rebelling against low expectations

5 Questions to Ask Before You Pick Up a Book


You walk into the local library, and take a deep breath of that musty and adventurous scent of books you love so much. You begin thumbing through a selection of Christian Fiction, and a title catches your eye. You slip it out and glance over the back cover. Mystery, intrigue, adventure. It looks exciting, so you tuck it under your arm and weave back through the shelves with your prize.

Then, you hesitate. You’ve heard of this author before. Her work is known to be a bit more mature than what you’re used to. You flip quickly through the pages and notice a couple of sentences that don’t feel right. But it is Christian. It should be fine…right?

Maybe it goes just a little too deep, or gets just a little too dark. Either way, you have a choice to make, and it won’t be an easy one.

What makes a good book? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. Even the Christian genre is not exempt from its share of poor selections. This isn’t a question that can be answered without exploring the book a little further. However, to help you avoid reading choices that you might one day regret, let’s look at five questions to ask the next time you pick up a book

1. What kind of moral character does the book glorify?

Are there consequences for wrong-doing and reward for those who do right? Are good and evil clearly defined, or are the boundaries just a little too blurry?

My mom likes to say, “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” When you spend time with a friend, they’ll influence you for better or worse. Books can be the same way; especially if they’re written by an author you respect, or contain characters you identify with easily. Watch carefully for what moral themes and beliefs a book will place before you. Will they cause you to learn and grow, or will they become a stumbling block and a distraction from the truth?

Books have changed the world: they can change you.

Books have changed the world: they can change you. Share on X

2. Does this book do anything more than amuse?

Most of the time, we’ll pick up a book just to be carried away on an adventure we can’t have in real life. There’s nothing wrong with reading for the thrill of an adventure (what would a good book be without one?), but is it doing anything more than amusing you?

Breaking down the word amuse, a means “not” and muse means “to think.” If a book does nothing more than tell a fluffy, feel-good fairy-tale, you’re actually cheating yourself. When you read any book, you want to walk away having enjoyed the story and having learned something from it. A truly good fiction book will do more than amuse, it will make you think. Life is too short to waste on empty books.

Life is too short to waste on empty books. Share on X

3. What feelings will this book evoke?

When an author writes a book, they intend for you to become a part of it. They want you to identify with what the character is feeling, to experience his dilemmas, and to embrace the theme and moral lesson portrayed. It’s not rocket science, its good writing.

A book can and will create emotions and desires in you. The question is, are they the right ones? Are you encouraged because the heroine was able to overcome her selfishness? Or are you discontent because you might never win the attention of a great guy like she did? Don’t let yourself be drawn into the tide of emotions and desires if they are going to tear you down, rather than build you up.

4. Would you read it with your mom looking over your shoulder?

Think about it. Would you make a snide remark to your sibling, spread hurtful gossip, or steal something while your mom is in the room? I bet your answer is no.

Of course, we should have the integrity as Christians to do the right thing when our parents aren’t around, but it helps to ask this question when we pick up a book. Your parent’s beliefs and guidance will have a huge effect on your perception of right and wrong. It doesn’t take much to tell when a sentence, scene, or story would make your mom unhappy or disturbed. If you wouldn’t read it with your mom, don’t read it at all.

5. Would Jesus be glad to see you reading this book?

Picture him next to you on the couch flipping through your new book. Would you be proud to show him what you’re reading? Would it make him smile to see you spending time on it, or would he cry because he sees you wasting time on an empty thriller that’s placing doubts and discontentment in your heart?

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

All these things are a picture of Christ. As Christians, we’re to put things that glorify him into our minds and hearts.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

I read a little acronym once that was used in reference to computer programs, and which I believe applies just as well to what we read. G.I.G.O, or, Garbage In, Garbage Out. What we put in is bound to come out, whether it’s in the words we say, our actions towards others, or even our foundation of character.

Books are important. They emphasis beliefs, expose misconceptions, and carry a message that will influence all who read them for better or worse. Jesus was a master storyteller. He knew that people would understand his message when told through a story in which they could relate to, and that they would remember those lessons forever.

The next time you pick up a book, ask yourself these five questions. If they don’t match up, then trust me, you won’t lose anything by putting it back.

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About the author

Anita Seavey

is a teenage farm girl and the oldest of ten children. She fell in love with words the moment she learned how to read them and her passion for stories has grown ever since. When not imagining or writing her next historical novel, she can be found reading a good book, drinking coffee, riding her horses, making music, or working and playing with her family in rural North Dakota.

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rebelling against low expectations

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