Monday, February 4, 2013

A Must Read for People Who Love Books: Reading Between the Lines by Gene Veith, jr.

Reading and the ability to read with discernment are probably the most important things an educated person and a Christian can do. Reading allows us to enter other worlds and learn about cultures and historical times we have no chance of visiting. However, reading should be done with selectivity and understanding.

Veith presents a comprehensive view of the forms and history of literature, in a small easily readable book. He discusses nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, explaining what constitutes good or great literature in each category. From there he goes to discussion of tragedy, comedy, realism, and fantasy. I found the discussion fascinating. I'd read the Greek tragedies, but I hadn't put together the way the Greek rules for tragedy and comedy were melded into the tragedy and comedy we are familiar with today through the intermediary of the Christian mystery plays.

The final section for me was worth reading the book. Here Veith discusses literature through the ages from the Middle Ages through the enlightenment and romanticism to modernism and postmodernism. These sections put literature into the context of history and show how the forms have evolved. I hadn't really understood modernism and post modernism before in the contest of their evolution, but now I feel comfortable with the terms.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read. Although Veith clearly shows the relationship between the Bible and literature, this book is not strictly for Christians. The history of literature is tied in with the Bible and the significant role religion played in history. It's important to understand this connection in order to appreciate the various forms of great literature from the Greeks to the present.

I reviewed this book for Crossway Publishing.