Posted in encouragement, theology

I’ve heard of wine pairings, or even tea pairings, but book pairings?

By Elizabeth Prata

You know how, in the foodie world, they pair different foods or drinks together for the eater to enjoy maximum flavor? “Sauvignon blanc is the classic wine pairing for goat cheese, but you could also try a crisp dry Provençal rosé…” Or, “This Sencha Green tea would be lovely with Arugula and lightly steamed vegetables…”

I do book pairings. If a book is a difficult one, I pair it with a modern treatment. Not modernized language, though that sometimes helps, but pairing an older author and a modern author who wrote about the same subject. Or simply read books by two modern day authors writing about the same subject.

I think these would be good pairings:

Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation by Daniel M. Doriani
Work and Our Labor in the Lord (Short Studies in Biblical Theology), by James M. Hamilton Jr.

I’ve read the Hamilton book. Challies recommended the Doriani book yesterday in his 10 New and Notable Books for April blog essay, and I think that would be fun to read it and compare to the way Hamilton treated the subject.

This might also be a good pairing:

The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew M. Davis
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs

The Burroughs book was first published in 1648. Burroughs was an English Puritan preacher. His book on contentment is considered to be one of the gold standards on the topic, but the language is somewhat antiquated. Pairing the Burroughs book with the Davis tome (which I have not read) might be a good idea.

As a matter of fact, last summer I did pair a Puritan book with a more recently written book and it was very helpful to me in understanding the older one. I read –

The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin by Kris Lundgaard
Mortification of Sin in Believers by Puritan John Owen

The Lundgaard book drew heavily on the original Owen works on indwelling sin and the mortification of sin. Reading a chapter of Lundgaard’s book one day and then Owen the next helped my brain prepare for Owens’ more complex treatment of the subject in his Puritan language.

I’ve paired these and I am enjoying the double treatment of how to critically read a book-

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke is

A practical guide built on the gospel, Lit! models the skills needed to build a balanced reading diet of Scripture, theology, and devotional books, but without overlooking important how-to books, great stories, and books meant to be enjoyed for pleasure.

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

Wikipedia’s blurb explains Adler’s 1940 book. “Adler co-authored a heavily revised edition in 1972 with Charles Van Doren, which gives guidelines for critically reading good and great books of any tradition. The 1972 revision, in addition to the first edition, treats genres, inspectional and syntopical reading.”

Adler’s book goes into much depth. Reinke’s book is a bit lighter. I like to read Reinke’s book and then the next day read Adler’s.

You might wonder, why go through all this trouble to ‘pair books’?

Because doing so helps train us, specifically in three higher order thinking skills: Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.

  • Analysis refers to the ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood
  • Synthesis refers to the ability to put parts together to form a new whole
  • Evaluation is concerned with the ability to judge the value of material (statement, novel, poem, research report) for a given purpose. (Source)

We employ those skills when we read the Bible. We need to analyze the passages. We synthesize when we examine the different gospels, comparing them to each other. We synthesize when we strive to understand eschatology from different passages in the Old and New Testaments. Evaluation is an important skill in discernment- if we lack the ability to judge material for the purpose of edification of souls, then we open ourselves much that is false.

The Holy Spirit illuminates the scriptures’ meaning. But we still have to put in the hard work.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  (Hebrews 5:14).

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (1 Timothy 4:7).

colbert windows
Pair up two books and see what you think

Further Reading:

I’ve written two other essays about the ‘how to read’ issue.

One of them is here

The other one is here


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.