“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones…We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century…lies where we have never suspected it…..The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.---John Piper quoting C.S. Lewis in God’s Passion for His Glory.
“She couldn’t stop crying…as (he) dragged the two bodies up into the motor home,” is a line from the Joe Pickett novel I am reading (by C.J. Box). Gumshoes and gunfights are highest on my list of reading material. I enjoy the action and the hero that believes in the law but not the legal system. I love the genre but my mind and soul are left empty. That is when I heed the call to pick up what Lewis calls ‘an old book.’
If you want to raise some eyebrows read The Gulag Archipelago in the lunch room at work. I know it’s not on the magazine and book rack at your local Wal-Mart. I remember my mom working through this book one summer when I was in Junior High School. The book draws portraits of the victims of Soviet repression; police operations, labor camps and prisons and the extermination of whole populations. My mother, having escaped Latvia on foot during the Soviet invasion was acquainted with similar stories. I read it currently because it is on World magazine’s Top 40 books of the 20th century.
You are not going to get popular reading old books. You will be lucky to find another person that shares your passion. Passion will be stoked. Your mind and heart fired up by beautiful language and imagery. You will hunger for righteousness and desire depth as never before. You will grow in depth and character. You will be challenged at a deep level.
If popularity at the water cooler is your deepest desire stick with People magazine and the local magazine rack. If you long for beauty and thirst for righteousness; if you desire the wisdom of the ages and a spirit to match—pick up an old book.