Book Review: Reading for the Common Good

I must confess: I am a bibliophile. I love buying and reading books. Yet, it was not until recently I broadened my perspective. In the past, my main view of reading was through the narrow lens as an individual. I had not realized the role reading could play in community. I especially had not considered how reading could shape communities in churches, in neighborhoods, and in the world. Now, I do. It is this expanded understanding that finds its place in Reading for the Common Good: How Books Helps Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish by C. Christopher Smith.

RFTCGTwo clear marks of this book are community and culture. If those in the church would see the church as a learning organization, then reading may serve the purpose of shaping community and creating a culture. With Scripture as the primary text, reading informs congregational identity (chapter 3). Understanding our call (chapter 4) and context (chapters 5-6) will assist our churches in cultivating community and reaching out to the community, our neighborhoods. This means wholesome and faithful engagement (chapter 8). All of this starts with a challenge for our churches to become reading congregations (chapter 9).

This book offers much practical wisdom, including how we read in communion and how we can play a role in cultivating reading in our neighborhoods. One critique is in line, though. The question that kept returning to my mind was, “What is the mission of the church?” While the focus of the book was on the subject of reading for the church, mission most certainly does play a crucial part. To be fair, the author did make a comment here and there regarding this topic. However, an elaboration on the mission of the church would have been beneficial, particularly  for chapter 6 in learning to deepen our roots in our neighborhoods.

C. Christopher Smith helps those in the church see how community can be shaped and cultivated by creating and forming a reading culture. Reading for the Common Good will encourage those who read to broaden their horizons and challenge the church to use this avenue to impact the church and their neighborhoods, first by the reading of Scripture, and secondly, by the reading of good books.

I received a PDF copy of this book for free from the author for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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