The Intended Audience for Lit!

C.S. Lewis once wrote that in order to learn to swim one must be buoyant in the water, and in order to be buoyant in the water one must swim. Learning to read books is much like this. One must know how to read in order to learn to read. To learn to read well, we need others early on to help us make discoveries in our books (see Adler’s point about aided and unaided discoveries). As the author, this is why I focus so much of Lit! on inspiring capable readers in the church to find and help struggling readers.

My first and primary audience for Lit! is the competent reader. A few readers have suggested the contrary, that I wrote the book to directly reach isolated non-readers who live disconnected from the local church community. That’s not the case, as I seek to explain in chapters 13 (Reading Together) and 14 (Raising Readers). This book is a tool for parents, pastors, and lit professors, and for any Christian who wants to reach out to non-readers they love.

Recommending the book to a friend is a critical step if this book will actually benefit struggling readers. Actually, walking through the book with them is even better, a teamwork that provides the initial buoyancy that frees me to open the book building critical theological pillars that will undergird lifelong reading habits. But it does go back to the spreaders in the church — the competent readers — and the incredible role they have in encouraging non-readers to take up and read.

It appears that a good number of readers see the vision behind Lit! They have become the spreaders. I am grateful for them because they are the ones who bring purpose and value to the entire project.

Interview on Book Reading

By reading his blog and his books over the years I have a deepened respect for my friend Trevin Wax. If you don’t read his blog, you really should take the time to subscribe.

Today Trevin posted an interview with me on the topic of book reading and my new book Lit!. Trevin is an experienced interviewer and asks questions that get directly at important points. He asked questions like these:

  • What are the different ways one should read a book? Why should certain books be read one way and other books read another way? And how can you tell the difference?
  • How much time and attention should we give to classic literature?
  • How have you found classic literature to be spiritually beneficial?
  • You recommend marking up books. Why?
  • Name a few novels that you’d recommend Christians consider reading.
  • How can we read discerningly from Christians in other theological streams?

You can read the full interview here.

Storing and Cashing Book Gold

To experience long-term benefit from my book reading I have discovered that I need a keen eye for what’s important on a given page and a good storage system to retain and to later find what I’ve read over the years. These are important practices for any book reader, and it’s a point that A.G. Sertillanges captures well in his book The Intellectual Life (1934). [Note: I rarely quote from the book because it makes me (a blue-collar grunt from Nebraska) appear pretentious, or more so than normal.]

Sertillanges writes:

If we had to trust memory to keep intact and ready for use all that we have come upon or found out in the course of our life of study, it would be perfectly disastrous. Memory is an unreliable servant; it loses things, it buries them, it does not answer at call. We refuse to overload it, to cumber the mind; we prefer liberty of soul to a wealth of unusable ideas. The notebook gets us out of the difficulty. …

To remember the right thing at the right moment would take a degree of self-mastery that no mortal possesses. Here again notebooks and pigeonholes will help us. We must organize our reserves, lodge our savings in the bank where, it is true, they will yield no interest, but where they will at any rate be safe and ready at call. We ourselves shall be the cashiers. (186–­187)

Now of course there’s a place for Scripture memorization. We must not forget it! But for all other books his point is a very important one. So in Lit! I devote some ink to briefly explaining the importance of locating golden nuggets of truth on the pages of our books (pages 115–116), the importance of marking the gold (148–149), and then I explain how I use a computer database to store the gold for future use (117–118). I commend these three practices to every reader, whether you prefer printed books or ebooks, and whether you’re an intellectual or just a dufus like me.

More Book Updates

The book is now out and many of you are reading it or have recently completed it. Thank you for all the emails and comments and Twitter encouragements over the last week. Watching pithy quotes from the book spread on Twitter is really neat way to see what statements struck a chord with readers. I appreciate the emails telling me stories of families reading Lit! together, homeschool families looking to incorporate the book into their curriculum, pastors buying up copies to give out to people in their churches who struggle with reading, and college ministry directors leading discipleship reading groups through the book. This is exactly why I wrote it in the first place, so you can imagine how those notes warm my heart! Thank you for them and please keep them coming.

Here are a couple of book updates. On Tuesday two interviews were published online. My written interview with John Starke, “Death to Dostoevsky by Angry Birds,” was published on the TGC website. And my 12-minute video interview recorded with Justin Taylor in June went live as well. You can watch it here:


As Arthur Krystal wrote, “Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person.” Yes, and thinner and handsomer, too.

Some other fun interviews are in the works. I’ll let you know when they’re up.



Lit! Class Audio

Happy October everyone!

As you may recall, back in September I taught a 3-week course on reading at Covenant Life Church and the class content amounted to a very brief adaptation of four chapters from Lit!. There’s never enough time. The audio is now available along with the handout pdfs.

Class 1: A Theology of Books and Reading
58:41 | download mp3 (28.3 MB) | download pdf handout | listen here:

Class 2: Deciding What Book To Read
59:29 | download mp3 (28.7 MB) | download pdf handout | listen here:

Class 3: How To Read A (Nonfiction) Book
52:33 | download mp3 (25.4 MB) | download pdf handout | listen here:

Note: Since teaching this brief class at CovLife I’ve been asked to teach this material in other church settings and at a local college. I’m happy to do that. If you would like to make a request please leave a comment with your email address and I’ll be in touch. Thanks. Tony