Books: Treasure or Trouble?

10 February 2011

I know what you're thinking--did Elizabeth actually call books trouble? Is something wrong?

No, nothing is wrong. Please keep reading.

I can often be heard saying something along the lines of "I love books." Is there anything wrong with that? I don't think so, as long as my reading material is in line with the Bible. I find great enjoyment as I delve into different stories, discovering new, imaginary worlds.

However, there's a problem: there aren't any good books anymore.

Authors seem to have lost the sense of what makes a good book! I mean, good vampires? What has happened to good literature?

The typical top-selling young adult novel that you'll find in Barnes & Noble today normally has something to do with the supernatural... and the author tries to make it sound good. Godly, even. I don't like books about witchcraft, spells, etc., so I don't choose to look at them. Wrong is wrong. I find these types of books easy to ignore when the author is not a Believer. But when the author IS a Believer? Then it makes me sad. 

What's happened to Anne Shirley? Lizzy Bennet? Jo March? Where are the virtuous characters and plotlines we used to see in the bookstores? 

Now, I'm not saying the characters were perfect. They were human. Anne certainly made her share of mistakes. But they realized when they made mistakes, and they tried to change that! They realized that they were sinners and needed to seek the LORD's forgiveness. Sometimes it seems like the characters nowadays don't even realize when they do something wrong.

And as the characters decline, the plots do as well! Have you noticed a sort of "blueprint" for all new books that are coming out? They normally include an extremely average girl and some supernatural boy who's "perfect." She thinks he's perfect, abandones all her friends and family for him, daydreams about him, and makes him out to be a "god." 

Hmm, does that sound right? 

Well, let's look at the First Commandment:
"You shall have no other gods before Me."
There it is, in black and white. Clearly, books who idolize certain teen characters are disobeying the First Commandment. 

Why, then, do so many Christians approve of these books?

I honestly am at a loss to answer this question. It seems as if Christians go around with blindfolds on. Books are no longer "slightly bad." They are becoming blatantly evil, and we can't seem to realize that! Have we gone so far as to not recognize evil as evil? 

The thing that makes these books bad is the way they stick in your mind. They poison your thoughts. As I said in my "About the Authoress" page, books affect you after a time. What you read will eventually change you and make you who you are. That's why it's so important to put good things in your mind!
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." ~Phillipians 4:8
Alright, I've discussed what to avoid in bookstores. Now let us take a look at a list of guidelines for GOOD books. Keep in mind that this is my list, and your list may be slightly different. As long as you are not reading anything that goes against the Bible, or encourages ungodly behavior, it is all right to have a few changes. 

My Guidelines For All Books I Read:

- The characters don't have to be Christians (some books take the "Christian" theme a little far, and make the Gospel sound trite), although I'd prefer if they were, but they DO have to have a good moral standpoint. 
- It must have a good purpose. I don't want to spend my time reading something mindless.
- It must be approved by both my parents, and one I would not be embarrased to discuss with them.
- It must glorify the LORD. 

And finally... 

- It must have likeable characters, ones to whom I can relate. (This one is not necesarily as "needed" as the other requirements, but it helps to make the book more enjoyable for me).

What are some of the things you require in a good book?

12 epistles:

  1. I find that this world is needing a literary slap on the face. I have read the so called *Bad Books* and I agree with you. The influence of books is second to God for me. If I did not have the eye for good literature I would surely have been lost! I praise the Lord that I havent lost my nerve for reading (seeing as I have read some very bad books that I thouroughly regret) because I am getting very good at winkling the good books from the shelf.

    I think this is also going to be the subject of my next Debate (iRant) unless the votes go to something else. But anyways, I loved your post!

  2. I agree, books now-a-days just aren't the same, and many are really going against what the Bible says :(

    But although there is a lot of bad ones, I think that good books are still being written. I've read a few new books recently that I really liked.

    I think your list of guidelines is really great, and really helpful.


  3. Talking about good books is a difficult thing. I especially realize that, when I recommend books to friends. There are books I would totally recommend to one friend, but never recommend to the other one. It's not because the book is bad, it's just that not every book is for everyone.
    But, there are of course books that are really bad.
    Like the new vampire ones. I know that they are everywhere, but I can only say what many people who are into literature say (btw I study Comparative Literature at university): If you want a good book, avoid the top-selling books.
    There has always been bad literature out there. And also vampire stories. The whole vampire thing is really old, they just turned it into something that's completely wrong. For example in my opinion "Dracula" by Bram Stoker is an amazing and well written book.

    And I do understand that you're sad, that there aren't characters like Elizabeth Bennet anymore, but that's easy to explain. Compare the 21th century with the 18th century. It's completely different. The majority of people live a life that has nothing to do with the 18th century.
    Also the authors have changed. There is not so much vampire literature out there because all the authors suddenly feel like vampires are the best thing ever, it's because there were authors like Stephenie Meyer who had success with it and now the small authors feel like they can make a lot of money the same way. It's much more about money (which is a sad thing).

    Personally I read almost everything and it's not a secret that I read the Twilight Saga and many other bad books. Bad books do not influence me that much. Good books do, sometimes. But not bad ones. Bad books are often as well bad written (I have no idea why bestselling authors often have a terrible writing style) and a good writing style is really important for me.
    In case you're wondering why I read bad literature, I do not like to judge books I haven't read and I also love it to figure out why some people enjoy bad literature (maybe that's a reason why I study Literature ;) )

    I really like your guidelines (even though the do not work for me) and I'm glad you care about it.
    There are good books out there, we just have to find them in this big mess of books.

    Sorry, this comment is really, really long. It's just a topic I love to talk about (I could talk a lot more about it ;) )

  4. Good post!! This is the reason why I almost always stick to classic lit (though not all are good even then) and also part of the reason why I'm planning to become a published author.

  5. I remember I went through a phase of reading bad books. A phase when I was also looking for the wrong things, and reading for the wrong reasons.

    I did read the Twilight books..and I was obsessed at the time. And now, I regret it very much. I honestly believe those books did draw me away from God. And I also see they really aren't well written at all.

    I notice so often there are bad books...and I hate vampire books. Some paranormal things are OK. But it's not my personal taste.

    But, I am different in that I love the Harry Potter books. They have witch-craft in them, which obviously is against the Bible, but I like them for more than that. They're just well-written, and the characters are fantastic - and they do have good morals. And the overall plot is about good vs evil. Yes, I think the magic is cool sometimes...and yes, some of the magic really is "dark magic" like the occult and whatnot. But other times is just plain fun.

    My faith is strongly implemented enough that I don't go off wanting to practice magic after reading the books...I just love them.

    But at the same time, I tend to stick to historical fiction and classic books. Just because they tend to be better (usually). I've read a couple bad books...usually because I don't know what they contain and find out too late. But I also know how to pick good books out as well, and have found the hard way that books that have bad ideas can influence me in the wrong way. So, I know what my own weaknesses are.

    And I'm lucky to have parents who do care about what I read, and if they know what a book is about, or have heard of them, they usually let me know, but at the same time give me freedom because they know I can make my own right choices.

    Great topic! And I agree with this issue too -- books can influence people! And I've come up from the "bad side" and can say God has saved me.

    ~Liz B

  6. Amen to the Twilight books. Yuck! And I love how you laid out the guidelines for choosing the books you read. I, like you, have standards and morals that I like to stick to when looking/picking out a book for me to read, especially when it's a new author. This is a major deal for me because I do not want to put in front of me something that is unfit for anyone.

    Loved the post!


  7. Elisabeth,

    These types of posts are great! It is wonderful to see another young lady who is willing to take a stand on so many subjects and compares her standards with God's! =)

    (Quoting from your post) "The typical top-selling young adult novel that you'll find in Barnes & Noble today normally has something to do with the supernatural... and the author tries to make it sound good. Godly, even. I don't like books about witchcraft, spells, etc., so I don't choose to look at them. Wrong is wrong. I find these types of books easy to ignore when the author is not a Believer. But when the author IS a Believer? Then it makes me sad."

    So, I have a question. How do you reconcile this with Chronicles of Narnia? ChofN has witchcraft and spells, some of which are viewed as good (such as in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and the author was (supposedly) Christian. Your description is almost exactly like that series. Lewis was making it as an allegory-type story, which of course means that it's supposed to be godly or good, and yet it contains things that are blatantly against what the Bible says. (consider Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 20:27; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-12)


  8. @Carrie -- C.S. Lewis was a Christian--there's no doubt about that. The Chronicles of Narnia contain witchcraft, yes, but it is only performed by those who are evil. Aslan only approves of some of the magic, and it is always good. I think that was C.S. Lewis' way of showing that God has the power to control the heavens and the earth. Surely Aslan cannot live up to God's standards, but then again, who can? I think it's a good allegory. I've discussed the books with my parents many a time, and they agree with me. God does not stand for those who practice witchcraft and cast spells. The White Witch practics withcraft, but she is shown to be evil and is eventually defeated.

    I'd like to ask you a question: have you ever read the books? I was just wondering, since you seemed so adament about them being evil.

    Love in Him,
    Elizabeth Rose

  9. Elizabeth Rose,

    Thank you for replying! =) I have read all the books in the series except The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle.

    Part of the problem is just that- Aslan, who is an allegorical representation of God (or however you want to phrase it), approves of certain magic and spells, when God disapproves of all magic and spells. It is a matter of misrepresentation. People will get the idea that God is okay with that stuff, when He is not. What if I wrote an allegory, with a character who is supposed to be like you, and I had 'your character' approving of homosexuality or adultery? Would you approve? And yet, we expect God to sit back and allow us to misrepresent Him in our writings?

    Aslan, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has Lucy do a spell, or at least he approves of it, and this is the exact sort of misrepresentation that I'm talking about.

    Thank you for being willing to discuss this with me.


  10. @Carrie -- I think you are misunderstanding Aslan's "approval" of magic. In "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," the MAGICIAN casts a spell on the Dufflepuds first, a spell that makes them invisible. Aslan has Lucy perform a spell that makes the Dufflepuds visible again--all he is doing is making right what was wrong.

    Also, Lucy performs a spell that allows her to overhear what a few friends of her's are saying about her... and it doesn't turn out well. Aslan reprimands her for using magic to listen in on a conversation that she never should have heard in the first place, no matter how wrong the little girls were to talk about Lucy behind her back, for now the friendship is ruined.

    You see, Aslan is not in favor of witchcraft, or casting spells, or any of that. He only uses a spell to set right what a magician had set wrong. I don't see it the same as writing a character who was meant to represent me, and then having "my character" approve of homosexuality or adultery. That's completely different.

    I hope you understand that I don't mean to put you down. I've discussed The Chronicles of Narnia with my parents many a time, and as I said, they are in full agreement with me. They are my parents, after all: our beliefs are the same.

    Love in Him,
    Elizabeth Rose

  11. I think the same thoughts so often. I hardly if ever read recently published books, except nonfiction. I am a book worm though currently devouring Mainsfield Park and Middlemarch.

    It must be a case of the frog in the pot, the water is slowly heated until it's too late to escape. Like the world of literature today, all degrading lower and lower. And they think we are advancing, evolving. No we are devolving!

  12. Elizabeth,

    Thank you for replying, and for being willing to see what my view point is, even if we still disagree. I just want to leave you with this.

    God, unlike Aslan, will never ask anyone to perform a spell in order to right a wrong. He has clearly stated that He does not tolerate any sort of magic. This means even if one thinks it is good, or if it is being used for good. There is no good magic, and using magic for good is not allowed by God.

    Deut. 8:10 "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft,"

    Exodus 22:18 "You shall not allow a sorceress to live."

    Revelation 21:8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

    God is not going to ask us to do something for which we will be killed, something which He clearly abhors. In every instance in the Bible in which sorcery is performed, God disapproves. As Aslan is an allegorical representation of God, I should expect him to live up to God's standards. He may not approve of all magic, but approving of only a select bit of magic, even the 'good magic' is still not lining up with the Bible.

    At any rate, please understand that I'm not trying to put you down either. I know we are both seeking to follow God, and that is what counts.



"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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