Cover Story

A look in the mirror

BOOKS SPECIAL REPORT | Books-how they're written and who writes them, the ideas they fight over, and the unpleasant implications they ignore-tell a lot about a culture

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

Contrary to what some futurists predicted, books are not becoming obsolete. Just as movies did not do away with drama and television did not do away with movies, the new information technology is not doing away with books. Ironically, one Internet application that has found wide commercial appeal is selling books.

A book, as Shakespeare said of drama, is a mirror, reflecting back our virtues, vices, and "the very body of the time." The books Christians are reading-especially the most popular titles-mirror the state of American Christianity. The article on CBA bestsellers shows how Christians are engaging-or refusing to engage-their culture, while the article on Christian publishers' style sheets shows how feminist views of language have penetrated even the bastions of conservative Christianity.

A contemporary of Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, said that the purpose of literature is to both teach and delight. The new historical fiction teaches about the past in ways that many schools are failing to do, at the same time delighting the imagination. Some historical fiction, though, leaves God out of the saga, even when trying to render times that were far more religious than our own, though others capture the spiritual preoccupations of their subjects.

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The battle of ideas is fought between the covers of books. Marvin Olasky's account of how different books deal with the subject of death shows that even secularists cannot long evade the ultimate spiritual issues, however hard they try.

One of the reasons books have not become obsolete is that, no matter the media-movies, TV, websites-they all require writers. Those who find the words are the ones who carry on the debates, formulate the ideas, and engage their readers' imaginations, for better or worse. WORLD here offers brief words from a variety of interesting Christian writers.

Readers of these pages in WORLD may come away with some ideas about what to read next.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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