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You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
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You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  6,224 ratings  ·  752 reviews
You are what you love. But you might not love what you think.

In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Brazos Press
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Harriette I would say the ideas in this book are applicable to teen girls who are unconsciously being shaped by cultural practices like shopping malls, smart ph…moreI would say the ideas in this book are applicable to teen girls who are unconsciously being shaped by cultural practices like shopping malls, smart phones and social media. Since these cultural habits shape us from a young age, it is wise to make teen girls (and boys) aware of the identity messages we are reinforcing every time we engage in certain habits.(less)

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Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I mostly loved this book. I have read a few other books by James K.A. Smith and was pleased to find that Smith had done an excellent job adapting his more niche, academic work for a broader audience and toward wider applications.

What I liked:
-A great argument for liturgy from a reformed perspective
-An insightful argument for the way that the liturgies (Christian and secular) shape our ontology, which shapes what we love, which shapes who we are
-Nice ideas for choosing to shape our minds by Chris
Mark Jr.
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, kindle, 2016

You are what you love, not what you think, Smith says. What you think is, rather, a fruit of what you love. So far so good. If I may say so, I felt like Smith was summarizing my dissertation (though with fewer Scripture proofs) at this point in his argument (largely the first chapter).

But then he went in a direction I've been watching him go in for some years and have not yet quite known what to do with, his idea of "cultural liturgies." I'm attracted to this idea, precisely because my own conve

I reviewed this book in Christianity & Literature. Preview videos here. Conversation with Justin Taylor here. Interview with Eric Metaxas here. Starred review here.

vii: quotes from Prov. 4:23, Augustine's Confessions, Hans Urs von Balthasar, John Updike, and Winnie the Pooh

xi: discovering God's sovereignty over all things can be invigorating—people are drawn to the language of culture-making and social justice; "This book articulates a spirituality for culture-makers"; this book is about
Matthew Manchester
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It is not hyperbole to say that this book has changed my life, particularly when it comes to how I lead my community (discipleship) group, how I raise my kids, and how I interact with youth. The last 6th of the book wained for me a little bit, but maybe that's because I was being over-tranced by how good this book is. Seriously.

While it is about habit, it's not one of those "if you read your Bible every day, you'll eventually want to" books. Rather, it focuses on liturgy, both the ones that we u
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love Jamie Smith's mind and creativity. This book is no exception. Full of insight and provocation on everything from Cranmer's Book of Common prayer to how George Lucas created the Star Wars universe, via the liturgy of the shopping mall.

I did feel there was a tendency to overdo the emphasis on directing habit and instinct over and above the importance of training the mind because our culture needs no more excuses to bypass the mind. After all, why does the apostle Paul make such a big deal
Jun 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: ministry, theology
I've read both James Smith's Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom, the two books that are the foundation of this one. This book makes the same general point of those two: that we as humans are fundamentally "lovers" (that is, the true mark of who we are is not what we believe but what we love), and that the primary way to form disciples is "affectively" through habit. This is basically a virtue ethics type argument, but extended beyond to epistemology (how we know) to education and voc ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm often quibbling with Smith. As a Baptist, I think he's too high church and sacramental. Like in his previous books in the Cultural Liturgies series, I think he exaggerates his thesis (“we're primarily lovers, not thinkers"). He often repeats himself (e.g., "as we've argued), which is a good pedagogical tool, but I'm not convinced it's needed (at least not as often) in a slim book. And he can at times caricature the opposing view ("brain-on-sticks"). That said, I think Smith says many things ...more
Nathan Sexten
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
So glad to have finally finished this. What an incredible, inspiring book. Now on to his trilogy!
Sam Crosbie
Nov 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was brilliant. The main thesis of the book is that worship is the basis of Christian formation and we worship that which the liturgies of our life teach us are important. Therefore, we need to acknowledge that despite modernity’s insistence that we are primarily ‘thinking things’ we are actually lovers. And as lovers we need to be aware of the things we truly love. Not what we say we love but the liturgies, or habits, that reflect our true loves.

This is all of course quite ironic as i
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
The central idea here is that human beings are not primarily thinkers, but lovers. Not lovers in the sense commonly used, but rather in the most basic sense of the word - human beings must have an object of love, (something to worship, as David Foster Wallace said in his oft-quoted commencement address), something to reach for - we must have a telos, an end in mind. Much of the book is spent directly in opposition to what Dr. Smith calls "thinking-thingism," or the idea that people are formed by ...more
The formative power of our everyday rhythms and habits should not be underestimated. We operate, often subconsciously, according to our own vision of what "the good life" looks like, and this is what drives and motivates our actions, generally even more so than a pattern of intellectual thought that we have explicitly articulated to ourselves or others. We need to get more intentional about cultivating and curating the underlying "loves" that drive us, Smith argues, following from Augustine and ...more
Probably the best book I've read this year. Impossible for me to recommend it highly enough. I usually dislike re-reading books, but I will be coming back to this one for certain. ...more
Morgan Johnson
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an accessible yet thoughtful introduction to Augustine, virtue ethics, and liturgy. Smith reintroduces (from Augustine) the often needed corrective that we aren’t merely thinking beings but also complex beings who love and desire. What you love affects who you are; the things you do also do things to you.
RD McClenagan
Dec 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book and some truly profound implications for church, worship, and spiritual formation.
Summary: Smith contends that our hearts and the ways we live our lives are shaped by what we love and worship, and that "liturgies" historically have shaped the loves of our hearts and the ways of our lives.

So often, in Christian circles, it is thought that if we can instruct Christians in right doctrine and help them apply this rightly in their lives, they will live Christianly. James K. A. Smith would not deny the importance of right doctrine but would argue that it is the shaping of our heart
Ruth Winslow
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This has been one of the most educational, corrective, and accurate takes on the human heart I have ever read. I loved every page and am walking away a better learner, lover, and follower of Jesus. The thesis of the book sums it up well: you are what you love because you live toward what you want. So make sure you actually know what you love since that's what you worship. Highly recommend you read this book. ...more
The American Conservative
I still remember learning Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major. My violin teacher was a stickler for technique, especially when it came to playing Bach. She called this particular piece a “marathon”: it required careful pacing and a good deal of commitment. There are a lot of fast passages that, if learned too hastily, sound rushed and fitful. The key, she affirmed week after week, was to practice the piece slowly with a metronome, paying excruciating detail to rhythm and fingering. ...more
Mark Kramm
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I started this book a year ago, and no it did not take me a year to read. Rather the narrator of the audio book version I listened to slowly killed me with his wretched ability to use only two tones and maybe three different verbal inflections, for all 8 hours. Thus, the I re-read it this summer.

Smith really does know his stuff regarding philosophy and theology. My personal feel of this book is that Smith starts off quite extreme to make a point to the modern church, but then it comes around in
Brittany Petruzzi
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you're reading this review, you should read this book. It's the less "academic" version of Desiring the Kingdom and the entirety of Christendom will benefit from reading this. Even if you've already read his Cultural Liturgies series, you should read this book because it's the refresher you need and will enable you to talk non-nerds about Smith's ideas. Ideas, it should be noted, which are not new, but properly ancient and put by Smith into contemporary language for the greater understanding ...more
Matthew Richey
2nd read through: Teaching this in my High School class on Spiritual Formation. Still Wonderful.

1st read: Wonderful! Even if you have, like me, read "Desiring the Kingdom" and "Imagining the Kingdom", I think this is a delightful and worthwhile read. Immensely readable and immediately practical as well as philosophical, Smith helps us connect his important message from DtK and ItK to those who would find those reads intimidating and to the daily grind of pastoring, teaching, parenting, living,
Robin Langford
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I really like the premise of the our habits shape us, how our desires control us more than our thoughts, how we can bring those two things together: desires and habits work together to shape our lives for the Kingdom. That said, Smith is a philosopher. I am not. I appreciate quite a few stand alone points from the book, but was unsure how they related to the overall theme. Take away: watch over the things I practice (my habits) as they are shaping me more than I realize. I can choose ...more
Bambi Moore
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual-growth
There were parts of this book that were excellent and I really benefitted from (the liturgy of home portion was my favorite. It had an Edith Schaefer-esque ring to it). Other parts were over my head. Several places I re-read and still had quibbles with. This was a challenging read for my level of intellect ;) And thus not a life-altering book that some have explained it to be. Philosophy and (some psychology) meets Christianity in You Are What You Love.
Jordan Kilmer
Jul 17, 2018 rated it liked it
The overall thesis of the book is compelling and believable but the 3 star rating ultimately comes from the repetitiveness and unnecessary length. While I understand this is a shorter book condensed from three more academic volumes, it seemed like this could have been more properly communicated, without losing the effect, in an article. As a result, the book club I read this with all had a hard time engaging it toward the end due to loss of interest.
Church background will very much shape how you read this book, so here's mine: I review this book as a British Conservative Evangelical, who's worshiped in both free-church and Anglican contexts (both of those in very "low" church style).

The main benefit...
First, I think this book is a very helpful read in certain respects for evangelical ministers thinking about congregational worship.

Now, low-church Evangelicals will find plenty of Smith's suggestions for "formative" worship practices alien a
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Whew! That was a fun ride! My first James KA Smith book, and definitely not my last. If you want, or at least are willing, to consider a view that offers a counter perspective to the current day culture of most churches, pick up this book. It just might challenge your view of liturgy, tradition, virtue, habit, imagination, and what story, or to what end or telos, it is that each one of us is living out and/or living towards. Whether we realize it or not.

Some, and I mean truly only a few of the
Brett Marcos
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
“You Are What You Love” is a very thought provoking book. Personally, I’m in the midst of processing my own ecclesiology, so I was challenged in the how’s and why’s of my worship.

Some of the first chapters are worth the whole price of admission, as he teases out the American evangelical model of discipleship, the formation of virtues, and the undertones of your life. Speaking to discipleship, Smith explains that we have created models of transferring information while missing what is most impor
Rebekah Barkman
Nov 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Such a foundational, formative book. I’ll be returning to it again and again. It was so full of weighty truths that it took me quite awhile to wade through it.

I found it helpful to hear the theology unpacked that you are more defined not by what you know, but by what you desire. You are what you love, but you might not love what you think. Fleshed out, this impacts everything- education, worship, discipleship, etc.

“We learn to love, not by acquiring information about what we should love but ra
Thomas Duell
Oct 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
I started this book expecting a theology primer. The first half of the book carried a surprising amount of philosophy, (Smith's forte), and built a great foundation for spiritual formation drawing many influences from the Augustinian way. The latter half of the book stirred a lot in my mind and spirit towards thinking more and more critically about our evangelical liturgy and a need for returning to ancient forms of worship with creative innovation being brought to the table but not past it. Ver ...more
Taylor Barkley
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well thought out and written volume on church, God, culture, and our relationship with Him and them. Made me excited about church. Smith is definitely sold out for the liturgical camp and makes a good case for it. One of those nice “three in one” books.
Annie Curtiss
May 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Love love love. Such a fabulous reminder of the influence that liturgies from the culture and from the church have on our hearts. I love this book and will have to reread it again and again to fully absorb the messages Smith relays.
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“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.” 13 likes
“We have created youth ministry that confuses extroversion with faithfulness. We have effectively communicated to young people that sincerely following Jesus is synonymous with being 'fired up' for Jesus, with being excited for Jesus, as if discipleship were synonymous with fostering an exuberant, perky, cheerful, hurray-for-Jesus disposition like what we might find in the glee club or at a pep rally.” 13 likes
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