Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

If you have not read anything on literary criticism, this little book, An Experiment in Criticism, by C.S. Lewis will open your mind to a whole new world — the world of the text and it well-read.

Rather than judging the quality of a books by their composition or content, Lewis suggests one should judge them by the nature or way in which they are read. For example, some people read books only once to gratify some curiosity or lust, only to abandon them forever afterwards. Contrarily, those who truly love their books will read them countless times and cherish them as favored possessions. In other words, bad readers read books seeking only to find a world they already are comfortable with and understand; a world they already have categories for and can explain. A world that “makes sense” in their system of thought. By reading books in such a way, these readers are not challenged by what they read. And in the end, book after book, they meet only themselves. For Lewis, this explains the vast hoard of trashy novels which follow the same basic principle. In these case, the reader is never brought to a higher level of knowledge. There is no additive transfer. Such readers only get out what they already knew. This all takes very little effort on the part of the reader.

On the other hand, good readers begin by getting themselves “out of the way.” Good readers will first surrender their own preconceived notions and biases. They open themselves up to receive “instructions” (as it were) from the text itself. In effect, they surrender to the text. And now the text can actually begin to work on the reader. This is an entirely different kind of reading and leads to an additive gain in knowledge on the part of the reader. Rather than meeting only themselves in a text (and learning only what they already knew and had categories for), good readers open themselves up to a whole new world. By “receiving” the text a reader actually meets ‘someone else’ (as it were) and thus grow in the process.

All of this is written in Lewis’ classic and beloved, easy style. Taking things ordinarily complex, he makes them simple.  I could not recommend this little gem more highly!


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Athanasius’s story is one of ups and downs. It is a story of joy and fellowship, as well as suffering, persecution, and pilgrimage. In other words, it is the Christian’s story. Often however, it is difficult for modern-day Christians to relate to the lives of Christians long ago. It seems ancient Christians suffered for their faith in a way that we do not. But is this actually so?

Simonetta Carr, in her latest book Athanasius, offers a compelling illustration of just how much we have in common with Christians from long ago. Aimed at children (ages 7-12), the book wonderfully sets forth the life and actions of one of the great leaders in the ancient church (4th century). Not content with mere names and dates, the author delicately weaves the story together, as it is driven along by the historical issues of the day. In addition to all this, nearly every page is lavished with beautiful illustrations which pour depth and color upon the narrative. This is truly an aesthetically pleasing book.

And yet its beauty not withstanding, what is most compelling of all is the way in which the author ties the ideas and events of history directly to the lives and imaginations of young readers today. They “see” how and why we confess the Nicene Creed in Church (for instance). Drawn into the particular challenges facing Athanasius and Christians long ago, the reader is also instructed in how much we have in common today — most importantly, that we confess the very same Christian faith.

“Athanasius was greatly loved and greatly hated during his lifetime,” writes the author. “He has been called “Athanasius contra mundum’, which in Latin means, ‘Athanasius against the world’ (p. 52). And while we today often don’t feel so connected to our ancient Christian brothers and sisters, it is helpful and encouraging to read books which remind us of that unity and give us a better longing for that day when we will all confess together our same God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This book comes highly recommended and should be ordered from Reformation Heritage Books here.

* As part of the special book give-away tour, the publishers have allowed me to give away one (1) free copy of the book Athanasius, by Simonetta Carr! So, the fifth person who contacts me at brendenlink@yahoo.com wins their very own free copy! [update: 9-29-2011] Congratulations to Brianna! She has won her free copy of Simonetta Carr’s Athanasius!

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