With all the practical suggestions built on a firm gospel foundation, this book will help you flourish in the essential skills necessary for a balanced reading diet of Scripture, serious works of theology, and moving devotional works, but without overlooking the importance of how-to books from expert practitioners, the storytelling genius of historians, and rich novels written by skilled artists of fiction.
Literature scholar Leland Ryken calls it “a triumph of scholarship,” but mostly it’s a practical and unpretentious book about the most urgent skills you need to enjoy a luminously literate life in honor of God.
There is so much to commend about this book that it is hard to know where to start. The most obvious virtue of the book is its scope. On the subject of reading, Reinke covers every possible topic. Each topic, in turn, is broken into all of its important subpoints. With a lesser writer, this could produce a tedious book, but the opposite is true of this book. Reinke says just enough, but not too much. The effect is like seeing a prism turned in the light. There is never a dull moment in this book. Once I sensed that Reinke was going to cover all the important topics, and with unfailing good sense and Christian insight, I could hardly put the book down. What will Reinke say about THAT topic? I found myself asking. But to add yet another twist, Reinke has read so widely in scholarly and religious sources that I do not hesitate to call the book a triumph of scholarship. Reinke writes with an infectious and winsome enthusiasm. It is hard to imagine a reader of this book who would not catch the spark for reading after encountering Reinke’s excitement about reading and his carefully reasoned defense of it.
This is the perfect book for someone who doesn’t like to read, or who likes to read but isn’t sure it’s a good use of their time — or who loves to read a little too much and needs to proceed with discernment. Tony Reinke has made a wise, theological, and edifying case for why words matter. I’ll mention Lit! every time someone asks me why in the world Christians should read fiction — a question that never fails to shock me. Now, instead of snapping, ‘Are you serious?’ and spouting opinions, I’ll just smile and slip them a copy of this book.
I read many books, but seldom do I enjoy one more than I did Tony Reinke’s Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Many of my greatest childhood adventures, and much of my growth after I was converted as a teenager, came through reading imagination-expanding and life-changing books. Tony’s writing is thoughtful, perceptive, concise, and God-honoring. He upholds biblical authority, and offers helpful guidance, while allowing for a variety of tastes. Lit! rings true to my own lifetime of reading experience. As a reader and writer of both nonfiction and fiction, I appreciate the breadth of Tony’s treatment, which includes a variety of genres. For book lovers, this is a treasure and delight. For those who aren’t book lovers, it makes a great case for becoming one.
Ann Voskamp, bestselling author:
This is rich. This is a theology of literature. Exploring the art of imagination, the importance of parents raising readers, practical advice on time-management to create margin to read, and then the all important distraction management, Reinke is the best, intentional reader I know of: he reads voraciously, he reads widely, thoughtfully, and he reads for transformation into the reflection of Christ. I want to someday read like this man. This is the best Christian guide I’ve ever found to becoming a better reader.
Russell D. Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and author:
You might wonder why you need to read about reading. Some of you have piles and piles of books on your shelves, or on your nightstand, but have no idea how to choose what to read, and when. Some of you are being altered in ways you don’t even recognize by digital technology such that you can’t see how you’re too distracted to summon the deep attention needed to read. This engagingly written book will make you think, but it will also provide practical, winsome advice on how to become the right kind of reader for the glory of God.
If you don’t read books as both a discipline and a delight, then you should; and if you need help here, as in truth all of us do, more or less, then this is the book for you. Don’t miss it!
How to read, what to read, who to read, when to read, and why you should read — Tony Reinke answers all these questions and more in this very good and (surprisingly) brief book on reading. As he shows how reading can bring glory to God and growth to the church, Reinke encourages Christians to take up the discipline of reading widely and wisely.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
Christians are people of the Book, and books are a very important part of Christian culture and Christian life. One of the most important gifts God has given us is the ability to read and to communicate from one mind to others by means of the printed page. Throughout the history of the Christian church, books have become some of the most cherished friends, teachers, and companions along the way. But reading is a matter of spiritual discipline, not just a matter of literacy. In Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, Tony Reinke helps us to understand how Christians actually grow, not only as readers but also as Christians, through disciplined reading.
According to Lit, if you read one book a week for the next 50 years you’ll read about 2,600 books. Not a lot when you think of all the books you could read. So should you include this book about books in your list? Yes. Because Lit will help you read the right books in the right way. Tony Reinke sets our reading in a biblical framework as well as providing practical tips to make the most of books. I warmly commend it.
With a discerning eye, Reinke captures the importance of the gospel story for our habits of reading, thus providing a worldview for reading. He challenges us to beware of how the carved images of the Internet can draw us away from the grace of reading for comprehension and simple delight. Yet he equally gives a proper place to secular literature among all types of works that those who love Christ should appreciate. This is the sort of book that I have longed to place into the hands of believers in order to help churches recapture a love for literature and literacy — both biblical and extra-biblical. Practical and enjoyable, Lit! is an outstanding and valuable gift to the church.
Jon Smith, pastor and director of ONEU Maryland, a college campus outreach:
I loved Tony’s book, Lit! It’s clear, concise, thoroughly Biblical, Christ-exalting, and practically helpful for me personally. In it Tony helped me discover a number of areas in my thinking and my approach to reading that needed to change. Lit! is a book I can’t wait to give away to college students and to other campus directors who I trust will have a similar experience.
Tony Reinke does not just read, but he reads well, and these are two very different things. If you are not much of a reader, consider Lit a part of your education. Tony will teach you to read, to read widely and to read well. If you are already an avid reader, consider Lit an investment that will instruct you in how to read better.
Since God has chosen that ideas are best expressed in words, and that THE IDEA—the revelation of His Son as Lord and Savior—is to be learned through His timeless and matchless Word, Christians dare not lose sight of the primacy of books amidst the torrent of fast-moving, visual images of our culture. Tony Reinke compelling argues from Scripture and lessons he has learned in life that “reading is a way to preserve and cultivate the sustained linear concentration we need for life.” As an educator, I couldn’t agree more! Sustained reading must remain the heartbeat of any worthy educational program that seeks to produce Christian thinkers, leaders, and apologists. Homeschooling parents who are trying to craft reading lists as they raise Christian children will find gracious and principled guidance here. More, Tony offers great ideas for parents to foster a love for reading, beginning with their own example.
- Dutch: Lees! (ISBN: 9789088970535)
- Korean: 독서신학 (ISBN: 9788960922846)
- Study questions developed by blogger, author, and seminary professor David Murray. Download them as a Word doc or PDF.
- Written interview on reading with the newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad (May 24, 2014): “The End of Books” (English), “Rustig lezen als feestmaal voor de ziel” (Dutch; PDF).
- Radio interview on Chris Fabry Live!, Moody Radio, Chicago (40 minutes). Listen here.
- Radio interview on The Paul Edwards Program, WLQV, Detroit (23 minutes). Listen here.
- Written dialogue on Christianity Today’s Books & Culture blog with Karen Swallow Prior. Indexed here.
- Written interview with Trevin Wax. See here.
- Written interview with The Gospel Coalition and John Starke: “Death to Dostoevsky by Angry Birds.”
Table of Contents
Part 1: A Theology of Books and Reading
1. Paper Pulp and Etched Granite: Laying the Cornerstone of Our Theology of Books
2. Wide-Eyed into the Son: How Personal Sin and the Gospel Shape Our Literacy
3. Reading Is Believing: Savoring Books in an Eye-Candy Culture
4. Reading from across the Canyon: How a Biblical Worldview Equips Us to Benefit from Books
5. The Giver’s Voice: Seven Benefits of Reading Non-Christian Books
6. The God Who Slays Dragons: The Purifying Power of Christian Imagination
Part 2: Some Practical Advice on Book Reading
7. Read with Resolve: Six Priorities That Decide What Books I Read (and Don’t Read)
8. How to Read a Book: 20 Tips and Tricks for Reading Nonfiction Books
9. Literature Is Life: Tapping into the Benefits of Fiction Literature
10. Too Busy to Read: Six Ways to Find (and Protect) the Time You Need to Read Books
11. Driven to Distraction: How Internet Habits Cripple Book Reading
12. Marginalia: The Fine Art of Defacing Books with Pencils, Pens, and Highlighters
13. Reading Together: Building Community One Book at a Time
14. Raising Readers: How Parents and Pastors Can Ignite in Others a Love for Book Reading
15. Happily Ever After: Five Marks of a Healthy Book Reader