How and Why I Choose Which Books to Read and Review

Of all the books that come my way, how do I choose the ones I’ll actually read and perhaps even review?  I was asked the question at a recent Ask Me anything event and provided this answer…

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How do you choose which books to read and review? How do you decide when to give a negative review?

How do I decide what books to review? It’s really kind of random, to be honest. I mean, okay, if you misspell the word, book, I will not review it. That happened recently. Somebody asked me to review his boo. And if you misspell the word foreward at the beginning of the book, it’s a fore word, anyways, I will not review the book. So, some of them are easy, I mean, you can just see some of them are so ridiculous. But really it just comes down to what’s interesting. I do keep an eye on books that have really gone big. I don’t think we’ve had one of those for a little while, but we had for a while, The Purpose Driven Life and that was followed by this whole heaven tourism genre, which was followed by Jesus Calling and we started having these mega-sellers one after the other, but we haven’t had one of those for a while, but I do keep an eye on those, and every month or two look at the top Christian books to see if there’s anything that maybe I ought to read and… Again, the best selling books are a good way to sort of, putting your finger on the pulse of wider evangelicalism, right. What are people reading and then why are they reading it? Other than that, I look for books that are different, books that are well written. At this point, you know, once you’ve read five or six books on Christian marriage, it’s pretty tough to be impressed by the seventh. So, it’s got to really stand out in some way at this point to be better than The Meaning of Marriage or one of those very good books.

In terms of negative reviews of books, I really, I think at the beginning of my book reviews, back when I started doing it, I was a little too young and a little too unwise to be doing it and I think I made some mistakes there, I think I may have sinned against a few people there. People who are genuine believers and maybe didn’t deserve quite what I gave, so I really tried to adjust. And now hold back my negative reviews for what I think are really rotten books. Or books by people who are good people but maybe teaching something that’s, I think, a little bit seditious.

In terms of the church, if I have something really negative to say, I’ll always bounce it off one of my elders and make sure at least my tone is fine. And the nice thing is, my number’s unlisted, so if people are angry they call the church and ream out the pastors there, it happened just last week. A guy just unloaded on the senior pastor, so, you know, it works out okay. He’s also my closest friend, so I just get a good laugh out of him. And I have had some authors be very angry with me. One of them, a very well known author, a very prominent book, sent me an email. And it was very interesting because, he said, I don’t care what you say about my book. Who is Tim Challies anyways? Nobody cares about you, nobody… All of which may be fine, but it was just this odd contradiction that, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care that you negatively reviewed my book and just the scorn, and this, well, clearly you do care. And it was just very, it was revealing to me that, okay, the person behind the book, I said some things about his book, and now I think he’s really showed that, that’s right.