And I do have a method. The first thing I do is go to page one and start to read, until I get to the end! Ok, here's the first thing I wrote for this blog and want to share with you. Go ahead, feel free to respond.
Since many of you may be Christian, I will jump ahead and focus on how to get a feel for religious book.
If you are like me, you spend time on Amazon.com just browsing to see what's around, what's coming up, and what people generally think of books you either just bought, or are about to buy or read. Read the reviews. Does it have one, two, five stars? Do the reviews seem fair? Are there any recurring problems mentioned? Many theology books are notorious for having bad binding. Are you better off buying it used? I might add Tim Keller has a great book coming out called The Reason for God: Faith in an age of Skepticism. It looks good. John Piper has a book dealing on the New Perspective on Paul that has a lot of buzz too.
2. Personal endorsements
Who blurbs the back of the book? Blurbs are the endorsements given to an author by other recognized authors, personalities etc.. this one can say a lot or a little. I once thumbed through a book that was endorsed by
Donald Miller. He is the author of "Blue Like Jazz" which many of you know is a bit controversial. I may read it at some point to see what the hoopla is about, but suffice it to say he makes many bold statements about the church that raise a few red flags. I almost put the book away, but it turned out to be a great book on how to do church discipline today. If I could remember the title of said book I'd recommend it! Of course, seeing well known, respected leaders recommend a book helps. But you must go deeper still. Does anyone who's opinion you trust like the book you are about to read?
3.Table of Contents
Yes, at some point you have to pop open the book and read what the author intends to communicate (you knew you were going to at some point) Is there a structure? What are the headings? Is there an apppendix? If it has a scripture index, does it have a lot of scripture mentioned? How long is the book? Who gets mentioned a lot in their bibliography or endnotes? I'm reading a book that has a lot of end notes referencing Carl Jung-it's still a somewhat decent book, but now I read it with caution.
Who published it? I'm not too happy with Zondervan now that they are cashing in on the Emergent movement with an Emergent line of books. This doesn't mean that all Zondervan books are bad. And yes, to be fair some Emergent books are decent (sometimes). If anything Inter-Varsity Press is guilty of publishing many questionable books (the Openness of God anyone?) Where a company like Crossway is known to publish Reformed authors. Ditto for Christian Scholars Press and P&R Publishing.
What year was this published? If this is older than a decade, their info maybe outdated. But, there are those few books that stand the test of time, so don't hold onto that too hard and fast.
6. Author Info
Who is this person that you are about to let into your thoughts? Thanks to today's world, you can find a ministry website for almost all Christian authors. Just be careful that their book isn't just an endorsement for even more (and more expensive!) material from them. What school did they go to? What is their testimony? What school do they teach at? Have they made controversial statements in previous books? Is their church a good place? Do they have a blog? Are there incriminating pics of them with Lindsey Lohan?
7. Your own interest
Why do you want to read this? What is it that you need to know? Some books need only a quick glance and a read through a chapter or two to get what you need. Others demand a lot of time, and are worth every hour of reading. Pray, reflect, but for goodness sake tell people. We need to have more open discussions about books.
Later on I will write about how to read a book. Suffice it to say, my uncle once told me that you don't let books affect you. The only one that should affect you is the Bible. You must take a wait and see approach to books. That can be very hard if the book is really good. More on this later. Oh yes I expect you to tell what you think of my somewhat sage advice. Go ahead, I dare you.
A few more things to consider as you read a book;
8. Does your enemy hate or like it?
You either see this one or you don't.
9. What are the bloggers saying?
Tim Challie's page Challies.com is now THE place to get a good Christian book review. He truly is the Christian Uber-blogger/book reviewer. I trust him.
10. Author's intent?
Why was this book written? To inform? Persuade? Make a point? Share an experience? These are things you want to keep in mind. It will help you decide if you want to read the whole thing and if they are making substantial arguments or if they are being honest.
11. Would I want to own this?
Or would I be happy borrowing it from the library? There are a few books I wouldn't want to be caught dead with. Seriously.
Ok there you go, READ. But think as well. I might also add, that I will talk about how to read a Christian book in the future.