cover image On Reading Well

On Reading Well

Karen Swallow Prior. Brazos, $19.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-58743-396-2

Prior (Booked), English professor at Liberty University, enthuses about the transformative power of reading in this lively treatise on building character through books. Prior uses classic works of literature to examine 12 central virtues—including prudence, courage, faith, love, patience,and humility—and their corresponding vices. For example, when writing on the virtue of diligence, she uses John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to demonstrate how the life of a Christian is one of ongoing sanctification. Prior ruminates on characters and stories written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, Shusaku Endo, and Flannery O’Connor, among others, and does a great job of naturally weaving in a valuable education along the way. Prior provides not only insights into the narratives themselves, but also lessons on things such as the etymology of words (there is a sharp difference, for instance, between the meanings of kind and nice). The most valuable passages are those where Prior shares her personal reflections on the literary works she loves, how they relate to Christian culture, and the ways literature can influence readers toward spiritual growth and maturity. With exquisite writing, she demonstrates how “reading literature, more than informing us, forms us.” (Sept.)