"Other relaxations are peculiar to certain times, places and stages of life, but the study of letters [books] is the nourishment of our youth, and the joy of our old age. They throw an additional splendor on prosperity, and are the resource and consolation of adversity; they delight at home, and are no embarrassment abroad; in short, they are company to us at night, our fellow travelers on a journey, and attendants in our rural recesses." - Cicero
I think it is a very good thing to read... It develops our minds... sort of shapes them into something more defined. It allows us to see through a pin-hole the life of an Age before ours, it gives us a glimpse into the mind of man. It allows us to see what others have thought before us. The words are not just printed on the page, they are not just words... they mean something. Each one of them. And I don't mean a dictionary-definition-meaning-of-the-word meaning... I mean something that has to be found. Something you must look for. Sometimes it is plainer than others. Ever thought fairy tales were stupid? I thought they were completely meaningless. But the day came when I felt a little stupid for saying so, and a little better for knowing the truth, because I found that there is something to be learned from each fairy tale. Though simple in its flow, you can see the deeper meaning. Take Beauty and the Beast... "love means loving the unloveable." (Chesterton.) Even Jack and the Beanstalk, there is good versus evil, there is courage and bravery involved. In every fairy tale you are sure to find a battle of good and evil, and in some of the most popular, good always prevails. Isn't there something in that? Each book has a meaning behind it. As ridiculous as it may seem, the author had a thought when he/she wrote it. We shouldn't read merely to enjoy the story they put forth, but we should read to find the thoughts behind the story. There very well may be a good lesson to learn, a little piece of information to store away. Something to remember, and respect.
And yet, we must be so careful of what we read and how we read it. It is not good to say that every book in the world must be read, and I am not here to condemn the things that people read, when I have not read them. A few of the books I have read have left me sorry that I read them at the end. I read Gulliver's Travels, and I cannot say that I liked it, but I was glad I read it because it taught me something. I read another book and I wished I hadn't read it because apart from the fact that it was an awful plot, I learned absolutely nothing from it. I felt sorry for the characters, I felt sorry for the author. Although, then, I was not thinking so much about finding the meaning. However, I don't really want to read the six hundred pages again.
I say we must be careful what we read because we cannot spend all of our time reading, and if we do read, why not read the good stuff? I say there is meaning behind everything, and I do believe that there is... Even in the Arthur books there might be something like: "being nice is a good thing, and we should share with our friends." And though that is true, does that mean that we should read these books all the time? But perhaps there may be a better something to read. Some philosopher may have written about why being nice is a good thing, and what made it good, and by what standard good is defined by. They might have explained the thought behind the reason that we should share with our friends. They might have explained why we must think of others as better than ourselves. And they probably go much deeper than that. A child cannot be expected at a young age to understand this, and perhaps that is why they read Arthur and are perfectly fine with the meaning they are given. But as we get older, our understanding has hopefully developed, and we start asking "How is that good? What makes it good? Why are they given the right to say it is good? What makes them think it is good?" etc.
Perhaps there is a specific book that shapes the questions you asks, and gives an answer. Perhaps not. Maybe it takes three or four authors like Lewis Carroll, Aristotle, Jonathan Swift and J.K. Rowling to answer one question, but perhaps it may take only Plutarch to answer another. It might be direct, it might be a revelation that you had while reading something they wrote. I am not saying that all books are bad, but it is perhaps necessary to choose carefully what you should read. It doesn't mean you need to read only Greek philosophies, or only Classical Literary authors such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen... in fact, my point is that it might be beneficial to avoid that. To have variety to what you read... A blend of authors. You may say that C.S. Lewis made such and such a point but then you read that Plato made the opposite point... But you would not know there was even opposition to Lewis' point if you hadn't read Plato. If you had, you might ask: "Which one was right?" (or even if you hadn't, you might ask if Lewis was right, but my point is, when you find another person that rejects the point someone else has made, it makes you ask which one was right.) Well, where do we find who was right? By Truth we weigh everything. Where do we find Truth? Is it a standard we have made, something that we've written down that guides us?
God is truth. God must be truth, because we prove ourselves every day to be irrational, irregular, and wicked. Truth must come from Perfection, otherwise it might be tainted, and then it wouldn't be Truth. God's Truth is revealed in the Scriptures, and it is through the Scriptures that we might discover that both Lewis and Plato were wrong. Oh, and I should say this, I don't even know if Lewis made a point that Plato rejected.... and I am totally messed up in my time frame here... it should be Lewis who rejected the point Plato made. :P Anyway, I don't know if that happened, I'm just making things up here. But it may very well be, and I want to find out now.
Anyways, everything we read should cause us to ask questions. Asking questions should lead us to the Scriptures, and when we weigh everything by that, our ideas are shaped by Truth.
And I also just realized something else... the people who made it to the end are probably the people interested in reading. Oh well.
People have their tastes, their likes and dislikes with regard to reading. If I could, I would read only what I want to, and then I would have a poorly developed mind. My mind is hardly developed yet... I think of all my ideas and thoughts that come from reading as rather... uh.. raw. But I do so enjoy it, and I don't want to stop, and it is the passion I have for thinking and finding these things in books that moves me to read things that I wouldn't normally pick up on a Tuesday at 3:45 PM. I am grateful for the ideas expressed in books, and I am ever ever so thankful that I can know that they are right or wrong by weighing them against Scripture. Most times I can't know on my own. It takes many deep conversations with different people, finding out their opinions and what they think, their ideas etc to find that a certain thing expressed in a book is right or wrong. Sometimes I know right away because of certain Biblical truths grounded into my head, and I can recognize whether it is right or wrong. But sometimes it takes awhile.
Okay, those are my thoughts for the... month. :P Oh, one more thing. My mother told me that books without evil in it are... evil. Because novels especially are a reflection of the world, and when there is no evil, that is a reflection of our world without evil in it. It completely loses the need for redemption, as though Man has no need for it. I thought this was a very interesting point, and something definitely worth thinking about. I do agree with what she has said, and I'm glad that she told me because I probably wouldn't have thought of it. :)