Dec. 26 – Karen Swallow Prior – On Reading Well [Advent Calendar]

The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2018
Advent / Christmas Calendar
December 26


On Reading Well:
Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Karen Swallow Prior

Hardback: Brazos, 2018
Buy Now: [  Amazon ]  [ Kindle ] [ Audible
The book is worth buying for its introduction, “Read Well, Live Well,” and for the elegant ink illustrations by Ned Bustard that grace its pages. In the intro, Prior argues that reading is a practice by which we are formed into virtue. I wish that I could put a copy of this intro into the hands of all readers as a reminder that reading is a holy and life-giving act. “To read well,” Prior writes, “is not to scour books for lessons on what to think. Rather, to read well is to be formed in how to think” (18). Following this intro are twelve chapters that each focus on a particular piece of fiction, and how each work forms us into a specific virtue. The twelve virtues that Prior explores are the cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, justice, and courage), the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), and the heavenly virtues (chastity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility). For the chapters on works that are fresh in my memory, Prior did a superb job of illuminating how they gently and artfully form us into the correlated virtues. For the virtue of faith, for instance, Prior chose Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. She finds that in reading Fr. Rodrigues’s struggles with faith and betrayal, we are challenged to examine the nature and depth of our own faith.

  • from ERB Editor Chris Smith’s review essay
    in our Advent 2018 magazine issue
    (SUBSCRIBE NOW to the magazine)


READ an interview with the author from
Christianity Today…



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