Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior, Ph. D., is Research Professor of English and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012), Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014), and On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos, 2018). She is co-editor of Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues (Zondervan 2019) and has contributed to numerous other books. She is host of the popular podcast Jane and Jesus. She has a monthly column for Religion News Service. Her writing has appeared at Christianity TodayThe AtlanticThe Washington PostFirst ThingsVoxRelevantThink Christian, The Gospel Coalition, Books and Culture and other places.

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Oscar Wilde said, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” For the most part, however, literary critics since Aristotle disagree with Wilde. In fact, until the turn of the 20th century, the practice of literary criticism was primarily dedicated to exploring how books taught us about morality. On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior returns to this long-established conversation. How do we become good humans? And how can Great Books help us achieve that? By exploring the ways critical works of literature illustrate cardinal, theological, and heavenly virtues, Prior challenges those who believe reading “after virtue” is a simplistic or naive approach. Her appeal to modern readers is twofold: Excellent books do shape the quality of our moral life, but only if we practice the virtues necessary to read well.

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