Book Reviews, Raising Readers, Read-alongs, Reading Guides, Reflections, Resources, Series Posts, Teen/Adult
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Lemonade and Lit Read Along, Week 1: Booked by Karen Swallow Prior

Other Lemonade and Lit posts:  Introduction, Week One: Booked, Week Two: Booked Discussion, Week Three: Beauty, Week Four: Sexuality in Booked, Week Five: Beauty Discussion, Week Six: The Last Thing I Remember,  Week Seven: Klavan Discussion.

Lemonade and Lit:

An Adult-Teen Read Along, Week 1

Happy Saturday, guys!  I’m sitting here at a coffee shop, sans kiddos, with my beloved laptop in front of me, ready to kick off our summer Adult-Teen Read Along!  If you missed last week’s announcement about when we’ll be reading what, here’s a link to our introductory post.

The short of it is that Gina Dalfonzo of Breakpoint Youth Reads, our new interns Joseph and Abby, and I are reading three adult/teen books over the next eight weeks…and we’d love for you to read along with us!  We chose these books because of their gripping stories, perfect for summer beach reads (or in my case, summer coffee shop reads).  And because we thought they would be fun to talk about.  Frankly, too often adults and teens get ferried to different sections of the church, and we thought it would be fun to get moms, dads, daughters, and sons together over these books and a sweet cup of lemonade!

The Lemonade by Emily Whitten

lemonadeTo help stir some sparkling summer discussions, we thought we’d include a new recipe for lemonade each week.  This week?  The classic Arnold Palmer, with a Southern Living twist.  In order to avoid any copyright infringment, I’m listing the ingredients here, and you can click on over to the Southern Living website for details on how to prepare it.


  • 3 cups water
  • 2 family-size tea bags
  • 1 (1-oz.) package fresh mint leaves (about 1 cup loosely packed)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 (6-oz.) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • Garnish: fresh citrus slices

The Lit by Gina Dalfonzo

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior.  T.S. Poetry Press.  October, 2011.  220 pgs. 

Booked by Karen Swallow Prior is simultaneously a deeply Christian book and a book that will take many Christians by surprise.  Prior, an English professor at Liberty University, argues for using our Christian freedom to read all kinds of books, rather than trying to shield ourselves from those that might not line up with our own views.

bookedAnd she turns to–of all people–a Puritan writer to help her make her case.  Prior quotes from John Milton’s Aerorpagitica (1644), which argues that books should be “promiscuously read” so that readers can discover the truth.  Milton goes on to say, “Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”   The advice of Milton and others like him, Prior tells us, reflects Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians,  to  “test all things and hold fast to what is good.”

Booked tells the story of how Prior’s own “promiscuous” reading guided and shaped her, ultimately leading her closer to God.  As weaknesses in her fellow Christians, and in herself, tempted her to abandon Christianity altogether, her beloved books kept calling her back to the path of faith and virtue.  Among the books that impacted her life were Charlotte’s Web, Gulliver’s Travels, and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Donne.

(CAUTION: In keeping with some of the subject matter, the book contains occasional profanity and mild discussions of sexuality.)

As you read Booked, think about the role books have played in the author’s life as well as your own.  Which books have done the most to shape your thinking, and why?  Have you ever had the kind of experience Prior describes, where a wide variety of reading has led you out of error and into truth?

Next week, we’ll feature a Q & A with Karen Swallow Prior, in which you’ll learn more about some of her ideas of faith and reading, and how the two feed into each other.

The Discussion by Emily Whitten

1.  How Christians should relate to non-Christian media–books, movies, music, etc–is one of the most contentious subjects among Christians today.  Do you agree with Dr. Prior’s reasoning about the kinds of books teenage and adult Christians should read?  Why or why not?  How can Christians disagree on this topic without being legalistic or unkind?

2.  What books have been influential in your moral and spiritual journey?  (You can read about some of mine in my Behind the Bookcase series!)

3.  How many of the books covered in Booked have you read?  Did you agree or disagree with her assessment of them?

4.  One of the most useful skills we can have as Christians is the ability to read critically.  To be able to chew the meat and spit out the bones, as author Tessa Afshar once told me.  Is that a skill you have developed?  How can teens and adults develop the ability to read critically without slipping into skepticism?

Next week, Gina will join our interns and me in a podcast discussion of some of these questions, along with some of the points readers raised in our introductory post.  Until then, please feel free to tell us what you think about Booked and leave your answers to our questions in the comments below.   We’d love to hear what you think!


P.S.  We promised to give away 15 new books to one of the commenters of the read along, and we’ve decided to keep the contest going until the end of the read along.  That means every comment on ANY Adult-Teen Read Along post counts as another entry in the giveaway.  So keep those ideas coming!

More About Your Guides:

Gina Dalfonzo is editor of and Dickensblog. Her work has appeared in “The Atlantic,” “National Review,” “The Weekly Standard,” “Christianity Today,” and “Guideposts,” among others.  You can read her review of Booked at Breakpoint Youth Reads.

Emily Whitten is the co-founder and co-proprietor of, as well as a movie and book critic for World Magazine.  You can read more about her writing adventures on RR’s About page.


 *Stock photo of lemonade is by ilco at stock.xchng.

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  1. Mary Miller says

    Thank you for suggesting this book! I am excited to read it.

  2. Marijo Taverne says

    My answers to the questions:

    1. While I agree in general with the idea of promiscuous reading, I can’t quite bring myself to allow my children to read just anything. There are some books which I won’t allow them to read, and others which I allow but discourage them from reading. When Harry Potter first came out, I read a lot of reviews. The reviews defending the books made me dislike the series, and the reviews attacking the series made me think well of it. I realized I had to read the books myself, which I did, and decided they were harmless. I think we can be kind to one another by acknowledging that in areas of liberty each person is free to decide for himself. I do not have to abide by someone else’s extrabiblical standards, nor am I free to require anyone (other than my children) to abide by my extrabiblical standards.

    2. The Lord of the Rings was very influential in my Christian journey. The ring’s power over its wearers seemed like such a clear picture of sin’s power over me. In the end, Frodo needed Gollum to take the ring. I cannot finally free myself from the power of sin.

    3. I have read many of the books she discussed in Booked. I have not read the ones she describes as being controversial. I love Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry, and Charlotte’s Web.

    4. I think I have at least begun to learn to chew the meat and spit out the bones, but I also think that it’s been a long process for me. I know I have a greater freedom in my reading than many of my friends, because I think I have learned more of chewing the meat and spitting out the bones, but I don’t think I’m willing to read some of the controversial books mentioned in Booked, because I expect I’d choke on them. I think promiscuous reading, meaty discussions about books and ideas, reading about books, and heeding the advice of those wiser than you in life, in the Christian journey, and in literature should help one develop discernment.

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