Friday, January 6, 2012

You Can't Judge a Book...

You probably finished the quote yourself. "By its cover."


I know that this proverb has two interpretations. To some, it means 'you can't determine that something is good based on its pretty packaging' to others 'you can't determine that something is bad based on its cover; it might just be shock value'.

I want to share my literary evaluations with you so that you in turn can apply it for yourself. It wouldn't be good if you picked up a book at the library and then couldn't read it because you can't find a review online. :) Reviewing is not complicated, and the more you practice, the more automatic it will be.

And it all starts with making a judgment based on the cover of the book. This is the gateway to the mansion so to speak, and you have to determine whether the gateway's well-kept flowers are a sign of true worth, or its ugly weeds are a warning to keep away.

In thinking over this post, I developed three basic questions, which you can add or adapt to your family's needs and convictions. These questions are very simple, and very quick. They shouldn't take half an hour to answer, only five minutes or less. You ask these questions as soon as you take a book off the library shelf.

1. What does the worldview of the book look to be?

Not all the books I read are by Christian authors, and I make adjustments accordingly. But the books I read, especially if they are just for leisure, need to be written by a person who follows a basic moral code, whether or not he acknowledges the code is from God. Lying should be wrong. Murders should be punished. Adultery should not be excused (and maybe should be left out altogether). Coveting should not be glossed over. Christians should not be an object of ridicule. (More on this concept in a later post.) God should not be mocked. If the author constantly attacks you, then it’s not worth your time, unless you are doing an in-depth refutation of it.

Let’s try judging a book by its cover.

Take a look at this cover:

Product Details

And this cover:

Product Details

Both obviously have romance involved, but if you were to pick one, which one would you take your chances with?

2. Is the story line appropriate?

Unless you stick to the most conservative Lamplighter and Vision Forum books (excellent reads, by the way) you are going to encounter some form of sin. Your decision is, which form of sin do you want to encounter? Where do you draw the line?

Rom 16:19
'Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.'

We know what evil is. We encounter new forms of evil almost every day of our lives. But we need to be oh, so careful to guard our hearts and our minds, so that we are not crippled by information that is too shameful to know or too heavy for us to carry. One of the best examples I know of this concept is in The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. One day she overheard someone use a word that she did not understand. Later, she and her father were riding together on a train, and she asked him the meaning of it. He thought for several minutes, and when they rose to leave the train, he pointed to his big suitcase full of watch parts and said, "Corrie, I want you to carry this suitcase for me." She was a young girl at the time, and in spite of all her efforts, she couldn't lift it off the floor. "It's too heavy, Papa." He said, "My child, the knowledge you asked me for is too heavy for you to carry right now. I will carry the 'suitcase' until you are old enough to handle it." I encourage you, as I have learned many times, to let our Heavenly Father and our earthly protectors carry the suitcase until we are strong enough to handle it. You who look up at lot of new books probably can relate to the small warning feeling I get sometimes with a book in my hands. I know when it's from the Holy Spirit, and I also know that whenever I have violated it, it has been cause for regret.

So let’s look at this point, using the books above.

Take a look at the synopses of the previous two books:

The Peasant Girl's Dream*:

Heather and Snow depicts the low highlands of the Grampian Mountains west of Aberdeen at its most vivid, set in the same region as Salted with Fire (The Minister’s Restoration in the Bethany House series) and tells a humble story of the enduring quality of love–between a man and his friend, between parents and children, between brother and sister, between man and woman, and between a simple-minded boy and his God. What you read here may not turn your world upside-down with startling revelations. This is a quiet story, to be savored as its influences and relationships and perspectives soak gently into your spirit.


Bella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.
Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

If you were picking a reaffirming, Christian book to entertain you in your leisure time, which would you choose?

(Hint: #1)

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3. Am I willing to put it down?

Consider the genre of the book you pick up. If it's a biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II, you're going to know beforehand that he isn't alive anymore. If you have to put the book down (not sure why, but you never know) then you know the outcome, and you probably won't care much. Likewise with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Even if you haven't read it, you probably know the ending. But how about one of those Christy Miller books where you're strung along and strung along between 'she might marry Todd' or 'she might not marry Todd'? Aren't you really going to want to reach the satisfactory ending, even if you do find a bit of questionable material? And with an Agatha Christie, are you going to be able to sleep tonight if you never know who the murderer is? Some of you might have that strength, but I know I don't. So I have to be really careful when I first pick up the book.

Prov 4:23-27

Above all else, guard your heart,

for it is the wellspring of life.

Put away perversity from your mouth;

keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead,

fix your gaze directly before you.

Make level paths for your feet

and take only ways that are firm.

Do not swerve to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.


To reword this verse, 'It is better for you to throw the book away than to be crippled in your innocence and testimony.'

If you're looking up a new book, and you think it's good but you're not sure, you can always read the last chapter first, then go back and start from the beginning. It's a legitimate option, and makes it easier to put the book down if you need to.

Reading is a delight, a special blessing, a great responsibility. Never compromise-you're worth more than that. Never violate the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the commands of the Lord Jesus-if He tells you to put the book down, then He will give you a more worthy replacement. And don't agonize over the decision. If it looks to be good, then pick it up and give it a try. You never know, you might find a few new friends.

Wishing you all success in your literary explorations...


Lady Bibliophile

Next Time...

-One more foundation article to write, and then I think I'll be ready for a book review next Friday!

*The books used in this post are meant to be obvious contrasts between a Christian and non-Christian story, simply judging the book based on its cover. I have personally read The Peasant Girl's Dream, highly recommend it as a deep and spiritually edifying story, and hope to do a review on it in future. I have never read Twilight, nor do I intend to, as it clearly defies Biblical standards. If you would like more information refuting the Twilight books, go here or here, to read articles by strong Christian young ladies who have studied out this series in-depth and found it to be lacking.


  1. Dear Sister,
    I just saw this post doesn't have a comment. I'm so ashamed of myself. :) Wonderful post!

  2. "(More on this concept in a later post.)"

    Which I am looking forward to seeing a link to?

    Btw, I suppose, like I, you prefer LotR and Narnia over Dark Materials and Harry Potter?

  3. Oh, Twilight ... I was just reflecting, according to one version of what Nephelim were, the pre-Flood world (most of it, except Noah) had a love story with fallen angels. Do you think Twilight means it is returning?


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