Book Review: The Art of X-Ray Reading

The Art of X-Ray ReadingThe Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book in a lot of ways. It’s easy for us to tell when we like some piece of writing and when we don’t, but it’s not always easy for us to tell why. Clark helps us look at a piece of writing and dissect it for examination. He calls it “X-ray reading.” Throughout the book he gives examples from mostly well-known literary works. There were a few things I could have done without and it would’ve been a five star book for me.

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Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen in The Art of WritingZen in The Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of Bradbury’s essays grouped together around the topic of writing. It was part memoir and part advice. I gleaned a couple of book recommendations and I thought the title essay was the strongest.

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Review: Education of a Wandering Man

Education of a Wandering ManEducation of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fascinating read. This is L’Amour’s autobiographical memoir of his life. He focuses on his wandering travels and the books he read all along the way. I have never read anything by L’Amour, nor did I know much about him. If you’re a reader or a writer, you will enjoy and learn from this book. You will probably like it also if you are a fan of L’Amour’s novels.

By many ways of measuring, he had a full life. He would argue that his life was richer still for the books he read and the people he met that told of him people, places, and events he could never know otherwise. Some books he names only. Some books he comments on. He also scattered nuggets about living life, reading, writing, and learning throughout the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and picked up some good recommendations.

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Review: On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing NonfictionOn Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everybody recommends some books because everybody recommends them. Being heard or read recommending them lends cachet in certain circles. Recommendations for those books are easy to find, but finding someone who actually read the book and can tell you what is good or useful about it is not easy. Zinsser’s book is not one of those books. Everybody recommends this book because it is excellent and worth reading.

This isn’t a technical grammar manual, but a book on writing clearly. Zinsser uses numerous examples to illustrate his points. If you read nothing else, read the chapter on clutter.

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First of all, argument here does not refer to the equivalent of a verbal fistfight. Rather, argument refers to reasoning and rhetoric. It is generally persuasive in style, or at least should be, and should reasonably follow standards of logic or critical thinking. Argument is defining, expounding, and defending a proposition or premise. It may also be the reverse if it is aimed at deconstructing an erroneous conclusion.

Therefore, argument is of extreme importance to preachers. It is the preacher’s vocation to be defining, expounding, and defending the propositions of Holy Scripture. For that matter, every Christian is to conscientiously defend and contend for the faith and should be concerned about good argument evaluation and construction.

In this vein, I recommend A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston. This is a rulebook as the title suggests, but it is concise and readable. The book should be read through one time and then referred to often when analyzing or building arguments. Its brevity is one aspect of its value. You can refer to a section and quickly refresh your memory about some concept. The author does also give some sources for larger works if the reader is interested.

This book is geared toward argumentative writing but it is not really a rulebook for writing specifically. For this I would recommend Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Elements is likewise concise and readable. Both books are valuable resource to have for preachers even if you do not plan on publishing any of your own materials. A judicious use of both books will aid the preacher in the preparation of sermons.

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