20 September 2005

...On reading old books

I love old—and proven—books. New books that reach popularity, including those which carry the description “Best Seller,” usually achieve their status not by quality of writing but by effectiveness of marketing. Most quickly fade in memory and become irrelevant to the future. The best measure of the quality of a book is time. Hence, I frequently turn to older books. C.S. Lewis wrote “Every age has its own outlook. It is [especially] good at seeing certain truths and [especially] liable to make certain mistakes.” He wrote of Christian books, “A new book is still on its trial…It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought passed down through the ages, and all its hidden implications have to be brought to light…” Lewis contended that that light is brought through reading the proven books. “The only [method of correcting our error in thinking] is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.” Lewis recommended reading one old book for every new one and, if that was too hard, one old for every three new. I concur. Take Up the old books and Read!