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Reflections on Reading and How to Read

Updated on May 2, 2008

Reflections on Reading and How to read...

"Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros"

I ) WITHIN THE PAST YEAR the fiction books surpassed in sales non-fiction books. This is not a happy trend in our contemporary civilization, for the reader of a fiction book may be PASSIVE and accept the doings and musings of the characters as they are unfolded, whereas the reader of a serious book must always keep an ACTIVE mind. fiction books like Harry Potter and Davinci Code made a kind of wave and stimulated an emotional fantasy coiled with a cynicm towards religious belief ; dangerous fact is that coming generation will read more of this material infact they do not need to read Ideas become atmosphere; books beget Zeitgeist. Yesteryears novels portrayed the style, thinking and the socio-economic dilemmas of the civilization as it is clearly shown in the scribbling of Dostoyevsky, Dickins etc...these writings has timeless values and ofttimes can present a moral or economic problem in the concrete far better than can be done in the abstract writings of non-fiction.

While each person is entitled to his preferences, the fact still remains that for the complete development of the mind, there must be SERIOUS and INTELLIGENT reading - not just reading. A king of Poland in the 18th century, speaking of those who read too much and absorbed too little, reflected "A well read fool is the most pestilent of blockheads; his learning is a flail which he knows not how to handle, and with which he breaks his neighbor's shine as well as his own". As the stomach can suffer from indigestion, so can the mind. If too many ideas are poured into it and there are no sufficient juices of the intellect to absorb them, a queer kind of literary constipation follows. As Milton said" deep versed in books and shallow in himself". Many people live under the illusion that they have read more than they actually have. It has been said that some of the great geniuses of the past never read half as much as the mediocre geniuses today, but what they read they understood and incorporated in to a deep dimension of knowledge.

There is a world of difference between a mind that has in it ten thousand bits of uncorrelated information, and a mind that is like an organism in which one fact or truth is functionally related to every other truth, as the heart is related to legs and arms. The wisest of man read out of a philosophy of life, as he eats out of a philosophy of health. Mental garbage is as scrupulously avoided by the eyes in reading, as another kind of garbage is avoided by the lips. On the other hand, certain "hard" reading such as Plato, Aquinas, Toyenbee, Bossuett, pass like iron in the blood and in to the mind ,giving it consistency and strength.

The easiness with which reading matter can be browsed today has much to do with the ministering of lower tastes. Those who had a taste for philosophy in the days of Aristotle, a yearnings for poetry in the days of Dante, for metaphysics in the era of Abelard, and for sacred science when the monasteries held all the treasures of knowledge -spared no effort to absorb learning. But now reading is accessible every drugstore and city corner, the discrimination has declined with the availability.

AFTER a time useless reading weakens the mind rather than strengthen it; then reading become an excuse for the mind to lie dormant while thoughts are poured over it like chocolate over icecream.The mind is like an hour glass through which ideas pass like sands, nothing remaining. Modern man has more accessibility towards the frontiers of wisdom but his mind is not directed towards the goal for embracing Perfect Truth, the object of all reading. Give a man the taste for the intellectual, the spiritual and the moral, and you make him a happy man. As a Latin poet put it: "Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros" Reading civilizes the conduct of men and suffers them not to be barberous.

II) NEVER BEFORE in the history of world were human eyes presented with more written words than in our confused hour. A century ago it was believed that print would make everyone wise and good, just as food makes a man healthy. But food can produce gout, and print can also produce intellectual indigestion. Because of the abundance of books offered to the students it might be helpful to ponder a few suggestions on the subject of Reading - SERIOUS READING.

In French, the word to read is LIRE; the word for choose or select is ELIRE. The first rule then is: The best way to LIRE (read) is ELIRE (Select or choose).Books ,magazines and news papers are like multitudes of people we meet in the subway, cocktail lounges ,Railway station and Parties. We cannot possibly make all of them our companions, so we make a selection. Out of the crowd of books which push and shove themselves under our eyes, we have to select and extract those few which are fit to be our companions, As a bee makes honey only from a small part of the mass of the flower, so the mind acquires truth only from a fraction of that which is stamped on a linotype machine. A negative way of stating the rule is to eliminate that which is non-essential and which is incapable of nourishing the intellect

But that brings up the question: But How choose (elire)?? The second rule answers this question in the negative: Do not make it a rule only to read what is "just out" or the "book of the week". This does not mean that these are to be excluded, but rather that it is not good for the mind to be guided by the principle that the latest is always the best. What better proof is there of this than the fact that nothing seems as old to us today as the book that was on the best selling list three years ago; it seems almost as old as antiquated as yesterdays newspaper. Nothing is a better eliminator of the chaff from the wheat than time; in its own silent way it swings the scythe and cuts down the mediocre and the highly advertised. It is not nearly as important to read what is just off the press as it is to read something that needed to be reprinted after a lapse of time. A classic such as the Sonnets of Shakespeare means something that has survived the time and, therefore, is worthwhile.

Third rule is to avoid those books which excite emotions but never lead to action. Some books excite emotions but never lead to action. Some books excite emotions and inspire action. These are to be cultivated for they produce in intimate communion with what we read. Such was the effect of the book of Cicero on St.Augustine and the treatises of Aristotle on St.Thomas Aquinas. Such emotions are good because they increase our understanding of life, deepen our desire to do good, enlighten our pathways and above all spur us to further action. Any book which inspires us to lead a better life is a good book

But there are other emotions which are divorced entirely from actions, truth and goodness, for example, a sentimental love story, a melodrama about a friend with poison. Emotions of fear, love, justice, revenge, are provoked by what is read, but they never lead anywhere; they are passions without deeds, feelings without action. After a while, our hearts become like a spring on a screen door with which a child plays by opening and closing.... "Just for fun." The spring loses all its resiliency and eventually refuses to function .How many have emotions aroused without an appropriate object on which to operate; their emotion of love is aroused , but it is only to a non existent character, their emotion of rage against injustice is enkindled but it burns out on a page ( or in screen in case of mini serials). Such minds become like stomach that emits gastric acid at the sight of food but never are given anything to eat! One of the reasons why so many are left cold at the cruel injustices of the world , and are unmoved by the multiple tragedies, is because their emotions are already jaded and worn by reading sentimental novels and watching mini serials. When an object is presented on which the emotions ought to play, they are incapable of acting. If the time is shorten than we think, then it behooves man to read well by choosing well

My personal suggestion avoid any class of books that claims "influence friends" "15 ways to live better life" "Say YES when you want to say NO" "Success is yours"etc... There is an interesting article about success books by G.K Chesterton written around 100 years before "The fallacy of success" anyone can browse this article from THE AMERICAN CHESTERON SOCIETY website.

"Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros

21 irrefutable laws of leadership- A must read leadership book

Chronicle of Narnia- A vintage classic of childrens from C S Lewsi

JRR Tolkiens - The man who wrote LORD OF THE RINGS as a childrens story for his kids

My suggestions of Reading list.



Only Paranoid will survive - Andrew Grove

Iaacocoo- An autobiography

How to be like Walts-Pat Williams

First thing First - Stephan Covey

21 Irrefutable laws of leadership - John C Maxwell.

360 degree leadership - John C Maxwell.


Brothers Karamasove - Fydor destoesky

War and peace- Tolstoy

Crime and Punishment- Fydor Destoeskey

Father brown stories- G K Chesterton

Illiad- Homer


1001 Nights

Robinson Cruso

Tale of two cities

Lord of the Rings

Narnia- Chronicles of Narnia



Oxford books of mystic verses.

T S Elliot Collections

Longfellow collections

G A Studdert kennedy

Francis Thompson


christian classics

Thomas Aquinas Summa theologea, deveritate,

St Augustine- City of God, confessions

Fulton sheen- Peace of soul, life is worth living

G K chesterton- Everlasting man, heretics

Billy Graham- Peace with God, Angels

Lee stroble- case for christ

C S Lewis- Mere Christianity, Problem of pain


Arnold toyenbee- Study of history

Bossuet- Universal History



Josephus Flavious- Jewish war


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