rebelling against low expectations

How do I think critically about every book I read?


RACHEL WRITES: I’d like to learn how to think critically and examine every book that I read – both Christian and non-Christian – and align them with the Bible, versus simply absorbing books because my parents tell me that they’re good.

I want to be able to determine which books are good for myself. Any suggestions?

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are submitted by real rebelutionaries who are looking for godly answers to tough questions and lively conversation with other young adults. You can join the conversation by commenting below. If you'd like to submit your own discussion question, email us at [email protected].


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  • I’m an avid reader so I totally get where you’re coming from. The best advice I can think of is to always be sure that what you’re reading aligns with what the Bible says. Does it stir up wrong thoughts or desires? Would you read it aloud to Jesus? How does it help you deepen and mature in your faith? Just a few thoughts. πŸ™‚

      • Ha! I half expected you to get mad that I half-stole your advice, lol. Right back at ya! =)

        Heyyyy how’ve you been doing? I haven’t seen you around in a while (maybe it’s just me, I’m on Revive more than Disqus nowadays lol).

        • Oh wait. I was on my Disqus notifications page when I said that, it just now hit me that maybe we shouldn’t be going off topic on the latest Reb DQ. So yeah. =P

          • lol. I gave all night and part of the morning to get famous! You’re right, I haven’t been on as much. We’re in the middle of a move and I’m spending a lot of time packing boxes. I’ve never been good at Social Media sites, after a while they just lose their novelty. Me on Revive is me on most sites, pathetic. I’m actually a little surprised I’ve been this active on here for so long. But I think I’m beginning to phase out. I guess I’m a “live in the real world” type. I just wish I could personally meet everyone on here πŸ™ That being said…… How’re you doing? πŸ˜›
            Oh, and by the way, I’m taking August off of all social media sites so just so people know.

          • Oh ok. Yeah I notice that a lot of people “fade out” after a while…hey, they are trying to plan a conference on Revive so that we could all meet each other! There’s a whole space for it.

            I’m doing great! Except for the fact that my summer is nearing it’s close….but it’s been a good summer. I gotta start my job soon, though.

            Taking a break from social media sites is always good! I’ve done it a couple times myself. =)

          • REALLY!!! On revive?? Oh my goodness! Who, What, When, Where, Why, How??? Fill me in!!!!! (I’m sort of excited….) Hey, and I had to do school over the summer, so mine hasn’t been that great. Appreciate yours πŸ˜›

          • Ha!

            Who: Caleb N. is the driving force behind it, Ana Wood and others are helping

            What: A conference, still very early in the planning stages

            When: Next summer

            Where: Missouri, final location TBD

            Why: There’s a mission statement on there somewhere

            But seriously, go join the “conference idea” space on Revive! If you’re willing/able – there’s lots you could do to help! =)

            Ok, I’m enjoying not doing schoolwork. =P

          • Missouri, that’s week in a car for our family. Maybe I can convince my family to go on vacation there at that time. Okay, I will definitely look it up!!! I’ll see what I can do.

            And who enjoys school? Really.

          • You know what. As much as I would love to do this, i don’t think it will work out. I want to go down to Lynchburg in the spring then do camp/camp counselor in the summer, and I have to work, so maybe next time, if its closer to where I live. Really disappointed though.

          • Yeah that’s what a lot of people have said…there’ve been people who’ll commit and then bail out *not naming names or pointing fingers* but yeah. Sorry you don’t think you can make it! =/

          • I may have an idea. Both my parents want me to go. But is Brooklyn going? Anyways, I’ll try to make it on revive sometime this week. Seriously, why’d they pick Missouri of all places?? That’s why a lot of people can’t go.

          • Which one? Brooklyn Mickenzie?? She might be, I’m not sure.

            Well Missouri is kinda in a central location in the US.

          • okay, my thoughts are this: Most of us can’t drive, aren’t allowed to drive that far, or can’t (i envy those who can). So that means our families will go with us. So what are they going to do while we’re hanging out? Listen to country music? It would almost be better to choose a place that is a hot vacation spot, so that this could easily turn into a family vacation. What about somewhere like Patrick Henry or Liberty hosting this, Florida, Ohio (just kidding :P)? Make sense?

          • Interesting….do you want to pass the idea along to Caleb/Ana (who’s in charge of the venue) or do you want me to?

          • I didn’t know everyone didn’t know it was in Missouri! Isn’t that what they decided?? Idk, I haven’t been on any of the Skype calls.

          • Yup! Me, my parents, and 4 little bros! We are missionaries In the traditional sense of the word, however, the way I see it, we are ALL missionaries on our own mission field wherever God has placed us whether it’s our hometown our across the world in Zambia! =)

          • Hey! It’s kinda like a Facebook for prayer requests, tough questions, and everything else for Christian teens. It was founded by @programguy:disqus and another Rebelutionary. If you’re interested, here’s the link: =)

  • Hi!! Well… I’m reading books of Paul Washer, John piper… I recommend this books to everyone because they are so critical about the reality that the Christian are living! In Portuguese, a book called “pense biblicamente” (the author is John Fullerton MacArthur) appears to be so good for this question. I don’t know how is the name in English (I’m Brazilian.. haha). I want to read it!
    I think that the best way to be critical about what we are reading is thinking if the text will add in something. If the answer is yes, read it… if the answer is no, stop!
    An other way is thinking what Jesus would think… ask for wisdom to God and you will be critically about what you are reading

    • John MacArthur Jr. is an EXCELLENT preacher. My family has listened to a lot of his sermons and always found that they are Biblical, logical and applicable. I highly recommend anything he has written. I hope you enjoy his book!

  • I actually disagree with several people below that you should never read a book that doesn’t align with the Bible. Reading books you know you’ll disagree with can improve your critical thinking, and help you understand other viewpoints, thus helping you reach, understand and pray for non-Christians.

    To analyze a book, pinpoint what the message the book is trying to get across/the worldview it portrays as right. With non fiction this is a lot easier, but equally important for fiction. Then determine what the Bible says about this. Finally look at it’s arguments or worldview logically. Does it make sense from a logic perspective? Are there loopholes fallacies or manipulation tactics? What other arguments for it can you think of? What against?

    Writing down my thoughts as a review of the book also sometimes helps me.

  • Hmm, interesting question…
    Here’s my personal two cents.
    I would suggest anytime you read a book to pay attention to what it says, obviously or implied, about human nature, the purpose of man, and the nature of God. Ultimately, every book is about these ideas, whether the author knew it or not. I believe a good book is one that explains these ideas well, although whether their reasoning on each is correct or not is another issue.
    To make sure that you aren’t just absorbing a book because it is “good” (or entertaining, or popular, or any other reason for that matter) don’t just shut off your mind as you read. Ask yourself questions. “Why are the characters doing these actions?” “Do their actions line up with Biblical standards?” (Especially the hero’s) “Is right rewarded and wrong punished in the end?” “What was the author’s point in writing this book?” If you start analyzing stories like that, you’ll start to see some actions which we accept as fine since the “good guy” did them, are often very wrong or rebellious. (Little Mermaid, anyone?)
    You can still learn good lessons from a book whose characters/worldview does not stand up to Biblical scrutiny, as it can show to you things such as (1 the fallen state of man and our need for a savior, (2 How the world tries to make saviors (great leaders, heroes, Avengers) who all fall short of Christ, and (3 How men miss the purpose of life when they eject God from the picture.
    Hope that makes as much sense on paper as it did in my head!

    • It sure looked good on my computer screen… not sure about paper though.

      Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. πŸ˜€ That was an excellent statement on analyzing the characters/actions in terms of ultimate rewarding of good and punishment of evil.

      • Oops! Yes, you’re right, the correct terminology for that would probably be screen… πŸ˜€
        I always run into that problem with things like this or online classes. “Can’t wait to see, um, talk to, um, actually type to you all later!” πŸ˜› The strange situations technology puts us in.

    • I realize the title is for the latter part of my question, but the way the elaboration is phrased could mean the former. That said, I’d read Isaac Watts’ Logic, particularly section one where he details how to improve the mind, think critically, and absorb material from literature.

  • I would say read both Christian and non-Christian books. You might be able to find symbolism in them that connects to Christianity. Also, when I read, I find that if I take the time to think about it and make those connections, I get way more out of the book.

  • Ok so I read, like a lot. And I read a ton of fiction. (I do read non-fiction as well!) And a little of topic, but I am an avid movie watcher as well! Both are different versions of telling stories. For books I look at what the book is about and sometimes review it and see how it looks. And I will start reading, if there is something I don’t like/don’t want to read about, I will just stop. And while I am reading I think about what I read. Why are the characters doing this? How can this relate to my life/the world? Why did the author choose to write this? What truth is there in this? Or other questions like that! Sometimes I don’t even need to be thinking about it and it just jumps out at me!

    A lot of times I will have lessons come out of books I read or movies I watch. (Some examples… Thor – My dad pointed out that his dad never wanted him banished, he sent him to earth to learn a lesson. And although Thor thought he was being totally punished (which he kind of was) his dad had a way for him to come back when he was ready (sending MjΓΆlnir after him.) And my dad said that is a lot like God. Even when it seems like he has abandoned us and we are going through a tough time, He is there with us and has greater plans for us. Or The Hunger Games- How Katniss was willing to do whatever to keep her sister safe was an example of unconditional love. It didn’t matter her sister didn’t know how to hunt, wanted to bring animals home to care for when they didn’t have enough food already, was small and quiet, Katniss loved her and did whatever she could to protect her. Or Avatar the Last Airbender- Near the end of the show, the prince of the fire nation is reunited with his uncle after he left him in jail. And his uncle had always been there for him. Always patient, helping, kind, and wanting to do whatever he could for this boy. And the prince really was not the kindest to him. (He did land him in jail.) So the prince ends up teaming up with the good guys and working with them so he changes. And when he reunites with his uncle he gets on his knees and is apologizing (his uncle isn’t even looking at him.) and he thinks his uncle is mad. So he gets up to leave and his uncle grabs him and hugs him. The prince is taken aback and wondering how he can love him after all he did? And the uncle said I was never angry with you only sad. Sad that you lost your way. And the friend I was watching it with had a discussion with me saying that is how God receives us. He is never angry with us. He wants to welcome us back with open arms!
    So I guess I would say if you think it is not something good to be reading, don’t and/or ask for a second or more opinion(s). And then since I dragged movies in the conversation…. I have my dad preview any movie he isn’t sure of. My parents have let me know I can watch whatever, but since I watch pretty much everything with my siblings I don’t watch anything they say is not good. (And hey they haven’t steered me wrong in 19 years. Chances are they aren’t ruining my life! ;D) And think about what you are reading! Even if you are reading a non-Christian book (or watching a non-Christian movie), God can still use them to show us things about Him!

    I hope this helps!

    • “Even if you are reading a non-Christian book or watching a non-Christian movie, God can still use them to show us things about him.”…Love that!! It makes me think of how one time my younger brother was reading a Percy Jackson book and it bothered him that it was talking about Greek gods instead of the one true God. But then he realized that he could recognize some Characteristics of our God in the gods in that book. So I agree with what many others are saying, that it’s not sinful to read non-Christian books. But we can still find details that relate to Christianity, too

      • Thanks! I am a fan of the Percy Jackson books. 1. I have connected with people who have read the same book. (No deep miraculous relationships yet,,, but hey God could do it!) 2. It made me wonder how anyone could call the Greeks “gods.” Honestly we as humans know what they do, how they act, and their constant fighting….. that it is wrong! It literally is laughable. I mean how could anyone believe is a god who acts worse than most of the human population?! And in the second series a character came out as gay. That made me uneasy and I finished the series despite it. And even though I may not have like the decision, it did show me how a person might feel. The kid was isolated, alone, and very afraid. And if someone told me they were gay, Do I as a Christian want to respond in any sort of anger or disappointment and cement those feelings in their minds? That they couldn’t have trusted me and told me this? So it did give me thoughts to ponder. And something else I thought of last night when I should have been going to sleep…. sometimes I will read something and think, Ya know. I don’t feel this is something I should read. And later I will go back and read it and feel ok about it. So at the time, it might have been something that would have hindered me and I just needed to mature. (Not that EVERYTHING is going to be that way. Just some… πŸ˜‰ And shout out to your brother for being a fellow book fan!

  • I did a worldview course called Starting Points. It definitely taught me how to examine every book and movie from a Christian worldview. I would definitely recommend it!!!

      • No, it’s a homeschool curriculum done by a company named cornerstone. I believe it’s for seventh grade on up. I did it during ninth grade and was pleasantly challenged. πŸ™‚

  • Look for whether or not the book tells the truth. Does it correctly portray human nature, etc.? I did a Christian literature course (Windows to the World by Lesha Myers) and the author said that any book which tells the truth about our world can be useful, even if it’s not a Christian book. I think her class was told to read Lord of the Flies and because it told the truth about sin (I think? I haven’t read it), students became Christians. That’s my two cents for you!

  • Know the Bible. You can’t make judgments based on something you don’t understand. And also “How To Read a Book” lays out a great method for reading well. (Note: it’s not explicitly Christian.)

  • Almost every book I have read has some sort of sacrificial story. It’s always someone dying to save another. That’s always the base of the story. Then you might be able to find little things that align with the Bible too.

  • I think what @disqus_oyvaFwmD2o:disqus said was good: “Know the Bible”! And I want to add, Know God! By knowing God and His Word, you will be able to discern and think critically about the books you read; Christian and non! =)

  • I think that the biggest thing is to read actively. So often, we read things just for entertainment value or we scan. Taking time to process what you’re reading will help you to absorb the information better. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to annotate the book in the margins. It feels weird at first to write in a book, I know, but it’s sooo helpful. I’ll usually write little notes about what I’m thinking as I read, circle words I don’t know and then define them at the end of the chapter, write connections to other literature/the world/my life, etc… Often, it’s something as simple as an “lol” at a play on words. Obviously this won’t work with library books, but if it’s a book you own, then I’d highly reccomend it.

    • Love the comment to read actively! Don’t just skim stuff! On a random note I could use that with students… πŸ˜€ Thanks!

  • I love reading, (Its basically all i ever do ever) so I’ve picked up a few things.
    1. You know how teachers say to “make connections” with things you’ve read before? Well, it works.
    2. Picture what you’re reading. Imagine the senarios going on with the characters.
    3. Read your Bible. It can be easy to get distracted from God if you don’t know what he says.
    4. Talk about it. To people you know in real life, internet friends, or write about it! I remember things best when i write them down.

    • Love your points! It does work to make connections and I just got to teach on close reading (which I need to remember to do more often!) and yeah it does work! And it is really cool discussing things with other people! I notice things more and get a different perspective! And hey glad I am not the only Christian who reads Percy Jackson! So if you ever want to discuss… πŸ˜€

        • Yes, im new. I just finished reading DHT two days ago for my father’s infamous summer challenge, and i was surprised by how good it was! When did you join the rebelution?

          • Ooh! Summer challenges! That sounds fun! I joined the Rebelution in April, so not very long ago! And yes Do Hard Things was good! I had just happened to see it suggested on a blog! I just got my own copy and need to reread it!

      • Thank you! And yes i would like to discuss Percy Jackson any day of the week! XD I still have to the the last book of the second series though… Have you read the second series (heroes of olympus)?

        • Yeah Percy Jackson is always a good thing to talk about! And yes I read the whole second series! Have you enjoyed it so far?

          • Yas! My public library doesnt carry them, so ill have to wait till schools back in to read it… *sighs* Are you CHB or Camp Jupiter? Im Camp Jupiter, Daughter of Bellona, second cohort. I carry a bow and Imperial Gold-tipped arrows. I took this online test that told if you were Greek or Roman, who your parent was, your cohort if Roman, and weapons. It was probably the most elaborate personality quiz the word has ever seen lol

          • Ooh! Where is the test? I haven’t seen one! If I get an opinon CHB!! Probably sword, and parent…. ugh. I honestly don’t think I would want any of them for a parent. I mean Poseidon would probably be good…. Ha ha! And bummer! Hope you get to read it soon! It was good!

          • A person on Instagram made it! I dont remember who it was tho…. There are much simpler ones that would just tell parent or one thing. Just type into google pjo cabin personality quiz or something like that!

  • The difference between reading, and reading critically, is the same difference between being spoon-fed, and feeding yourself. When you are spoon-fed you eat everything you are given. When you feed yourself, you get to choose which stuff you eat. The first one is easier, but the the second one is better, at least, by adults’ standards;)

    First of all, it’s important to know what you believe, and why you believe it. Have reasons, evidence, etc. to support your views.

    Second, weigh everything you read carefully, evaluate in your mind what the writer is trying to say, and consider whether or not their statements are logical, and in accordance with the infallible word of God.

    Never accept everything a writer states to be correct just because they are famous, popular, or usually right. (and vice versa, don’t accept everything a writer states to be wrong, just because they are unpopular, criticized, or usually at fault. Even the best make mistakes, and you don’t have to agree with all of their views or interpretations. You probably won’t. That doesn’t mean that you’ll have to reject that whole book, just bear in mind that whatever you read, you’ll be bound to disagree at some point. When you do, evaluate your reasons.

    It could be that you are the one who’s wrong, but you need to be pretty sure of that before you alter a view you have based on someone else’s. That is especially important when reading someone else’s interpretation of scripture.

    Some people twist, alter, or take scripture out of its original context in order to baffle believers, or misinterpret by mistake. Some people simply have a greater and deeper knowledge and understanding of them. However, if that is the case, in studying the scripture yourself, you should be able to recognize that fact.

    Follow their lines of reasoning to see if you end up in the same destination. You can try writing about the points you disagree on, or even the point that you do, and list your reasons. Books have information in them that is like food. You have to consider all of your options and try to avoid the junk, and choose the healthiest portions to digest.

    When I open a book, I try to open it with my mind already skeptical. I might think, “This looks like a good book, and it came well recommended, but I’ll wait to pass my own judgement on it first before I give my opinion.”

    Read books and watch shows/movies by people who think for themselves, and encourage the same in you.

    • That doesn’t mean that you’ll have to reject that whole book, just bear
      in mind that whatever you read, you’ll be bound to disagree at some
      point. When you do, evaluate your reasons. Loved your point here! That is something I have to keep in mind when I am reading Christian books! I don’t always disagree but when I do I just get all like This person has no idea what they are talking about! Open mind! Critical thinking! πŸ˜€

  • A good Christian book will encouraged and help you grow in your walk with the lord. I’ve haven’t been reading any books except the Bible lately. The last two book I read was do hard things and start here two very good books! I have read some very good Christian books I have also read a few non christian ones.

  • I once heard the way people spot counterfeit bills is not by studying the counterfeit, but by studying the real bills. The same can be applied to what you read. Studying the Bible is the best way to detect anything you read. The Holy Spirit should bring conviction when you read anything that is in opposition to God and His ways.

  • Great question! I don’t necessarily have a method to analyzing the literature I read, but try my best to take away at least one lesson or moral. I don’t like reading when it doesn’t bring glory or draw me closer to God. I ask myself, “how does this relate/agree with the bible or gospel?”
    Doing a group book study is also kind of cool, because you can see what other people got from a book. I hope you find this a helpful comment πŸ™‚

  • *sees the words ‘critical thinking’* *dives in* πŸ˜€
    1) Read slowly. I know, I know, it’s hard! But if you don’t do the just-keep-reading-mindlessly-and-devour-it-fast thing, it sinks in better. Maybe every chapter, pause to think it through. Or just space it out.
    2) When you come across something that makes you think, STOP!!! Whether it be a cool bit of truth, or something that doesn’t seem quite right, make yourself stop and think about it. Let it soak in, and chew over it, don’t just plough over it and keep reading.
    3) Read a book that teaches you how to critically evaluate. Even if it’s not from a Biblical standpoint, the skills you learn equip you to know how to examine a book, which you can then do with a Biblical framework. One I read, and HIGHLY recommend, is “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer Adler. Yes, it’s kinda a slow, tough read, but honestly, it is SO WORTH IT. It’s helped me immeasurably.
    4) Take notes. Especially if it’s a non-fiction book. Or highlight. Or write in the margins. It helps slow you down too, which is good. I’m reading Paradise Lost (which is fiction) atm, and when I come across something interesting, something that I’m not sure about, or something that is just so true, I make a note or underline. It’s awesome. Never be afraid to mark up a book (as long as you ask your parents first!).

  • With fiction, it’s important to not compromise your standards. I know lots of people that have standards for movies, but then read books with all sorts of filth. Yes, it’s different because it’s up to your imagination to make the picture, not the movie director, but it’s still a bad influence. When I’m reading a book, I evaluate whether or not I would watch a movie with this much violence, profanity (although I’ve rarely come across books with much), or sexual material. A huge thing in our culture right now is young adult fiction, almost all of which have some sort of romance in them. I used to read some of the most popular series (I will refrain from naming them), but after I honestly evaluated the content, realized that it was not something I should be reading. Think of the characters as people you are hanging around, because that’s the amount they influence you. Is the romantic relationship in the book pleasing to the Lord? Would you do with your “significant other” (I don’t know what else to call it πŸ™‚ ) what the characters are doing? Another thing that made me give up YA fiction is that I realized that it’s just not encouraging. It was weird – they were strangely addicting for me. I don’t know how to describe it, but they just left me with this dark, icky feeling (since they’re all about a world in despair and everyone dying, etc.).
    OK, rant done πŸ˜‰

    • Hey I am not the only one who doesn’t do a whole lot YA either! Good I am not weird! πŸ˜€ (Or at least alone and weird!) And yeah don’t compromise standards that is a really good point!

    • I think, you have a good post, but I don’t think, that the, if I wouldn’t watch it as a movie logic quite works. I mean, would you watch the whole Bible on TV?

      You have a good point, but something seems a bit fishy in the logic…

  • Examine the message and overall theme of the book, is it biblical and line up with my morals or beliefs. I think people should be careful when it comes to fiction, nowadays it’s so trashy and worthless, when reading fiction it’s important to examine what it’s actually saying and what it triggers in the person reading it.
    If you really want to dig into analyzing and using critical thinking with books, there are classes or books you could do that would be a lot of help, something you should look into if you want to really learn how to do this kind of stuff.

  • Its important to read books and learn or enjoy them. The thing that you must do is read with your filter on. You know what you believe and how you would deal with certain situations. It is bad to let your mind go places they should never end up in the first place and sometimes books push you to do that. Just make sure you are firm in your belief and do not read something that dishonors God because your mind goes to the wrong place. Mark 12:30 “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

  • C.S. Lewis’ “An Experiment in Criticism” and Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” are worthy books on the subject of reading well. Also check our Mortimer Adler’s “How to Read a Book”; it is excellent.

  • I know i have the same problem, you read a book and it is good besides that one part or a couple of curse words. Actually that is why i started writing books. what i do is i read books that people i trust suggest to me.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectationsβ€”a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More β†’