Lost & Found: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior


Reading great literature well has the power to cultivate virtue. Great literature increases knowledge of and desire for the good life by showing readers what virtue looks like and where vice leads. It is not just what one reads but how one reads that cultivates virtue. Reading good literature well requires one to practice numerous virtues, such as patience, diligence, and prudence. And learning to judge wisely a character in a book, in turn, forms the reader's own character.

"Karen Swallow Prior has written several critically acclaimed books, but in my book, her book on books is her best yet. On Reading Well is both a love letter to literature and a handbook on virtue, wisdom, and the good life. Bound to be a classic, it is an engrossing work that will appeal to book nerds and casual readers alike. Read it now, and you'll never take books for granted again." --Jonathan Merritt, contributor to the Atlantic and author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch


Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. In reintroducing ancient virtues that are as relevant and essential today as ever, Prior draws on the best classical and Christian thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine. Covering authors from Henry Fielding to Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen to George Saunders, and Flannery O'Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing. In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society. The book includes end-of-chapter reflection questions geared toward book club discussions, features original artwork throughout, and includes a foreword from Leland Ryken.


"On Reading Well is an exploration of the formative power of stories and an excavation of the life well lived, and we could scarcely have a better guide than Karen Swallow Prior. She is a person who loves (and has been shaped by) great books and who loves (and has been shaped by) the richness of Scripture, a scholar whose writing exudes both warmth and conviction. This story-saturated engagement with the virtues is pragmatic enough to touch the nitty-gritty of our lives and imaginative enough to inspire." --Tish Harrison Warren, priest in the Anglican Church of North America; author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
" A wonderful read that inspired me to read/re-read some beautiful literature with a new lens. This is a book I will return to again in the future for the lessons it teaches and for the beauty of the writing. It is clear how deeply the author loves the books she engages. " —Stephanie Lobdell

Karen Swallow Prior is an award-winning Professor of English at Liberty University. She earned her Ph.D. in English at SUNY Buffalo. Her writing has appeared at The Atlantic, Christianity Today, Washington Post, Vox, First Things, Sojourners, Relevant, Think Christian, and other places. She is a Senior Fellow at the Trinity Forum, a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Senior Fellow at Liberty University' Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She and her husband live on a 100-year old homestead in central Virginia with sundry horses, dogs, and chickens. And lots of books.

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