Why You Shouldn’t Recommend a Book You Haven’t Read

I once led a church small group where I had fallen behind in preparation. To buy some time, I asked each participant to purchase a certain book, read the first chapter, and we would discuss it. Big mistake.

Why You Shouldn’t Recommend a Book You Haven’t Read

(Photo by Photodune)

We sailed through the first part of the chapter until we slammed into a wall. A theological wall. This well-known author took potshots at a theological position we held as a church.

What was my mistake? I hadn’t read the book before.

Here’s what happened.

I had heard a lot about the book and its well-known author, so I just assumed it was a great book. But I had never read the book and—even worse—I had never ready anything by the author.

Although we could have plowed forward and changed our purpose for the group, we chose instead to read something else. Something I could really recommend!

Recommend a Book with a Reason in Mind

I discovered it’s important to know why you’re recommending a book (or anything). It could be:

  • For encouragement
  • For understanding a different point of view
  • For challenging why you believe what you believe
  • For spiritual growth

There’s nothing wrong with reading writers who hold a different point of view. In fact, it’s essential at times so that our thinking broadens and sharpens.

But it’s unwise to recommend a book we’ve never read. When we do, the blind lead the blind.

old books

(Photo: By Thomas Fisher, Rare Book Library. Flickr: Stacks view. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Why You Shouldn’t Recommend a Book You Haven’t Read

I learned some valuable lessons that cost me more than the price of a book. It cost me some credibility, as I had to admit to the group I hadn’t cracked the book before we all bought copies.

  • Don’t recommend a book you haven’t read unless you qualify it by saying so.
  • If you recommend a book by an author you respect, make it clear that you’re recommending the author—but you haven’t read the book.
  • When you recommend a book, also give the reason you recommend it.

If you’d like to see some books I actually do recommend (and that I have actually read), here are some recent ones.

Tell me what you think: Have you ever recommended a book you haven’t read? To leave a comment, just click here.

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