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Question: How Do I Read Books?

    Here is a question I get asked regularly, and I”ve just now seen I answered it on the blog many years ago.  Worth answering it again!  How do I read books?  This is what I said in 2012 and it’s still true in 2018!



How do you go about reading books? Which methods do you use in order to read as much as possibile? How do make plans how much to read? Do you highlight things in books? Do you you’re your own comments? Summaries? Any other tips?


Ah, this is an interesting question. As it turns out, there’s not an easy answer. That’s because there are many different ways I read books, depending on what kind of book it is. I realize we’re talking about books dealing with scholarship – not Victorian novels! But I read different books differently depending on what it is, what it’s about, and what I want/need to get out of it.

When I was in graduate school I had a friend who insisted that anyone should be able to read an entire book of scholarship every day. I had trouble believing him, but in fact it’s true. In fact, when you get good at it, you can read much more than that. It all depends on what you are reading it for; that affects how you go about it.

If I am reading a book in a field that I am basically unfamiliar with, or not intimately familiar with, and it’s an important book filled with data and key insights, I will …

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Thanksgiving Musings 2018
A Very Perplexing Question



  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  November 19, 2018

    I know that being raised on the four New Testament Gospels, little in these Gospels seems farfetched to me. However, don’t you think early Christians would have found a giant resurrected Jesus followed by a talking cross to have been farfetched and maybe that is why they did not include the Gospel of Peter in the Bible?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 21, 2018

      Yes, that was part of it; it’s general understanding of Christ as possibly not fully human was the deal breaker.

  2. Avatar
    Bwana  November 19, 2018

    Related question:
    How do go about writing blurbs for another author’s book? And what are your criteria for selecting a book to be worthy of a Bart’s blurb? Specifically of interest would be your blurb for James Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 21, 2018

      A publisher (or rarely, an author) asks for a blurb, and I can’t do most of them because of my time constraints. But if there are really important books/authors I’ll sometimes do one. Most recently I blurbed Elaine Pagels new book Why Religion.

  3. Avatar
    darren  November 20, 2018

    A question I’ve been meaning to ask for years: My interest in the scholarly history of Christianity was sparked by the Frontline doc several years ago, ‘From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians,’ which features all sorts of scholars, with one very notable exception. I’m not sure how big a deal you were, so to speak, when it was filmed in 1998, but did you consider or were you asked to participate in the documentary, and what did you think of it?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 21, 2018

      No, that was before I was involved much in the public eye. My first popular book for a broad audience did not appear until 1999; before that I was a pretty technical scholar working in a rather obscure sub-field. But I certainly had friends who were in the show.

  4. Avatar
    Actual_Wolfman  November 26, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Just curious but what kind of books to read just for leisure? Any favorite genres?


    • Bart
      Bart  November 27, 2018

      My strong preference is for 19th century novels. Just re-reading George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. Fantastic.

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