“It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one’s adult enjoyment of what are called ‘children’s books’. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty—except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would probably have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not care much for crème de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.”
—C.S. Lewis, “On Stories” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), p. 500
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about ‘isms’ and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modem commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that first-hand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.” —C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), pp. 149
“Our upbringing and the whole atmosphere of the world we live in make it certain that our main temptation will be that of yielding to winds of doctrine, not that of ignoring them. We are not at all likely to be hidebound: we are very likely indeed to be the slaves of fashion. If one has to choose between reading the new books and reading the old, one must choose the old: not because they are necessarily better but because they contain precisely those truths of which our own age is neglectful. The standard of permanent Christianity must be kept clear in our minds and it is against that standard that we must test all contemporary thought. In fact, we must at all costs not move with the times. We serve One who said, ‘Heaven and Earth shall move with the times, but my words shall not move with the times’ (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).” ——C.S. Lewis, “Christian Apologetics” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), pp. 149
“Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bees touching of the flower that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian, &c.” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices
Length: 188 pp
Author: Tony Reinke
Erasmus whiffed on the Reformation, but he hit this one out of the park, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” Seem more like a foul ball? Baseball, America’s pastime is said to be past its time, declining in popularity for faster paced balls of baskets and foots. Today books are perhaps looked upon as even more ancient and boring than baseball.
A nostalgia for baseball before performance enhancing drugs can be easily kindled by a good documentary or watching the Sandlot, but a comeback seems unlikely. For the people of God, a nostalgic stance toward books won’t cut it. The ratings must go up.
Tony Reinke’s Lit! will not only help you to read books, and warm you to them, it will set forth a theology of books to impel you to read. Consider this, at Sinai God wrote. As Christians we must be readers. No exceptions.
God has acted in history. He has put His glory on display. It is on display incessantly in creation. But how has God chosen to make His most glorious deeds known to most of mankind? Not in their actually seeing them. Not by drama or film. He chose words, and He placed those words in a book. This sets the trajectory for our attitude toward books, and it sets the bar by which they are judged.
If you’re not a reader I’m glad you’ve read this much. I hope you will buy this book and read why you should read more, and how you can read better.
Since Moses descended from the mountain with two loose-leaf stones under his arms, all literature can be divided into two genres:
Genre A: The Bible. The Bible was written by God through human authors, but it is fully inspired in all its parts. It is the only book that is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, sufficient, and wholly consistent in its worldview.
Genre B: All other books. However “inspired” all other literature may be, no matter how “lit” it is with truth, goodness, and beauty, no other book is infallible. All man-made books are hindered to some degree by errors, inconsistencies, and insufficiencies.
These two categories were shaped when God broke into history and ran his finger across a stone tablet. All literature is now divided into two genres—and one soars above the other in importance.
Length: 178 pp
Author: Danny Akin
Sometimes brevity is a virtue. Sometimes exhaustiveness is. Context can be a determining factor. When ripping off a bandaid or doing a graveside service in freezing weather, brevity is a virtue. When doing intricate surgery, brevity is not called for, exhaustiveness is.
Other times brevity and exhaustiveness have a more subjective basis, as regards biographies. I believe I remember reading the Doctor (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones) giving reasons why he believed long biographies were best. He had some good reasons and I tend to align with Him, preferring lengthy biographies myself, but I believe the best biography is a well read one. By all means, read biographies, short or long, and read them well. The virtue lies in how you read, not how much you read. Whatever your fancy concerning length, read of great men of God, and learn from both their mistakes and their virtues, prayerfully seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ. Most especially read missionary biography.
Danny Akin has put together a smattering of short biographies of missionaries in 10 Who Changed the World. These biographies are also expositions of Biblical texts, so know that you will get just as much of one as you will the other. This isn’t my favorite kind of biographical material, but it could be yours, and it most certainly can be well read.
I leave you with a single temptation to read it. A letter that Adoniram Judson, the second foreign American missionary (you will have to read the book to find out who was first), penned to his future father-in-law.
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?