Reading for the Love of God

How to Read as a Spiritual Practice

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"A timely and accessible primer."--Christian Century

What if we viewed reading as not just a personal hobby or a pleasurable indulgence but a spiritual practice that deepens our faith?

In Reading for the Love of God, award-winning author Jessica Hooten Wilson does just that--and then shows readers how to reap the spiritual benefits of reading. She argues that the simple act of reading can help us learn to pray well, love our neighbor, be contemplative, practice humility, and disentangle ourselves from contemporary idols.

Accessible and engaging, this guide outlines several ways Christian thinkers--including Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Frederick Douglass, and Dorothy L. Sayers--approached the act of reading. It also includes useful special features such as suggested reading lists, guided practices to approaching texts, and tips for meditating on specific texts or Bible passages. By learning to read for the love of God, readers will discover not only a renewed love of reading but also a new, vital spiritual practice to deepen their walk with God.

1. What Kind of Reader Are You?
2. Why Read Anything but the Bible?
Bookmark 1: Reading like Augustine of Hippo
3. What's the Difference between "Use" and "Enjoy"?
4. Do Good Books Make You a Good Person?
Bookmark 2: Reading like Julian of Norwich
5. What Does the Trinity Have to Do with the ART of Reading?
Bookmark 3: Reading like Frederick Douglass
6. Why Do We Need Four Senses to Read?
7. How Can You Remember What You Read?
Bookmark 4: Reading like Dorothy L. Sayers
Appendix A: Twofold Reading of Flannery O'Connor's "The River"
Appendix B: Frequently Asked Questions
Appendix C: Reading Lists of Great Books


"In her deft and beautiful way, Jessica Hooten Wilson crafts a theology of reading for Christians who have forgotten why it matters. She challenges us to take up and read--not only because it teaches about the faith of our past but because it makes our faith stronger for the present too. Get this book to learn, to grow, and to be inspired."

Beth Allison Barr, James Vardaman Professor of History, Baylor University; bestselling author of The Making of Biblical Womanhood

"In Reading for the Love of God, Jessica Hooten Wilson makes the case for reading as a means of transformation into Christlikeness. Her own meditations on the theology, spirituality, and ethics of reading are punctuated with studies of great Christian readers, male and female, down through the ages, which adds a rich layer of historical insight to her own brilliant reflections. We live in an age of shallowness, and reading is perhaps its greatest casualty. But Hooten Wilson issues a clarion call to rediscover depth. This book is profound and practical at once. As St. Augustine would say, tolle lege (take and read)!"

Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night

"To read Jessica Hooten Wilson's Reading for the Love of God is to enter into a sacred apprenticeship with the faithful believers and minds of the church that have gone before us, learning at their feet with Hooten Wilson as our wise and faithful guide. To read this book is to truly learn how to read spiritually--and readers who approach this book humbly will not walk away unchanged. Reading for the Love of God is a tremendous gift, one that will shape, reform, and revitalize the way the church reads. By helping us read for the love of God, Hooten Wilson helps us live for the love of God. I'll be recommending this book widely in my parish and beyond for years to come."

Claude Atcho, pastor of Church of the Resurrection, Charlottesville, Virginia; author of Reading Black Books

"Jessica has the remarkable gift of making intimidating subjects accessible. Reading is one of those for many folks, and yet what a gift they're leaving unwrapped if they keep the act of reading in the basement of 'things done in high school' or in the hallowed halls for only the enlightened. This helpful, encouraging guide is both for those who already know they love to read and for those who want to be someone who reads. We all benefit from Jessica's winsome words on these pages, words that inspire us to pull more books off the shelf and ask, 'How might this next one change my life?'"

Tsh Oxenreider, author of Bitter and Sweet, Shadow and Light, and At Home in the World

"We are what we read. Yet, it is not only what we read but also how we read and to what ends. Jessica Hooten Wilson wonderfully demonstrates that reading is not only an art but also, most importantly, a transcendent calling, mission, and vocation."

Gloria Purvis, host and executive producer of The Gloria Purvis Podcast

The Author

  1. Jessica Hooten Wilson
    Andrea Barnett

    Jessica Hooten Wilson

    Jessica Hooten Wilson (PhD, Baylor University) is the Fletcher Jones Chair of Great Books at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She previously taught at the University of Dallas. She is the author or editor of eight books, including Reading for...

    Continue reading about Jessica Hooten Wilson


"A timely and accessible primer for those wishing to develop skills of literary analysis and interpretation for reading sacred and secular texts as a spiritual practice."

Erik Hoeke,

Christian Century