How to Read a Book

It’s that time of year when students and teachers are going “back to school” after the summer vacation. John Piper describes this new poem as “playful, though serious,” and we hope it will both clarify and energize the productive enterprise of reading, whether you’re starting a new semester or reading the daily news. – Editor

On Reading Well
A Meditation on C. S. Lewis’s
Experiment in Criticism, pages 100–101

Would you attain an author’s sense?
   Or only what you see?
Perhaps your sight is beautiful,
   And sees more truth than he.

Or maybe not. How would you know,
   Since you are blind to his?
You only pass the test you wrote,
   And fail the author’s quiz.

Are you content with that? Just that?
   To see and not to find,
To make a window on the world
   A mirror of your mind?

How vain, how foolish this! How small!
   Do you not live by growth?
What then? An author’s sense, or yours?
   Will not the wise say, Both!

Recent poems written and read by John Piper: