I thought I would share my somewhat erratic relationship with the written word.

I used to hate reading. As a child I had serious reading difficulties and to this day I am a painfully slow reader. I occasionally listen to audiobooks but somehow that doesn’t compete with the pleasure of turning a page.

I have a very mixed feeling about printed books. On one hand I hate them because you cannot search them or copy and paste particularly inspiring segments, but on the other hand nothing beats sitting in bed late at night winding down with a decent book.

In answer to the constant trickle of emails about my reading habits, I read four types of books…

  • Web design related books
  • Work related inspiration
  • Novels
  • Christian Books

I have posted before my recommendations on web design related books, but if I had to pick a single title I would go with Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability”. User centric design should be the core of all websites whether they are developed in tables, css or even flash. Its a great book, written in plain english that really engages with the reader.

These books are not exactly web design related but have an effect on how I work day to day. Again, were I to make a single choice in this category it would be “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity” by David Allen. I have spoken about this enough in the past, so I won’t bother repeating the impact this has had on the way I work.


I have to confess that most of the novels I read are trash. They are how I wind down. Most of them are scifi/fantasy related, such as “Wintersmith” by Terry Pratchett. However, other genres do occasionally creep in. One of my favourite authors is Douglas Coupland, a superb writer who has written some amazingly insightful observations about Generation X. His titles include “Microserfs”, “JPod” and my all time favourite “Life After God”. Coupland has always had a disturbing ability to describe my life, from the wall of coke cans in Microserfs to this amazingly powerful quote from Life After God…

My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind , as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.

which brings us nicely on to…

Christian books

If you read this blog regularly you will have gathered by now that I am a Christian. However, outside of the Bible, I never used to read Christian books. Nevertheless, recently that habit has changed following somebody giving me the very powerful and provocative book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. This book is a no holds bar commentary on the failure of the church especially within the US (although most of his points apply in the UK too). This book not only made me seriously reconsider how I express my faith but also has spurred me on to search out other Christian titles.

Currently I am reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. Until I read this book I don’t think I fully grasped what an astounding thinker Lewis really was. This book is without a doubt the best defense of the Christian faith I have yet encountered.

Ultimate favourite

Its strange though, because where I to pick a single book out of everything I have read as a personal favourite, it would be none of the above. Instead it would be Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, not because it is the best written or most powerful book I have ever encountered but simply because it was the first book I ever read for pleasure.

Before Lord of the Rings I only read when forced at school. I hated books and found them nothing but boring. It was a school teacher friend of my parents that realized I needed a book to capture my imagination, something that would make me read for pleasure and not out of obligation. Even though I read at a snails pace and struggled to read more than a few pages at a time, she decided to give me a massive tome of a book, simply because she knew it would light my imagination. I will always be grateful to her for that realization on her part.

For me that is the key. Whether I am reading a work book, a novel or a christian book, I always look for something that will inspire and spark my imagination.

It is strange that I have gone from hating books to the point now where it is looking very likely I will end up writing one. Hopefully I will be able to spark the imagination of my readers in the same way that the authors above have done for me.