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When does a book need an introduction?

“Feed Your Spirit: a collection of devotionals on prayer” is a collection of short essays on prayer.
“Feed Your Spirit: a collection of devotionals on prayer” is a collection of short essays on prayer.
Paula Hrbacek

Feed Your Spirit: a collection of devotionals on prayer

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My husband has this annoying habit of speaking to me the minute he opens his eyes in the morning. I need a couple of cups of coffee, and a little time to myself, before I’m ready for a conversation. Invariably, he will start talking about a subject that I’m not thinking about, and my first question will be something along the lines of “so what subject are we on?”

“Feed Your Spirit: a collection of devotionals on prayer” is a bit like my husband. It doesn’t have an introduction that tells me what to expect. Because it has an author’s name on it, I assumed that it was written by one person. The first story talks about growing up Catholic, and the next is about being a minister’s sister. The next one is from a Fundamentalist point of view, and some of the stories could apply to anyone from any type of church.

So while I found the individual stories to be entertaining and uplifting, it took me a while to figure out just what kind of book this is. There are a lot of books on religion, and each one has a different purpose. Without an introduction, I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s not like one of Joel Olsteen’s books where you can read chapter after chapter if you want, and one story glides into the next, letting the reader continue as long as they want. It’s not like “The Upper Room”, where each devotion is written by a different person, but they all have a uniform length and format: Bible verse, story, prayer, and a short about the author bio. It’s not like a book by theologian that takes one subject and gets deeper into the subject as it goes, like a study or text book, completely discussing the subject from beginning to end.

This book is more like “Guideposts Magazine”. The stories are by different people, from different churches. The lengths differ, the styles differ. Some of them have Bible verses, some of them have famous quotes, and some of them don’t have either. Some of them discuss Biblical meanings and interpretations, and some of them just apply the subject of prayer to one person’s personal experience.

It’s the kind of book you keep in the bathroom or on a nightstand. Read it for fifteen minutes, and set it aside for the next occasion. As such, it’s the type of book that works better as a paperback than a Kindle. An introduction would have let me know that right away, instead of my figuring it out six stories later.

When putting a nonfiction book together, the author should answer “what subject are we on?” just like my husband does in the morning. If there is more than one type of book on this subject, then the author has to let the reader know what to expect. What is this? What am I supposed to do with it? Where did these stories come from? Why did you write this? Why should I trust your opinion?

The book could also be better if it was formatted the same way a daily devotional is. It needs page breaks, standardized headings, and a uniform feel of style. Publishers will often use a standard size, and layout for books by different authors that fall into the same category. Layout and formatting is another way to introduce the book’s purpose to the reader. If it looks the same as another daily devotional, then the reader will be able to tell by the layout and formatting that it is a daily devotional and not a collection of short stories.