How do you review a book that is not a book? From the Library of A.W. Tozer is not a biography of Tozer. In fact, it has nothing to do with Tozer himself except that it includes reprints of the writings of public domain materials that were found in Tozer’s personal library.
A. W. Tozer was a self-educated minister in the early 20th century. The breadth of his knowledge was truly determined by the resources he availed himself of. His library is therefore as good a place as you will find to look for his inspiration. What James Stuart Bell does is compile what he believes to have influenced Tozer’s development as a thinker.
The compilation is organized according to broad topics and includes such a wide variety of writers as Bernard of Clairvaux, John Bunyan and William Law. Mostly the book focuses on medieval monastic thinkers including Thomas á Kempis and Francis of Assisi, as well as a number of Puritan writers.
Perhaps it is a reflection of my own education, but I did not find anything particularly extraordinary about Tozer’s library. While the Puritans do not usually make the honored place on my nightstand, I have read Clairvaux, Assisi and á Kempis as well as Abelard and other less known Christian thinkers. To be honest, absence of early church writers in this compilation was a little disconcerting to me. Surely someone as widely read as Tozer (and compared to someone like C.S. Lewis, he wasn’t really all that widely read) would have read the church fathers but the only ancient writer in the compilation was Augustine of Hippo.
There was one other miscue in this compilation. Nowhere is there an inclusion of suggested Scriptural reading to go along with the various writings of Christian authors. Since the compiler suggests that this book be included in one’s devotional reading, wouldn’t it have made sense to include at least some suggestions?
So, what did I think? I think it is pretty obvious that I was not impressed by this compilation. I am the kind of person who rolls his eyes when I spy a leather bound edition of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest or yet another anthology of the “quotable” C. S. Lewis. Perhaps I just don’t know enough about A. W. Tozer, but I feel as if he is one of those modern icons of Christianity that we exalt almost to apostolic status, and I don’t connect with that kind of thing.