Our reading habits are changing. While we may be reading more articles and social media posts, our reading of literature is in decline. In 2018 the Pew Charitable Foundation reported that nearly a quarter of Americans had not read a book in any form in the last year. Is that important? Ryken and Mathes argue it means we are loosing wisdom and our ability for deep thinking. Reading nonfiction or imaginative fiction requires thoughtful reading, unlike grazing Internet articles.
The authors hope to inspire people to read more, read well, and have more joy in doing it. They explore what literature is, what identifies good literature, and the benefits of reading literature. They help up understand the elements of a good story and why we need to read poetry. They argue that in reading artfully, we better understand ourselves and the human condition.
Understanding and reading literature is particularly important for Christians. The authors point out that a third of the Bible is written in poetic form and three quarters of the Bible is in literary form. Understanding literary principles is essential to understanding the Bible. “We would handle the Bible so much better if we would read and interpret it in light of what we already know about literature generally.” (1657/3278)
There is a great deal of useful information in the book. I appreciate the authors reminding us that every person has a calling to read and that reading literature is to be an active part of spiritual life. (2611, 2736/3278) Unfortunately, this book is somewhat academic in style. I am not sure the average reader and especially the nonreader will pick up this book and benefit from it. Perhaps teachers, pastors and small group leaders could read the book and share the information with others.
You can read an article by Mathes on this topic here.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly fifty years. He has authored or edited over fifty books. He is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society's annual meetings and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible.
Glenda Faye Mathes (BLS, University of Iowa) is a professional writer with a passion for literary excellence. She has authored over a thousand articles and several nonfiction books as well as the Matthew in the Middle fiction. She has been the featured speaker at women's conferences and seminars. You can find out more at https://glendafayemathes.com/.
Crossway, 304 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)