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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

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  4,300 ratings  ·  612 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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Mark Jr.
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, netgalley, 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

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
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
I reviewed this book in C&L. 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 discipleship; worship
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
Ryan Linkous
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I was challenged by the idea that Christians' transformation/sanctification is not merely a cognitive act. We are not merely thinking things. Smith harnesses Augustine's theology of love and habit and ably applies it to contemporary life in 2016. I was challenged to evaluate the patterns and habits in my own life which may be incompatible with or at least unhelpful to my Christian life. Finally, I was challenged to think about the the patterns/liturgies that shape C ...more
Amy Morgan
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Smith’s premise: that human beings are not primarily “thinking-things” but that we are made to love. Therefore, we cannot afford to limit our Christianity to knowing a lot of things—our worship must affect our imaginations, because we love what we are captivated by.

His main application was that we should all worship liturgically. There was a little more, but that was a big one. As I read, I felt like this principle has enormous implications for sanctification that were under explo
Akash Ahuja
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
My second time reading this book. I love it so much- it’s bursting at the seams with implications for life, work, family, ministry, relationships- everything. Smith has a knack for taking very complicated ideas and making them approachable. His many stories and illustrations help convey his thoughts in such a way that it feels like he’s taking me on a walk inside his own brain.

Especially if you really care about raising children well (whether your own or in school/work/church environments), thi
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.
Charissa Gray
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very helpful in understanding the importance of setting your heart to the right end goal and engaging in habits that direct those affections. It was very engrossing the first half, but the ideas become kind of repetitive and made it a little harder to read later on. Although repetition was a big part of the book, it wasn't the main thing I took away from it, so I was content with the things I learned earlier on in the book.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Life changing... one of my "top 5."
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is very good. In my rating scale, anything over three stars is saying that really, your life would be better if you read this book. And though this book is very specifically Christian, the points that are made about deliberately living life through practice, and through the feedback loop of developing what you love and being attracted by the love you have developed. What you are practicing (what are you practicing when you stop at Starbucks every day, hmmmm?) becomes who you are, a poin ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I hesitate to love this much as much as I do. After all, it felt like it affirmed much of what I believe about worship and about the home. And of course, he’s writing from a distinctly reformed perspective that comes out in interesting ways. Still, this dense yet readable (and short!) book by Smith is worth a read for anyone seeking to be a Christian in the world and in their home.

Smith’s thesis is simple: our post-enlightenment culture believes that you are what you think (i.e. brains on a sti
Dante Tremayne
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful book that gets at the heart of our drives: our loves that are formed by liturgies. Thus, liturgies (the repetitious mantras and visuals that influence our habits and loves) are of great importance to the formation of our hearts and minds. Where, then, do we get our liturgies? From the culture, or the church? And if the church rejects historical liturgies, what then will influence the inevitable liturgies that shape it?

This is not a direction on how the church should do chur
Laura W
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Wonderful, Thought-Provoking Book

I enjoyed this book a lot, and feel challenged and excited by the contents. I did not grow up in a liturgical tradition and so many of these ideas have felt like a breath of fresh air, albeit a little strange and mysterious — now, in my early thirties, as a mother to two little girls, I find myself so reassured that my faith is so much bigger than my own expressionistic energy. I am more than a head on a stick and that explains, I think, a lot of the whiplash o
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“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.” 12 likes
“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.” 9 likes
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