Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. –Psalm 1:1-2
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. –Hebrews 4:12
Clearly one must read every good book at least once every ten years. –C.S. Lewis
Reading really is one of the best remedies for stupidity. –Jon Etter
I’d put this chapter right up with there with the “Hang Around Good People” chapter. As author Paxton Hood put it, “Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.” Let me start off with some statistics about people’s reading habits. Apparently, a lot of Americans don’t appear to value reading all that much.
- 43 million US adults possess low literacy skills.
- People aged 15–44 in the US spend 10 minutes or less per day reading.
- 27% of adults in the US didn’t read a book in 2018.
- The United States literacy rate positions our country as number 28.
- The average number of books Americans read has been declining over the years.
Let me share a couple of other statistics with you. First, the average American says they read 12 books a year. That sounds a bit high to me. The average American probably doesn’t read half that many books a year. Second, women tend to read more than men. That’s why women are smarter and more informed than men. I’m only semi-joking here. To encourage you to read more, I want to talk about Belle, the central character in the film, Beauty and the Beast. If you remember the movie, Belle was made fun of because she loved to read. All the townspeople thought she was odd because of her passion for books. When she returned a book to the library, she always got another one, even if she had read it before.
Belle didn’t just stand out for her physical beauty, she stood out because she was internally beautiful, something I believe was tied to her voracious appetite for books.
Belle’s harshest critic in Beauty and the Beast was the town’s leading misogynist, Gaston. Gaston was the stereotypical “tall, dark, and handsome” town stud who the women swooned over (except for Belle, who couldn’t stand him) and the men wanted to emulate. Gaston could kill anything he shot at, eat five dozen eggs to stay “as large as a barge” (who would want to be as large as a barge other than a narcissist?), and was “especially good at expectorating” (who would want to be especially good at spitting other than a narcissist?).
Gaston was especially bothered by two things—that Belle thought he was a jerk and that she read so much.
One of the most iconic lines in the movie is when Gaston scolds Belle for her reading habits saying, “The whole town is talking about it! It’s not right for a woman to read! Soon she starts getting ideas . . . and thinking!” Gaston thought it was awful that a woman would read, get ideas, and start thinking! How could Belle not be drawn to a hunka hunka burning love like Gaston is beyond me! Belle responds by calling Gaston “primeval,” and, given that he is not the least bit well-read, Gaston thinks it’s a compliment and thanks her.
Belle’s love of reading put her light years ahead of Gaston in terms of being a thoughtful, mature human being, and she was understandably not interested in spending the rest of her life with this buffoon.
I could be stretching things here, but I believe Belle was internally beautiful because she read so much. I think that’s the impact good books can have on us.
I think Gaston was an internally ugly human being because he probably hadn’t cracked a book his whole life. That Belle read so many books is one of the main reasons she was smart enough to not fall into the arms of such a soulless person.
Munchkins, God gave you a good mind and wants you to use it.
To use your mind well, here’s some advice.
- First, read a lot of books.
- Second, try to make sure the books you read are really good.
- Third, read each book as deeply and thoroughly as you can.
- Fourth, read the great books over and over again.
As Francis Bacon put it, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
I’m not going to give you a list of the really good books I think you should read—that’s up to you.
I would suggest that you read the Bible every day and twice on Sunday and that you read it for all its worth.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was correct when he said, “A thorough reading of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” Don’t get me wrong, I want you to go to college if for no other reason than institutions of higher education make you read a lot. But please make sure you get your Ph.D. in TRB (thoroughly reading the Bible).
Matthew Henry was right when he said, “If you take a book into your hands, be it God’s book, or any other useful good book, rely on God to make it profitable to you. Do not waste time reading unprofitable books. When you read, do so not out of vain curiosity but with love for God’s kingdom, compassion for human beings, and the intent to turn what you learn into prayers and praises.”
Jon Etter is right, reading good books is the best remedy for stupidity, and you don’t want to be stupid like Gaston, right? So, READ!