ES Book Reviews: "Lit" Tony Reinke
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
“I love to read. I hate to read.
I don’t have time to read.
I only read Christian books.
I’m not good at reading.
There’s too much to read.”
Maybe you feel like some or all of these statements fit with you. There are so many reasons not to read books- not knowing where to start, not having the time, not being able to get into books. Or maybe you read a lot, but feel like you’re not getting as much out of your reading as you could.
As nervous as I am about reading a book called ‘Lit!’, very quickly in the book it became clear that the author was using this as short hand for ‘literature’ (which made me feel a lot better than if he was trying to just sound cool), but also was thinking about being lit up, as an image of how God can use reading to illuminate our lives:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
Reading has an impact on our lives and our thinking is Reinke’s argument, so we should be careful what we read and how we read it.
The first half of Reinke’s book is a biblical theology of reading. This is something tricky that Reinke tackled, since the activity of reading isn’t mentioned much specifically in the Bible, and in some sections Reinke makes big leaps to justify the significance of reading over other forms of communication, but his central points do stand based on his arguments from the biblical text. Firstly, he highlights that God chose to speak to us through the written word, and this is significant and something we should value (and also prioritise over human writings!). Secondly, Reinke points out that we need to work to comprehend, not just consume, writing and comprehend this in the framework of a biblical worldview. Thirdly, he points out that we live now in a society that prioritises images over words, and we need to continue to value written communication and work hard to be good readers because of the wealth of information writing can communicate.
The second half of Reinke’s book I personally (as a person who is a huge nerd and loves reading) found incredibly helpful, as he goes through in several chapters completely practical tips on how to read better. As he points out, being better at reading generally will also help us be better at reading scripture, as we exercise our mind and imagination.
This second half of the book has incredibly good, practical tips, whether you’re an already over enthusiastic reader who wants to know where to start and how to prioritise your reading or someone who doesn’t know where to start because you don’t like reading. He gives some great tips on how to read well, and the best ones are here:
Vary your reading pace and strategy- some books you should read fast, some you should read and process slowly, some you should just sample chapters from- what is best for the books you’re reading now?
Learn about the author and where they’re coming from (worldview) before you start reading
Write in books to help you follow the authors main points (I know, controversial)
Reflect on your reading
Figure out when you should give up on a book (and don’t be scared to stop)
For the rest of the tips, you’ll unfortunately have to read the whole book!
One thing I found especially helpful is that Reinke helps us think through what our reading priorities are, and particularly how we can read books by non-Christian authors well and think about how these fit in with a Christian worldview. He also looks at why reading fiction is valuable, and how you can practically make time to read books in a busy schedule.
The single most helpful chapter of this book for me was one chapter where Reinke thinks about the different categories of books we read, and how we can prioritise these, so we get the most out of our reading time. Reinke has some great tips on different purposes of reading, and how we can use these to prioritise the books we read and (things like reading to improve yourself personally, reading scripture, reading to know Christ, and reading for enjoyment). This helped me think about the books I read, and what types of books I should try and read more of!
Reading a book about reading books might seem counterproductive or confusing, but Reinke does a good job of pointing out how important reading is, and giving some practical tips on how we can do it better.
Flinders ES- Lauren B
Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books
Tony Reinke (2011, Crossway)