Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to tell if a book is worth reading

The wisest of kings once said, "Of the making of many books there is no end," and no age has been so filled with books as ours. The presses are cranking them out far faster than anyone can read them all, and faster than any one man could read the product of one of the presses! Christian bookshops are so often today turned into mere junk shops, places where one can buy all sorts of trinkets, but where scant space is left for books that will actually aid the disciple in his walk. Study Bibles abound, filled with fatuous notes that tell us more about the writer than the Bible, and so-called 'lifestyle' books that contain little Bible and no gospel. How, then, are we to make the judgement as to what is worth reading?

There are a few principles. First of all, some publishers are more trustworthy than others. A book from Christian Focus, Evangelical Press or Banner of Truth in the UK and Presbyterian and Reformed in the US is usually going to be at least a decent book. A book from Thomas Nelson could be anything. If the publisher isn't one you can more or less trust implicitly, then go on to the other principles.

2. Author: Who wrote it? You can tell a lot about a book from its author. First of all, if it's by an author whose work you know, you can usually judge fairly well whether or not it's worth reading. If not, then who is the author? Where are they coming from? That usually gives some help.

3. Title. A title is meant to convey something about the book. Hopefully it does.

4. Cover. That's meant to say something about the book too. All too often they don't.

5. Reviews! Us reviewers get sent books by our editors, and all we get in return is the book. Great if it's a good book, and if not, well, I'm sure I'll need to prop something up with it. Of course you need to trust the publication you see the review in. Peace and Truth, a small Reformed publication in the UK is a very trustworthy source of reviews. I know because I write some of them. A good review tells you about the book, so you can tell if you're interested in it, and if it's any good.

6. Use common sense. I assume most readers of this blog possess that.

And finally, one can never have too many good books.


mandmlowrie said...

Peace and Truth is an excellent journal- and deserves a much wider readership!

Highland Host said...

I agree - but then I write for it, so I'm biassed in favour of it! I have an article on Calvin in the pipeline, and another on Henry Drummond and the Emergent Church.

Hiraeth said...

I might add that one needs to ask what the purpose of the book is.

Hiraeth said...

And the intended audience. Is the book for children, a popular audience, an academic audience, or a professional audience (i.e., pastors, Sunday School teachers, etc.), or a sectional audience (women, men, young people, old people, married couples), Christians, non-Christians, seekers?