Tags

, , , , , , , ,

mailbag

 

How do you evaluate a book (for instance if you know nothing about the author)? I have about half a bookshelf right now of books (both fiction and nonfiction) that I need to evaluate and I have no idea how to commence doing so. (The books range from children’s fiction to Bible study books and lots in between.)

A couple of the steps in this article would apply for any book: know your Bible and pray for wisdom as you research the book and author.

For Bible study, theology, or other non-fiction Christian books, I would vet the author pretty much the same way I described vetting teachers in the article. That will often be faster than reading the whole book. Also, go to Amazon and peruse all the other books the author has written. You might get a better idea of where the author stands, theologically, by reading all of his book titles and summaries. Many authors have an author page on Amazon, too. It’ll have a bio and customer reviews.

I don’t hold Christian fiction books to quite the same theological standard as non-fiction for discerning Christians who know their Bible really well (for example, see the section on Karen Kingsbury here). Some of them are really just clean “family friendly” fiction with the occasional cow pie of bad theology that you can “step over” as you’re reading, but some, such as The Shack are pretty egregious in their false doctrine. For Christian fiction, one quick “litmus test” that might be a possibility is to check out who’s endorsing it. If you flip to the back cover and see endorsements by a bunch of false teachers, it’s probably one to stay away from.

Asking around can help as well, especially with Christian books. Ask trusted friends if they’re familiar with the author or book and what they think of it. Join some theologically sound Facebook groups and ask about the book in the group.

For all books, another possible shortcut might be book reviews. Scads of bloggers review books. The key is finding bloggers and review sites whose opinions or theology you trust, and that may take a little time and effort. Tim Challies and Aaron Armstrong do a lot of trustworthy book reviews- mostly Christian non-fiction, but other genres on occasion. There are a lot of Christians on GoodReads that review all kinds of different genres. Finally, you might want to try a book summary web site like Books at a Glance. They’ll give you the “Cliff’s Notes” version of books.

If you go through all those “screening process” steps and still have books/authors you haven’t been able to vet, the only solution is to actually read the book and compare the concepts and statements in it to Scripture. Then you can write a review of it and post it on line for the next person who comes along wanting information about that book.

Let’s hear from you readers out there! Got a favorite book blog? A go to reviewer on GoodReads? Comment below!


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Advertisements