Sunday, December 09, 2007

How to Read a Christian Book

How to Read a Christian Book (143 pages) by David L. McKenna is a great book on selecting and reading Christian books as a Christian discipline. Informative and clear, McKenna encourages readers "to choose books of quality, judge their content with discernment, develop a reading habit as a spiritual discipline, and build their own personal library."

The book draws principles outlined in another book written by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book and adapted it for Christian reading. I have read How to Read a Book when I participated in the 'Spring Reading Thing 2007' challenge (see
review), and was able to see the connection.

A notable feature of the book is the 3-year reading plan which recommends a total of 36 books, 12 books for each year. The final selection process of the books is based on these three editorial decisions: 1) The books should be readable for laypersons; 2) the list should contain only one book per author, except for C. S. Lewis; and 3) the list should progress from introductory to more advanced writing (p. 96). Within the plan, there are twelve subject areas such as autobiography, Bible study, devotionals, and many more.

I feel that it is useful to list down the contents of the book and from here, you will be able to see how the book is structured:

  • Chapter 1: Why Christians Are Readers
  • Chapter 2: Choosing a Christian Book
  • Chapter 3: Judging a Christian Book
  • Chapter 4: Reading a Christian Book as a Spiritual Discipline
  • Chapter 5: Planning a Personal Christian Library
  • Chapter 6: Introducing a Three-Year Christian Reading Plan
  • Chapter 7: Anticipating the Christian Classics

The book also asks several important questions. Some of them (p. 8):

  • We know the volume of sales of Christian books, but do we know the quality of their contents?
  • We know which books are best-sellers in the Christian marketplace, but do we know whether Christians are reading with discernment?
  • We know that people are reading Christian books dealing with personal problems, but do we know whether Christians are understanding the faith and growing spiritually?

We tend to select books in a highly personal and random way: through word-of-mouth from a friend, as a part of a group ministry, through reading or study group, when referred to by a preacher, best-sellers, when trying to address a personal need at a particular point of time, etc. How to Read a Christian Book challenges us to do better through a more systematic approach.

The book also touches on selective reading of fiction which may not be labelled as religious fiction, but they show indications of religious influence. From such readings, you can see "how human nature, in both its degradation and redemption, reflects the reality of God's revelation through His Word." Classics such as Ulysses (James Joyce), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov), and many others. See the complete listing of 100 titles in Appendix E: Books of the Century for the Modern Library.

For USD1 (I bought this from's bargain bin), this book is must-have in searching out the best. I highly recommend this.