Reading Between the Lines

Reading Between the Lines

A Christian Guide to Literature

by Gene Veith
Publisher: Crossway Books
Trade Paperback, 254 pages
List Price: $15.99 Sale Price: $14.39

Unlike other books helping Christians read better, Reading Between the Lines contains as much warning as encouragement. Too often we're told reading widely is a virtue, but we're given no tools for discernment; Gene Veith clearly loves reading, but he also hates aesthetically, theologically, and morally bad literature, and he teaches aspiring readers to judge books on these levels.

The book begins with a nod to Neil Postman. Veith says Christians are people of the Book, and that reading is an essential part of the Christian life, then contrasts the written word to images, particularly the "graven images" we see on our screens. An essay then explains the necessity for biblical Christian literary criticism in light of the command to "judge all things."

Veith concentrates on literary forms (nonfiction, fiction, poetry) and modes (tragedy, comedy, realism, fantasy). Each chapter on forms ends by looking at Christian authors whose biblical worldview impacted their writing; each chapter on modes ends by Veith relating the use of the mode in question to its Christian context.

The last major section is a brief but thorough history of literature from the Middle Ages to our postmodern times. He wraps up with a look at "The Makers of Literature: Writers, Publishers, and Readers," showing how each determines the literature we read and what is available to us. A short reading list features both classic and contemporary titles.

Because Veith is incredibly well-read and doesn't explain every reference, this can be a tough read. But it's one of the best books for Christian readers who want to understand and enjoy literature—both firmly rooted in literary theory, and plainly biblical. Reading Between the Lines is particularly useful as an introduction for students intending to study literature in college.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Summary: Veith helps readers see the value of literature and teaches them how to think about it from a Christian perspective.

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