“The Centrality of Reading: Why it is of paramount importance and a preliminary list of great books to know and read”
It seems that in today’s electronic culture that books, if not the print mode and media of communication, has taken some sort of cultural backseat to our present culture of cell phones, e-mails, text messages and vocational training. Books, however, are of crucial importance and we must and should know of those books that serve to make demands on us. You will gain little or no benefit from a book that only entertains and amuses you. That which makes no demands on you or your mind will do little or nothing for you. A good book will stretch your mind and bring about intellectual growth. The same goes for reading for information only; those facts will not move and increase your mind but will only serve to crowd your mind, which is already full of facts to the brim and capacity. Reading a good book makes demands and, as I said, serves to stretch your mind and enables you to grow. The mind and intellect, unlike the body which deteriorates with age, is like a muscle and gains strength through use. Good books make demands on our minds and may seem beyond your capacity. Great books, properly read, allow us to grow and move beyond our capacity. Scientific and philosophical books fit in this category, as does the more difficult works of poetry, such as the epic poetry of Homer, Vergil, Dante and Milton. A good book will reward you with knowledge and insight about the world and its workings that you may have been completely unaware of. The mind, if not used, will decline and atrophy. There are many books published, but only a small number and percentage are in the category of books worth the immense effort in reading them. These books are the books worth your effort and understanding. They strengthen the muscle of our mind. In short, these few books in number will, if read, bring us to an advanced level of thinking we may not have known or thought ourselves capable of. Many people in our modern society only learn and grow through images such as those found on TV and computers. We learn little, for these are artificial props akin to drugs.
I hope, my dear friends, you will seek out and become an active reader and take the opportunity to grow in your mind as only the reading of a good and demanding books can do for you and afford your mind the opportunity of being stretched and made strong.
I now will provide you a list of books that are worth your attention and in challenging you will enable your mind to grow and develop. Here is a preliminary list of the great books that will grow your mind and intellect to a level you may not have thought possible:
The Greek Tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides
Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey
St. Augustine’s works
10. Thomas Aquinas’ works
11. Martin Luther’s works
12. John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion
Ladies and Gentlemen: This is only a partial recommended reading list and I owe much of the material in this essay from a great book entitled: How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, published by Simon and Schuster in 1940.