Is There a Christian Way to Read Books? A Review

Are you a Christian who would like to get more out of your reading, but don’t know where to start? Do you want guidance on choosing what books to read, and how to read them once you’ve started? Then Tony Reinke’s Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books is for you.

The book comes in two parts: “(1) a theology of reading books and (2) a collection of practical suggestions for reading books.” Since, Reinke writes, “Scripture is the ultimate grid by which we read every book,” and “Our worldview convictions are too important to be based upon secondary literature,” he spends the first part of the book developing biblical and theological convictions about reading books. Readers who were expecting merely a “how to” book might get a little antsy in this section, but it provides a valuable foundation for what comes next. In the second part of the book, Reinke provides helpful advice on how to prioritize what books to read, how to find time to read, how to take notes in books, how to read in community, and (for parents and pastors) how to foster a love of reading in others.

This is a helpful introduction to reading books as a Christian. The main takeaway is that many books have value, but not every book should be approached in the same way. Some should be savored, some skimmed, and some sampled. Some books should be our advisers, some books should be our teachers, and one book (the Bible) should be our master.

I have two (minor) quibbles with Lit! First, a note on an image from Revelation: Reinke says in chapter 2 that Jesus will return with a sword “in his hand.” No, Revelation talks about Jesus with a sword in his mouth (Rev 1:16; 19:15, 21). The image is significant, and it actually helps Reinke’s argument because the sword coming from Jesus’ mouth points to the power of his words. Second, Reinke describes Christians in chapter 13 as “people of the Book.” Actually, Christians are not known for calling themselves this; it is a Muslim designation for non-Muslim faiths with a revealed scripture. And I don’t think it’s entirely accurate for Christians to call themselves people of the book; rather, it is more appropriate to say that we are “people of the Word” (referring both to the risen and still-present-through-the-Spirit Christ and to Scripture). The Christian relationship to the Bible is not the same as the Muslim relationship to the Qur’an.

However, I would not let those quibbles keep me from recommending this book to the right audience. The person who will get the most out of Lit!: (1) is looking for guidance on what books to read, and how to read them as a Christian; (2) is perhaps suspicious of non-Christian literature (Reinke argues throughout that while Christians should be discerning regarding what they choose to read, they should not be afraid of reading all non-Christian books); and (3) identifies as Reformed. That is not to say that non-Reformed readers will not get anything out of this book, but those who admire the authors Reinke cites with approval (Calvin, the Puritans, Spurgeon, Packer, Piper, among others) will feel most “at home” with this book.

Note: Thanks to the publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review.


2 thoughts on “Is There a Christian Way to Read Books? A Review

  1. Thanks, Elliot, for your reviews; I always enjoy reading them. How does this book compare to Jacobs’ Theology of Reading? Is this book worth reading in addition to Jacobs’? This one sounds more practical– is that right? I hope you’re well!

    1. Thanks for reading, Joy! Hope you’re well too and enjoying life in our mutual home state. I enjoy your book blog as well.

      I like Jacobs, but I haven’t read his Theology of Reading. Knowing Jacobs, though, I would imagine it is more technical than this one. Experienced readers can get something out of Lit, but Reinke is really writing for beginners or near beginners. If you’ve already got a theology of reading and are just looking for something practical, then just the second half of Lit would be worthwhile.

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