Language is a beautiful gift of God to be cherished. With it comes the blessing of God’s Word in our lives, whether it is written or spoken. God has also used language to gift some with an exceptional ability to communicate and teach others in a wide array of disciplines. Maintaining that thought in mind, reading then cannot be overrated, although it is often underrated.
A well-chosen book can promotes learning, a learning that provokes growth. While a poorly-chosen book does not have to be followed with catastrophic consequences if one is a discerning reader. Yet, with such a limited amount of time and a seemingly limitless amount of books, why not spend your time trying to read the best books? Obtaining help from others who also value reading and have a wider range of experience doing it can be just the prompt that some need.
To aid in those decisions, author Douglas Wilson has provided such a book of compelling authors to read in Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf. Published in August, 2015, the book is geared towards writers as a list of authors that other writers can learn from. This does not negate its value simply as authors that are of value to read and learn from for those who are not writers as well.
Wilson’s goal is simplistic and straightforward. With the premise that books are among our friends, and like our human friends we should want to choose them wisely, Wilson desires to share his nine favorite authors. In nine chapters and 176 pages, that is exactly what he does. Each chapter is laid out the same way with a brief biographical schedule followed by a longer discussion as to the merits of the author and why he or she is worthy of one’s time. Finally, the author closes each chapter as expected, with a recommended reading list.
Certainly the goal of the book is to discuss various authors and the potential impact they can have if one chooses to invest their time in the author’s writing. Specifically, Wilson discusses how reading a particular writer can have a potential impact on a person’s own writing style. However, mixed in with this is are some insightful thoughts of Wilson’s own about the art of reading and writing. With suggestions such as imagination is needed more than worldview (location 167) and the need to be trained in the use of words (location 728), he offers some interesting perspectives for readers and writers to consider.
It goes without saying that the book is highly subjective centered heavily on Douglas Wilson’s own opinions of the nine different authors. Yet, the exact purpose of the book means that we should expect nothing less. However, we sometimes forget this and therefore it is necessary to bring readers attention to this fact, especially in light of the fact that the last author mentioned in the book is Douglas Wilson’s own son. This fact does not take away from the book, and in fact, the author gives full disclosure to the readers of this fact. Besides that, he did say his goal was to share with readers his favorite authors, and it would make sense that his own son would be one of his favorites.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty with this book is how much the author relies on C.S. Lewis’ own thoughts. In light of the relationship that C.S. Lewis had with some of these men, we can expect any biographer to look to Lewis for information. However, the first five chapters are so filled with Lewis’ own thoughts that the book seems to be more of a C.S. Lewis commentary rather than Wilson’s own thoughts.
Overall, the book though is a quick read. One should not expect to obtain a large biographical sketch of each author, but again this is not the purpose. Instead, the book is to be read with a point of view of learning why an author is valuable to read, especially if it is an author that a reader is unacquainted with.
Writers to Read is very specific in its intent and target audience. Therefore, it is not a book meant for everyone. If you aren’t familiar with the authors mentioned in the book, but are interested in expanding your literary friendships, it is a worthwhile resource to skim through. Personally, I am familiar with a majority of the authors mentioned by Wilson, and of those I have read I would agree with is suggestion that they are worthy of inclusion on a book of who to read, especially if one wants to improve his or her writing skills. However, it is not a book that requires full attention to every word.
Whether this book finds its way into your reading list or not, it is far more important that reading continue to be one of the pinnacle priorities in your life. If it is not, perhaps a worthwhile start is with one of the authors suggested by Wilson.*
*Note: The authors suggested by Wilson are as follows ~ G.K. Chesterton; H.L. Menecken; P.G. Wodehouse; T.S. Eliot; J.R.R. Tolkien; C.S. Lewis; R.F. Capon; M.S. Robinson; N.D. Wilson