St. John Bosco has a bit to say about reading the “right” books. At least, he had something to say on not reading the wrong books:
Never read a book you aren’t sure about…even supposing that these books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a poisoned cup?
Doesn’t that sound noble and good and true? Except, how does one know if, in between those pretty little covers, poison lurks? Its not like the publishers put on their books:
Warning! Gold and glittery on the outside, but poison within. Navigate at your own risk!
And yet, that is exactly what we do do. We navigate – our children navigate – these books with little to no awareness on how to determine the levels of toxicity. Better to have a MSDS sheet, no? Or at least something to help navigate around the perilous.
The obvious place to look for help navigating is your most favorite and trusted review site, I know. But what if the book hasn’t been reviewed there and you are planning to do the reading yourself? What should your criteria be? And is there a firm and resolute standard to go by?
In looking for just such a guide while reviewing books , I found a little booklet at Kolbe Academy titled “Tenets for Readers and Reviewers.” The 64 pamphlet is a reprint is a collection of four articles written by Harold c. Gardiner, S.J. for America Magazine in 1943 and 1944. It was later published as a small booklet and then expanded again in the 1960s. In this venerable little manual Fr. Gardiner lays out 5 principles to keep in mind while reading (and reviewing) books. They are:
- Use Charity
- Parts do not condemn the whole
- Sin looks like…sin
- No tempting descriptions of sin
- Fictions function is not to teach
Easy enough, right? With a concise list like that, what could there possibly be left to say on the matter? Stay tuned, I’m sure I can find something.
This is post is part of a series on how to judge a book based on Harold C. Gardiner, S.J.’s “Tenets for Readers and Reviewers.” Links to other posts in the series are can be found below.