★ Publishers Weekly starred review A Best Book of 2018 in Religion, Publishers Weekly Reading great literature well has the power to cultivate virtue. Great literature increases knowledge of and desire for the good life by showing readers what virtue looks like and where vice leads. It is not just what one reads but how one reads that cultivates virtue. Reading good literature well requires one to practice numerous virtues, such as patience, diligence, and prudence. And learning to judge wisely a character in a book, in turn, forms the reader's own character. Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. In reintroducing ancient virtues that are as relevant and essential today as ever, Prior draws on the best classical and Christian thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine. Covering authors from Henry Fielding to Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen to George Saunders, and Flannery O'Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing. In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society. The book includes end-of-chapter reflection questions geared toward book club discussions, features original artwork throughout, and includes a foreword from Leland Ryken.
From the Back Cover
Read Well. Live Well. Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes us on a guided tour through works of great literature, helping us learn to love life, literature, and God through our encounters with great writing. Karen Swallow Prior has written several critically acclaimed books, but in my book, her book on books is her best yet. On Reading Well is both a love letter to literature and a handbook on virtue, wisdom, and the good life. Bound to be a classic, it is an engrossing work that will appeal to book nerds and casual readers alike. Read it now, and you'll never take books for granted again. -- Jonathan Merritt , contributor to the Atlantic and author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch On Reading Well is an exploration of the formative power of stories and an excavation of the life well lived, and we could scarcely have a better guide than Karen Swallow Prior. She is a person who loves (and has been shaped by) great books and who loves (and has been shaped by) the richness of Scripture, a scholar whose writing exudes both warmth and conviction. This story-saturated engagement with the virtues is pragmatic enough to touch the nitty-gritty of our lives and imaginative enough to inspire. -- Tish Harrison Warren , priest in the Anglican Church of North America; author of Liturgy of the Ordinary Sacred Practices in Everyday Life It sure seems like virtue is needed now more than ever. And what a treasure trove we have for encountering virtue in literature! Prior is a lovely and wise guide. Take this resplendent tour--read this book! Your life will be better for it. -- Kathryn Jean Lopez , senior fellow and director of the Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, National Review Institute; editor-at-large, National Review You might not think yourself to be the kind of person to read a book about reading books. If you are trying to love people, to work well, to find meaning in your life, this book is for you. Prior guides us through the big questions from great books with wisdom, insight, creativity, and compassion. A significant and powerful work that will refocus discussion on the meaning of reading for spiritual formation. -- Russell Moore , president, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention [A] lively treatise on building character through books. . . . With exquisite writing, [Prior] demonstrates how 'reading literature, more than informing us, forms us.'-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
From the front Cover
In a world dominated by tweets and texts, hot takes and sound bites, the call to read and to read well couldn't be more timely, especially for the people of God. I can't think of a better person than Karen Swallow Prior to relay this important word. She is full of the same wisdom and virtue that she argues great literature can cultivate in us all. -- Matt Chandler , president of Acts 29 and lead pastor of The Village Church in DFW It is not enough to read widely, Karen Swallow Prior says in her thought-provoking new collection. We must also read well-- and thankfully Karen takes her reader by the hand and patiently reveals how a close (and enjoyable!) reading of literary works ranging from Jane Austen to George Saunders can pull us toward the good life. This illuminating literary overview prompts us to examine more deeply the books we know and love, and to reexamine our own hearts and minds through the lens of great books. -- Anne Bogel , author of I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life Prior is the English professor most of us never had. Few teachers are this clear, compelling, and Christ centered! In these accessible pages the hard work of reading virtuously begins to feel both attractive and attainable. Read this book carefully--ideally over several months, with the literature close at hand, and perhaps with a friend--and you'll have the opportunity not only to mature as a careful reader but to grow in grace and virtue. -- Justin Taylor , blogger, The Gospel Coalition; editor, ESV Study Bible