Author: LELAND RYKEN
Publisher: Crossway Books
The fact that you are reading about this book which I read about reading suggests that you might be a reader. That gives you a head start: I doubt many but committed readers will get through 300 pages about the art of reading.
The first 50 of those consider reading as an art which has been lost; so far, so straightforwardly tight to the title. It is hard to deny the suggestions and conclusions about these challenges we face.
The next hundred pages survey several literary genres (stories, poems, novels, fantasy, children’s books, creative non-fiction, and the Bible). Encouragements are given as to how we read each of these categories, with some discussion of the relative merits or limitations of each.
Despite the authors’ proper qualifications, I am not comfortable with classifying the Bible as another category of literature: it diminishes the Word of God, which should have been set apart by itself, without denying its literary merits.
The balance of the book is given over to those overarching questions of truth, goodness, and beauty. The truth seems to be that of ‘simple, bedrock ideas’ which order human affairs. Concerning goodness, ‘the ultimate determiner of moral influence rests with readers’. Beauty is a matter of artistry and the causing of pleasure – a reflection of God, and a function of our likeness to him.
A further discussion of literary excellence follows, as well as the issue of how we can read, and the spiritual dynamics of doing so. The Bible seems somewhat remote from this discussion, rather than the touchstone of truth, goodness, and beauty. For those who don’t quite trust C. S. Lewis, even when we appreciate him, the reliance throughout on Lewis as our guide to the literary, and the true, good, and beautiful, may seem excessive.
For literature students at A-level or working toward a degree, this is a helpful counterpoint to manifestly secular treatments of literature. It will assist in organising thought and providing a reference point with which to inform arguments from a more Christian perspective. There is a great deal here to stimulate or engage, but there remains a nagging suggestion of art for art’s sake.
I would love to see the Bible more manifestly centred here as the ‘norming norm’, the point from which we can truly measure truth, goodness, and beauty. I am far from suggesting that the Bible and theological works are the only books we ought to read, but I would like to see this question addressed through a more immediately scriptural lens.