Book Review

Is it Possible to Read Too Much?

Amidst all the public voices and rhetoric swirling around these days is a healthy focus on the need to make reading more a part of every life.  From celebrities sponsoring reading campaigns to Amazon providing pre-loaded Kindles to schools in Africa through their Worldreader  program, it is a good thing for sure. Illiteracy is not good for any society.

However, I asked a question in the title of this blog that is probably going to get me in hot water. After all, my job as a literary agent is to try to get more authors and books published.

Yes, it is possible to read too much.

I can see the headline now…”Literary agent urges people to read less. Kicked out of publishing industry”.

As long as I am in the deep-end of the pool, add this: Reading without discernment is worse than not reading at all.

There is nothing magical or wonderful about the simple act of reading, that is, reading anything for the sake of reading. This is in direct conflict with many literacy campaigners.

A couple years ago I attended a large international publishing conference in New York where it was announced that research confirmed that children today are reading more than ever, attributed to the growth of online content, smart phones, Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.

Everyone clapped and cheered at the news. “Hurray, children are reading more!”

Seriously? Reading anything is better than not reading?

Guess what, it is possible to spend time reading things that are downright evil and turn your mind and soul to mush.

Because I pay a lot of attention to things in and around the publishing world, I’ve heard things like this:

  • At a publishing conference a couple years ago, I sat on a panel where a person from a large general market publisher explained how the “erotica” category has great long-term potential for them.
  • The best-selling book Fifty Shades of Grey, described as “mommy porn” is extremely popular among teenagers.
  • The mere suggestion that some books are not good for people to read is immediately flagged as censorship, the unpardonable sin in the general market publishing industry.
  • A recent article in a prominent online publishing news service blamed Christian fundamentalism on its practitioners not being well-read. If that is the case, then it is logical the reverse is true, that a pagan hell-bound world- view is a result of a lot of reading. (I’m joking)
  • There is a marketing campaign aimed at mega-readers to read 100 books per year. Some read 150 per year.  There are some types of literature whose sales are maintained by a relatively small group of people who read all the time. (I assume to the exclusion of less-noble pursuits like friends, family, community and church!)

Mega-reading is not a godless obsession reserved for the unchurched among us.

I know someone who reads through the Bible several times a year, but can’t find the time to serve the church or other people.

I know a person who reads every Christian book they can and is about as messed up spiritually as you can get. If a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways, then being a quadruple-minded person is a walking freak-show.

Like so many other things we can do, reading can be used as an escape from reality. So again, reading for the sake of reading is not the answer.

It is not how much you read, it is what you read that is important.  The same can be said about television, movies and any other media. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of them, but when they are consumed without discernment, they can be destructive. The best solution is not to avoid, but to use wise discernment in their use.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8 we read, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)

The Christian artist (includes authors) and the church have always been good at redeeming the things of this world. Whatever is intended for evil can be turned for good.

Every Christian reader can and should engage in recommending good books that honor God to friends and family.

Be an active participant in this worthwhile campaign.

 

 

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What is on Your Summer Reading List?

Since we are in the midst of Summer and I’m on a brief vacation I thought I’d ask you to tell us what books you are reading or planning to read this Summer. I’ll start… My list is intentionally eclectic because that is the way I graze with my reading: …

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How Do You Define Summer Reading?

Now that summer is nigh, I’m thinking about what I’d like to read over the next few months. I have not yet decided. But at least now I can choose for myself. At my college prep school, we were assigned summer reading. To enter eighth grade, we were assigned The …

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My Most Frequently Used Reference Book

by Steve Laube After pulling down this book from my shelf twice this past week I realized there is no other reference book I use more frequently. The book? The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. I prefer it over Roget’s Thesaurus because it is laid out logically - in alphabetical order. …

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Stories in Hiding Places

Since I blog on Tuesdays and the next April 15 to fall on a Tuesday is not for another eleven years, I felt like I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Corrie ten Boom was born on this date in 1892 and died on this date in 1983.  If Evangelicals were …

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Do You Like to Cry While Reading?

I’ll have to admit, I don’t like to cry. I don’t even like depressing songs. Instead I prefer things that are upbeat. For example, here are some of the lyrics to a song that helped me get through my teen years:

Flashlight.

Red Light.

Neon Light.

Spotlight.

Most of all you can funk. Help me find the funk….

Yoww

I think I found the funk!

["Flashlight" was written by Ronald R. Brooks, Gregory E. Jacobs, David R. Elliot, Bernard Worrell, William Earl Collins, and George Clinton Jr..]

Not that I can’t get serious. But I still like that fun song even today.

So now it’s your turn, if you like to cry while reading. What have been your favorite tearjerker books? I’ll give you a clue. Steve Laube told me that the marketing people at Bethany Publishing House wanted to mail a box of tissues with every copy of Deborah Raney’s A Vow to Cherish when it was first published.

So, what is your favorite tearjerker novel? 

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Why Did I Keep Reading?

As I believe I’ve mentioned on this blog, along with Christian books, I try to keep abreast of general market books. But I admit, I don’t always finish reading the books I begin reading. So what makes me stick with a book from cover to cover? Here’s just one example for nonfiction:

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune  by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. 

Why did I stay with this book while abandoning other books that may have been just as worthwhile or perhaps even better? Here’s why:

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A New Book by C.S. Lewis!

by Steve Laube

If you want the perfect gift for the bibliophile in your life consider this new book from C. S. Lewis called Image and Imagination (under $20 in paperback). To quote the description from the Cambridge University Press site:

This selection from the writings of C. S. Lewis gathers together forty book reviews, never before reprinted, as well as four major essays which have been unavailable for many decades. A fifth essay, ‘Image and Imagination’, is published for the first time.

Included are his reviews of Tolkien’s Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

But the crowning jewel is the 20 page essay “Image and Imagination.” This unpublished piece was found handwritten in a ruled notebook used by Lewis for his early drafts. Walter Hooper, who compiled this book, suggests that the essay was originally intended for but never sent to T.S. Eliot’s journal The Criterion in 1931. It is a rather dense exploration of ideas which, like much of Lewis’ academic work, demands much concentration of the reader.

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How to Post a Negative Review

Posting a negative review is not the same as trashing a book. Sometimes you really are doing a service to let prospective readers know the book in question may not be right for them. Here are a few tips:

Be sure you rarely post a negative review. If you make a habit of posting bad reviews, you’ll be known as a grump who hates everything and your words will lose their power.

Approach from a position of authority. Why should prospective readers value your opinion? Examples might be that you are the president of an historical society, a professor, or hold some other position that shows readers when you say a book contains inaccuracies, you probably know what you are talking about.

Address problems with the book itself, not your perceptions of the author’s shortcomings as a person. The author may be dead wrong, but approaching the book dispassionately will gain you more respect in the reading community than simply blasting the author.

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