What Makes a Book Worth Reading?

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So what makes a book worth reading? There is a lot out there that not only is not worth time spent on them, but that can actually be harmful to the reader.

In Romans 12:2, we are told not to be conformed to this world but to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Who we are and what we become is determined by what we think. Everything starts with an idea.

If we can renew our minds with what we take in, we can also degrade ourselves, our personality and character, by simmering in unworthy words. What we spend time thinking about is important, it has impact.

So what does make a “good” book versus a “bad book.

Is It True?

I think the first question is, “Is it true?” Obviously, this is somewhat cut and dry when we are talking about nonfiction books. Is the author credible. Is what they are saying true? Do they cite reliable and authoritative sources, and more importantly, do they honestly represent those sources? Does the author present other sides of the argument and do they acknowledge the areas where they aren’t as expert? Finally, does the information the author provide line up with what other experts in the field are saying? Does it align in other areas with what we know to be true?

That is for nonfiction, but even fantastical books of fiction can contain truth or a lie. When you read a book of fiction, can you tell what the worldview of the author is? We can read authors that come from different perspectives, but when we do, we need to recognize that the ideas embedded within their fiction may be through a distorted lens.

Sometimes the ideology is obvious within the story, at other times it is necessary to step back and look at the story on a macro level. What is your main takeaway from the book? What is the author trying to say with the story? Often, this is not an overt message, but art is representation. An author is presenting an image (whether in image or story form), and the image that they see is influenced by the lens through which they look. When the lens is fractured, sometimes the picture painted can be very ugly indeed.

What Are the Values of the Story?

The next question to ask is “What are the values of the story?” You may say, “How should I know?” The author may not be writing a philosophical treatise, but their story will give you clues. What does justice look like in the story? How is virtue represented? Is there redemption in the story? How are love portrayed? Is there self-sacrifice in the story on the part of any of the characters? Are there consequences for actions or are the main characters a law unto themselves? All of these questions can help you identify the kind of “mind food” the author is feeding you.

What is the Spirit of the Story?

A book is a marvelous thing. It allows one person to reach across both time and space and communicate their thoughts and ideas to another regardless of culture, race, or creed. If the reader is willing, they are able to step into the shoes and see the world through the eyes of another. There can be a spiritual connection of sorts, the question is, what kind of spirit? Is this mind that you are connecting to within the book a “good companion” as George MacDonald would say, or will it lead you down a wrong path and encourage the worst in you?

What Makes a Book Worth Reading

Books that expand the mind, build character, and lift the spirit are the books that are worth reading. It is these types of books we seek.


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