The Value of Good Books
Charles T. Jones, a great speaker and writer and lover of books proclaimed that “You will be the same 5 years from now as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read!” He influenced me to begin building a robust library some forty years ago, and it has been one of the most rewarding activities I have ever been involved in.
An interesting phenomenon has taken place in the last century. In the eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds, people relied on books to learn and gain sophistication through being “well-read”. Today we have so much information inundating us that we hardly have time to sort and process it. Technology has changed our world substantially in that regard. The learners of 150 years ago simply did not have the choices we had. Books were sacrosanct in the lives of many.
Today lots of people, this writer included, still carve out reading time and enthusiastically forge ahead devouring 100 to 200 books a year. I keep a to-read stack of books in my library that is usually 15-20 books high. That’s ok, as I like my reading habits just fine and I continue to learn and grow from both new and old books alike.
When recently going through my library I came across a 1st edition copy of The Place of Books in the Life We Live by William L. Stidger (copyright 1923), which I have been reading. In his foreword, he said “Books are like the windows of a tower. They let light in. Every life is a growing tower. It is put stone by stone. The higher it grows, the darker it gets if we do not put in a window here and there to give light. That is what a book does to a life. It lets light into that life.” Well said, indeed.
Stidger believed that a book could frequently be the turning point in the life of a boy or girl, or man or woman. It can change the course of a human life, awakening the soul like nothing else. He believed that a well-read teacher could add fifty percent to his or her efficiency adding greatly to their usefulness to the human lives they touched. He further believed that books would keep the soul and the world alive, and raise people to greater heights.
One of the greatest things we can do is to encourage others to be eager readers. We can give books for gifts and urge others to expand their horizons through the creation of excellent reading habits.
The previously mentioned Charlie Jones paid his kids a modest sum as they were growing up for each book they read. They had to give him a short written book report and he also challenged them orally with questions about the content and what they learned. He was convinced until his death that he helped all of his kids enjoy a better life through exceptional reading habits.
(1867-1931) once declared “The aim of literary study is not to amuse the hours of leisure; it is to awake oneself, it is to be alive, to intensify one’s capacity for pleasure, for sympathy, and for comprehension. It is to change utterly one’s relation with the world.” It is obvious with statements of this sort that reading was deemed critical to one’s growth and quality of life. I believe it still is, and my hope is that we as responsible adults will continue to offer encouragement to others to experience the life-changing activity of reading books.
Near the end of Stidger’s book I was inspired to read a quote from Bishop William Quayle (1860-1925)… “Ah, my soul, hast thou learned the lure of the book, and hast thou learned what a book is as a delight, and hast thou learned, not as a scholar reads, to get to be great, or to read as the egotist reads, to be thought wise, but hast thou read as God would read, to catch good and to see far, and, to learn to live, and to blazon thy scutcheon with the radiance of the morning light?” Read on, friends, and inspire others to do the same!