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Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf Paperback – August 31, 2015
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“Douglas Wilson has a legendary track record of helping reintroduce his audience to the great Christian intellectual tradition. In Writers to Read, we find Wilson at his best: curating the authors who have inspired him and who he believes will galvanize the next generation with theological conviction and imagination. Highly recommended.”
—Gregory Alan Thornbury, President, The King's College; author, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism
“If you combined G. K. Chesterton, H. L. Menken, and P. G. Wodehouse and mixed them with evangelicalism, you’d produce a writer like Douglas Wilson. Not only is Wilson one of our finest writers; he’s a superb reader and an excellent guide to the writing of luminaries such as Chesterton, Menken, and Wodehouse. Whether introducing you to authors you’ve never read or reacquainting you with old favorites, Writers to Read will help you become a better reader.”
—Joe Carter, Editor, The Gospel Coalition; contributor, NIV Lifehacks Bible
“Wilson opens the twentieth-century vault to reveal a collection of authors who lived during our memory, or our grandparents’, and are worthy companions on the shelf with Lewis and Tolkien. Refreshingly broad, Wilson connects you personally with nine authors and critiques them with the penetrating Christian perspective present in all of Wilson’s works. This is a must-read for those who, like me, appreciate a few contemporary stepping-stones between Lewis and the great books of antiquity.”
—David Goodwin, President, Association of Classical Christian Schools
“Too many books celebrate great literature without answering the one question we all ask: Why? Why are some authors great? Readers want to know just as much as writers, and Douglas Wilson takes up this question as a humble student of nine skilled prose artists. He has studied their lives and analyzed their works and here offers several of his key discoveries. Writers to Read is a valuable education. Even more, it is an entertaining frolic through literature you do not want to miss.”
—Tony Reinke, staff writer and researcher, desiringGod.org; author, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books and 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
“Doug Wilson is regarded by both friends and foes as a master wordsmith. In Writers to Read, he introduces us to those who taught him (and still teach him) his craft. This book is like a side door into a little diner down a back alley where the nouns pop, the verbs sizzle, and the fry cooks are known only by their initials. If you want an inside look at the art of word weaving, this book is for you.”
—Joe Rigney, Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview, Bethlehem College and Seminary; author, The Things of Earth and Live Like a Narnian
About the Author
Douglas Wilson (MA, University of Idaho) is a pastor, a popular speaker, and the author of numerous books. He helped to found Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, and is currently a senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College. He blogs regularly at DougWils.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
Path: Wilson explains why everyone should read these nine authors: G. K. Chesterton, H. L. Mencken, P. G. Wodehouse, T. S. Eliot, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, R. F. Capon, M. S. Robinson, N. D. Wilson.
Sources: An extensive history in reading and writing.
Agreement: I appreciated how Wilson highlighted the author and what they specifically bring to the literary banquet. This book was so much more than “this is why I like their writing”, but why it resonates with the Divine order.
Personal App: I have a lot of reading to do.
Favorite Quote: “the main argument will be that if books are among our friends, we ought to apply similar standards to them that we apply to our flesh-and-blood friends. We should want to choose them wisely and well and hope that we will be the better for their companionship” (Kindle, 73).
Other books along this theme would be:
Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Crossway, 2011.
Of the nine writers selected by Wilson, I too am an ardent admirer, of three--Chesterton, Tolkien, and Lewis. I am familiar with, but not knowledgeable about, the writings of Wodehouse and Eliot. I have read a number of N.D. Wilson's books. I know of Mencken only by name and reputation. I had never heard of Capon and M.S. Robinson. So the assortment was of some interest to me--similar to joining a social circle that ranged from close friends to acquaintances and strangers.
Wilson is a deep thinker, with a clear-sighted and wise ability to harvest truth from these authors. His piece on Chesterton stood out among all nine chapters, as he captured key aspects of Chesterton's genius (his imagination, thoughtful contrarianism, his "happy warrior" persona, his coherent understanding of life, etc) in an extremely compact manner. This essay all on its own is worthy of multiple readings. His tribute to Chesterton is also glowing and sincere, marked by one of the best forms of praise, thoughtful emulation. I do not know Wilson personally, but it strikes me that he may be more akin to Chesterton than any of these other authors, despite the gulf between Wilson's Calvinism and Chesterton's Roman Catholicism. I learned a great deal from the essays on Eliot, Mencken and Wodehouse. I had always considered Wodehouse pretty fluffy stuff, and I may never develop the taste for him that Wilson enjoys. But I now can see Wilson's point about Wodehouse's amazing talent for metaphor (in Wilson's words, a "black belt metaphor ninja"!). I liked the piece on C.S. Lewis, as Wilson pays tribute to the recent work of Michael Ward in discovering (unearthing?) the medieval cosmology that is a "hidden key" to the unifying power of the Chronicles of Narnia, as well as highlighting the importance of Lewis' sanctified imagination in his power as a thinker and a writer.
What I did not particularly like was the essay on Tolkien. Unlike his take on Chesterton, Wilson indulges in a bit of a cheap shot at Tolkien, stating that his ardent Catholicism was personal (the result of his loyalty to his mother), not rational. The essay on Tolkien is actually shot through with an element of combativeness, as the writer treats Lewis and Tolkien together for significant stretches, in a manner that distracts somewhat from honoring Tolkien. I also found it odd that Wilson jumps into film criticism in the "If You Read Nothing Else" section. The best way to have communicated his disdain for the films would have simply been to ignore them, and keep the focus on the actual written works. This passage (but not this passage alone) also illustrates a certain cuteness that Wilson indulges in from time to time in his writing, using a modern expression or shot of slang to liven things up a bit.
My final point of unease with the book is the author's inclusion of his own son among the nine great writers. He includes a "meaningless disclaimer" regarding this bit of nepotism, and one simply has to take it or leave it. I understand his regard for his son, and the context of familial loyalty and a certain Christian clannishness that marks their outlook, but I am not accustomed to publicly celebrating kinfolk that way. Nothing against N.D. Wilson either, whose works I have enjoyed (especially "Mercy Rule, the film) but I was probably just raised differently.
Overall, very worthwhile reading and recommended though. I'll conclude by noting that Wilson appears to be imitating the styles of the writers he covers, chapter by chapter, an observation I may be wrong about, but may be his own "Ars est celere artem."
Wilson's book is a joy to read through...and I wouldn't have minded if he would have added thoughts about nine more authors (all with two initials, of course!). Maybe he'll release a sequel. :)
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