Good Books

It is well known by now that we must continually seek to educate ourselves on the important matters at hand. I think it is important, however, to talk about what we do outside of our studying. Today, there are so many distractions in the world that seemingly surround us day in and day out. But it can appear extremely hard to distinguish what is truly harmful to us and our progress. Oftentimes, movies, television programs, books, and even people have become so commonplace that it is hard to see that they are influencing us for the worse. I am going to specifically be speaking about books. From the time kids are young, they are continually encouraged to read and engage in literature. In schools and in homes, people want their kids to grow up surrounded by reading. I know that I was even praised when I would read more than the average kid my age. But while we tell them to read their hearts out in school libraries across the country, rarely do we tell them what they should be reading. Of course, as young kids it’s mostly nursery rhymes and random books about animals or colors; however, as they grow older, a much larger variety is presented to them. The books marketed to teens and young adults favor themes and ideas that some adults might find abrasive. Yet we still applaud those who pick them up off of shelves because “kids just aren’t reading anymore these days”. While reading in and of itself is a great way to strengthen the mind, the subject matters that we are letting slip into our heads are sometimes less than ideal. There is a difference between a good book in the worldly sense and a good book in the spiritual sense. What the public decides in a “good” book is one that is technically well written and overall entertaining to the readers. But the the truly GOOD book fills our soul, teaches us important lessons, and doesn’t make us question what we know to be true. As Milton wrote in Aeropagitica, “He who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye…a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit.” We should not only be encouraging the reading of books in general, but of good books in Milton’s understanding of the word. Now I understand how hard this can be to accept sometimes. As Wordsworth wrote, “the world is too much with us”, and we have began to accept things into our lives that take the place of better options. I’m not saying you have to completely drop every fiction book you have in your collection and replace them with historical texts. There are countless good books out there that are works of fiction, even some newer ones believe it or not. We just must keep in mind that we should not spend more time focusing on entertainment that we do education. Be careful of those hidden influences in popular material, especially when it comes to the youth. And make sure to take a mental inventory every now and again; are you filling yourself up with what will ultimately help you in the end, or are you taking in meaningless “bread and circuses” more and more often?

Yours truly,

Publius

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