The author makes it quite clear that "the Bible for a Christian should be the number one book read."
He states that Scripture is the only inspired Word of God. But, there is man-made literature that can be inspiring. It is direly important the type of information that we feed our minds, because our minds are a product of what we put in. The author points out that we live in a "graphic society." We are blasted visually with colorful entertaining pictures that can steer us away from the black ink on white pages in a book. Even in magazines and newspapers words are surrounded by enticing photographs.
"The world of sight, the world of the eye, cannot take us beyond what is shown. Because sight can only go so far, it takes words and thought to give the real truth and meaning behind what is seen." Os Guinness
From how to read a non-fiction book to knowing what books to avoid, from understanding that when we read Scripture "our minds are sharpened in safety" to kindling reading in the next generation. Tony Reinke writes one of the most exhaustive non-fiction books I've read...period. He states his reasons for writing this book and I believe he did a great job in expressing those ideas.
The ideas I would like to describe more thoroughly are: Literature is Life--reasons for reading literature, and from the chapter entitled Read with Resolve--particularly why more women do not read theology books.
The first idea is from the chapter Literature is Life. I've heard my dad state, "I don't read junk," he means fiction. Dad is a big reader of non-fiction, mainly Christian non-fiction, but he most recently read books on Patton, Eisenhower and Churchill. I disagree with dad in his opinion that fiction is junk, but I'm sure there are many others out there that believe the same. Tony Reinke gives an example in that by "reading fictional literature it can deepen our appreciation for concrete human experience. By retelling life with words, novelists heighten our sensitivity to common human experiences." By reading about people from other religions, cultures, countries, education levels, life experiences, and even physical or emotional trauma, we leave our "little" world--the life we know and understand, and are better able to have empathy for and take action to help others.
It does not matter if the book is fiction or non-fiction both can teach us about other humans.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic, "The best fictional authors spell out our common human experience in a way elusive to other forms of writing. The best Christian novelists write from a biblical world view, one that is not afraid of digging into the soil of common human experience." Humans need to identify with other humans, even in a book. If we cautiously tip-toe around certain topics then we are not identifying with other humans, we are blatantly ignoring them. And by ignoring them we are being unloving. And Christ has called us to love. Now by stating that last sentence their will be those that think I'm liberal minded and being politically correct, that is not my intent. I repeat, Christ has called us to love.
The second idea is from the chapter Read with Resolve. Tony Reinke quotes from another author Elyse Fitzpatrick in stating "that many women do not read theology books." I would like to point out that it might be possible that many men do not read Christian fiction. I read theology books, thanks mainly in part to my dad. Dad has encouraged me by his own active theology reading and then passing information on what he learned to me. Eventually I picked those books up myself and started reading them.
It is fascinating and contagious when a parent actually talks to their children about books, turns the television off, and has a lengthy discussion about the book they just read. It really does catch on!
I think the main reason that Christian fiction is preferred to theology books is that Christian fiction is a quick read. I personally can read most Christian fiction books in 1 to 2 days max. Whereas a Christian non-fiction book may take several days, because there is more material to digest. The author believes that "women feel they may become unattractive to men because of their theology reading," I don't buy that reason. I do believe that theology books require more discipline to read, study, then think about the material. Whereas a Christian fiction book at least feels more like entertainment.
I found this book to be wonderful!
I've read other reviews state this is a book for non-readers. I think it is a book for people who read, but are not big readers and do not spend time thinking about why or what they read.
As a book reviewer one of my jobs is dissecting not just the book itself, but why I chose that book and what I gleaned from it. Many of the thoughts in the book I'd already thought of and applied to my own reading.
My attitude is there will always be something more for me to learn, never will there be a time in this life when I will know it all.
Every Christian should read this book -- those who love to read AND those who don't. If you are a Christian homeschooling parent, like me, who is making book choices for her children, you certainly need this book.
If you've ever wondered if it's okay to read non-Christian books at all, you need to read Reinke's rationale. He goes back to the early church fathers and the Reformers to build his argument that Christians CAN benefit, even spiritually, from reading books besides the Bible.
The book gets very practical with sections on how to choose books, how to read with a discerning eye, marking in books, and making time for reading. Personally, I found his chapter on modern media most compelling. He points out how our image-laden culture wars against our desire and ability to read carefully. Then he offers suggestions for fighting against that tendency.
As another reviewer pointed out, there is a lot of abstract philosophy at the opening of the book. But it's okay to skip ahead to the more practical sections later in the book if that appeals to you. There were some chapters I couldn't wait to read, so I jumped ahead.
I received this book from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.
Having received Lit! from Crossway for review, I thought I would share some thoughts on Part 1 of the book.
One Book to rule them all, One Book to gauge them,
One Book to bring them all and in the brightness engage them.
Having finished the first part of Lit! A Christian Guide To Reading Books, written by Tony Reinke, I thought I would write a review. Part 1, entitled A Theology of Writing Books, can be summed up with the Tolkien-inspired couplet above. Reinke makes it very clear throughout the early chapters that the Bible is the primary and paramount book that is unequalled and incomparable. We must "be determined to read the imperfect in light of the perfect, the deficient in light of the sufficient, the temporary in light of the eternal, the groveling in light of the transcendent." (28) That is to say, "Somewhere around 1450 BC, on a remote Egyptian mountaintop called Mount Sinai, an author wrote something so earth-shaking that the publishing industry has never recovered. It never will." The Scriptures, as God's inspired words, trumps and triumphs over all other books and Reinke returns to this regularly.
The second essential idea proposed in this book is that gospel, and its Subject, are necessary for accurate and authentic reading; "Once God enlightens our spiritual eyes [in beholding Christ], we can read books for the benefit of our souls-whether it's the Ten Commandments, a thick systematic theology, the poems of John Donne, C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, or a microbiology textbook" (36). This spiritual eye-enlightenment is crucial to Reinke's approach to reading as, according to the author, "there is an eternal dimension to everything we read ... we read all of our books illuminated by God and in communion with Him." (37)
These two concepts, foundational to appreciating and apprehending literature, are presented in an fresh and refreshing manner. Approaching books and reading with our Book in mind and our Savior in our heart seems like an obvious strategy having read the first part of the book. But as I was reading it came at me almost unexpectedly and resulted in me being encouraged in my reading and looking forward to more. These ideas permeate the rest of the chapters in Part 1.
The Bible in general, and the glorious gospel in particular, are the ultimate examples of why Reinke argues that we, as "Christian living in an image-saturated world ... must guard our conviction about the vital importance of words and language. For it is words and language that best communicate meaning." (50). For the Christian, the Book and many other books are important.
It is Scripture as our gauge, and spiritually reborn eyes, that allow us to read Christian and non-Christian books with discernment. These are what helps us, states Reinke, evaluate what we read and perceive truth where it appears. Simply, a "firm grasp of biblical worldview, learned directly from the study of Scripture, is essential ..." (63).
It is with such sentiments that Reinke boldly states that "[His] conviction is that non-Christian literature-at least the best of it-is a gift from God to be read by Christians" (65). We now see how his theology of books and reading, built upon the preeminence of the Canon and a regenerated heart, is the basis for reading other literature. Truth, beauty, and goodness are all from God and praiseworthy where they are found. And we can hear the "Giver's Voice" in non-Christian writing if we have a strong biblical worldview and and revivified heart.
Finally, Reinke proposes that our imaginations are essential for our pursuit of godliness and we can train and cultivate our imaginations with, among other things, imaginative literature. The author expresses the importance of this genre of literature by giving several examples from the Book of Revelation. A rejection of fantasy, sci-fi, our other fantastical literature may leave us less prepared for comprehending similar biblical passages.
Part 1 of Lit! is a convincing approach to a cardinal theology for books and reading. Reinke has taken great care to make his writing readable and the truths he puts forward on a much written about topic are unexpectedly ingenious and inventive. His stalwart faithfulness to God's inerrant, inspired Word and the necessity of a regenerated life are educating, endearing, and essential to this book's value. I have only read approximately half of this book, yet I do not hesitate to recommend it.
Lit! Is a book for nonreaders. Are you one? You know you should read (like you know you should take your vitamins). But you don't.
This book will give you hope that reading can make a difference in your life. This book is for anyone who wants to read books and read them well.
Reinke promises if you commit your life to reading books, your life will be enlightened. But books will also complicate your life.
The purpose of the book is to study reading from a Christian perspective. In chapters 1-6 he develops some biblical and theological convictions about books and reading. He divides books into two categories: the Bible, everything else. We must remember to read the perfect in light of the imperfect. Because of sin, God must enlighten our spiritual eyes. He shares his concern over the trend to images over print. He speaks of developing a biblical worldview. He reviews the benefits of reading non-Christian books.
In chapters 7-15 he writes about how to pick the right books and how to read them. American publishers add 200,000 books each year. For every one we read, we must ignore some 10,000 others. He shares his own priorities in reading and we are encouraged to develop our own. He gives six ways to find time to read books. He shares how he marks up his books and takes notes. He reviews recent books he has read.
I enjoyed this book. But then, I'm an avid reader. This book is for nonreaders. I am not sure nonreaders will wade through all the philosophy of Christian reading, the history and philosophy of images as carriers of meaning, retelling of biblical stories, describing how a worldview is developed, the seven critical truths of Scripture... You get my point. I wish Reinke would have grabbed the nonreader right at the beginning with the excitement of reading and some penetrating truths one can obtain only by reading. I think a nonreader would need to be grabbed in the first twenty five pages or so. That just did not happen in this book.
So who will read this book? Christians like me who love to read all kinds of books and have been longing for a theology of reading that encourages us to do that. Reinke does give us that. There is much to learn from reading non-Christian books - as long as we keep Scripture our priority.
I received an egalley of this book for the purpose of this review.