It is always humorous to me to read through some of the reviews of a book on Amazon before posting my own. There is inevitably that one guy or gal that has given the book a 1 star. And it’s not because the book is a bomb it’s because the reader did not understand the book. Granted, there may be times where the aforementioned describes myself. It’s possible that I’ve just missed it myself. (Either 5 starring a book that should be burned, or 1 starring a book that should be savored).
So in order to help you (and myself) not 1-star books that deserve a little higher rank I am providing 5 tips on being a better reader. Keep in mind these can also apply to being a better reader of blogs and shorter articles as well.
- Know the Author’s Audience. Some Bible readers are confused that Paul and James seem to contradict one another. Paul says essentially “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone”. James basically says, “We are saved by works and not a faith that is alone”. That really seems to be a contradiction. That is until you consider their audience. Paul is writing to those that are mostly legalists and trying to get to God through their own efforts. James is writing to those that would be termed antinomians. They “believe in Jesus” they have their get out of hell free card and now they can do whatever they want. Different audiences require a different emphasis. To force Paul to answer questions asked to James does a great disservice to both. The same is true with books in our day. Don’t make the author answer questions that he is not concerned with answering.
- Know the Author’s Purpose. Every blog post, article, and book has a purpose (at least it should). Your goal as a reader is to ask yourself, “Did the author accomplish his purpose”. If he/she did then this is not a 1-star book. You may disagree with it. You may say that it is heresy. But at least give an extra star for her accomplishing the tremendous feat of having a point and making it. Do not force an author to say more than he or she intends to say. If he’s writing about the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire don’t ask questions like, “yeah but what about Hitler?” That’s not his point—don’t dock him because he didn’t answer a question you brought to the book.
- Be Humble. Every good book or article will challenge you. If you are not humble enough to admit at the beginning that you do not know everything and that you also could be wrong, then you will get little out of challenging books. Be humble. Consider ideas, compare them to Scripture, and make adjustments to your own heart where necessary.
- Remember A Book is not THE Book. There is only one inerrant and infallible word of God. The books in your library are not infallible and inerrant. Do not expect them to be. They will not answer every question that you have—they were not meant to. They will not sustain your soul—they cannot. A good book will point you to the Author of the Book. Rejoice when that happens. But do not try to make a book bear the weight of being on an equal par with Scripture—it cannot.
There are many more tips that can help you be a better reader. These are just four that I think would help us to be better readers of blog articles and books and hopefully better reviewers and commenters. For a book length treatment of this topic there are few better than Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book and the more recent Lit! by Tony Reinke.