One of the things that is a bit overwhelming for someone in seminary (and probably any master’s program) is the number of books that accumulate. Some of these accumulate on bookshelves and boxes, while others only find their way to endless bibliographic lists stored in file cabinets and PDF documents. Looking through a lot of books has made me realize that there are a few really good books out there, some pretty good books, and a lot of books that are really not that amazing.
Recently, I’ve had a few chances to get copies of books to review (either here on this blog or on a site like Amazon). I’ve enjoyed this process because it’s given me a reason to read some books that I would not have otherwise chosen to read, and figure out where the book is coming from and what kind of reader it might be best suited for. The latest of these books was a devotional attempting to put together a series of essays on faith and culture (aptly titled A Faith and Culture Devotion, which I reviewed here on Amazon).
There have been a few times where someone has asked me for a book recommendation and I often struggle to try and come up with the ‘perfect book’ (which, in most cases, I probably haven’t come across yet or it hasn’t been written). As much as I want to say that every book is great and deserving of a glowing recommendation, it’s just not true. And I haven’t even found many consistent ways to tell whether a book is good – a certain publisher can publish a terrible book while also releasing an incredible one, and even an author can write a really powerful book while their next one is really lacking.
At some point in the future, I am hoping to figure out some kind of method of finding and recommending good books, but as of yet I don’t know if there’s any way other than to critically read a whole bunch of them and talk a lot with others who do the same. Maybe at some point I’ll put some more time into developing a “Great Books on [insert topic here]” list and see what all two of you blog readers think. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on how you find good books to read and how you choose books to recommend to people.