John R. Erickson, author of the terrific Hank the Cowdog books for children, notes that writing and reading are deeply Christian: When God chose to give us the Bible, "He didn't draw pictures. God's law was written so that it could be read. [When Biblical authors] wanted to record the events they had witnessed, they wrote them down so that they could be read by future generations. The very act of reading binds us to a tradition that goes back to Mosaic law, the written Gospels, the Pauline epistles, the church councils, the King James Bible, Luther, Calvin, Aquinas and Augustine."
Erickson also observes, "When a family reads a book aloud at bedtime, parents are tutoring the children in the Judeo-Christian tradition, exercising a discipline that God chose for communicating with His people-the absolutely stunning process through which scribbles on a page acquire meaning and become something more than scribbles on a page."
He's right: "Words engage the mind and help us develop such skills as logical reasoning and the postponement of gratification." That's why each issue of WORLD has sections on books, movies, and music, but once a year we give particular honor to books. So do millions of Christians who belong to weekly Bible studies or monthly book groups. I've met English majors who are not Christians but are still enormously impressed to learn that people are getting together to talk about The Book, or books.
This special section comes in two parts. First, we devote six pages to our Book of the Year, two runners-up, and seven more books on our short list of excellent ones published from June 2011 through May 2012. We also comment briefly on other top books from four specific categories: business, economics, humor, sports, and self-published works. Then comes halftime: an interview with a young Christian writer.
The second half of our coverage includes nine pages celebrating literary anniversaries and appreciating work over many years: It's 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens, 50 years since the publication of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, and two decades since Randy Alcorn began writing fiction. We also include Alcorn's evaluation of the best Christian fiction of recent years and conclude with recommendations regarding theology for the young.