Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Destructive Bookishness: Books to Avoid, Article in the Christian Herald 1894

Destructive Bookishness - Books to Avoid, Article in the Christian Herald 1894

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AMID this deluge of books many people are being drowned. They know not which way to turn. Every one you meet has a book or two to suggest, and the papers have whole columns of literary commendations and condemnations. The question what to read is much discussed, but not so much the question what not to read.

Better stand off from all those books which were made not because the author had anything to say, but because the publisher and the author wanted to make a commercial success. Such books are generally of large type, profuse illustration and showy binding. They must have so many words, so many pages, so many pictures. You are aware from the appearance of the book that it was merely made to sell. We believe, however, that a book will be of little practical service to you unless the author was compelled by an inward consciousness of duty to print it. The book into which an honest and earnest author throws his whole soul is the one that will magnetize, lift and vivify you. Avoid that book which has the appearance of literary jobbing.

We also advise that you take only small doses of love story. The majority of novels are made to set forth desperate love scrapes. It is well enough for a man to read sufficient of this literature to keep him from being awkward when he himself becomes a party to some affair of the heart. But much reading of love stories makes one soft, insipid, absent minded and useless. The probability is that when you fall into love, you will not fall into it according to the cheap novels. Excessive reading of love stories will make you a fool before you know it.

We further advise you not to read a book merely because some one else likes it. Do not waste your time on Shakespeare, if you have no taste for poetry or the drama, merely because so many like Shakespeare, nor pass a long time with Sir William Hamilton, when metaphysics are repulsive to you, though your literary friends are enraptured with the great-headed Scotchman. When you read a book by the page, every few minutes looking ahead to see how many chapters you have to finish before you will be through, you had better stop that book and take something else. There is no reason in you dousing your palate with vinegar because your friends are especially fond of the sour, or of spreading your bread with honey because your host has a taste for the saccharine. There comes ever and anon a fashion of certain styles of reading. Be not overborne by the pressure. For a while there was prevailing a Tupperian epidemic, and we all went to writing poor blank verses. Then there came a Carlylian epidemic, and we all wrote turgid, involved, twisted and break-neck sentences, each noun with as many verbs as Brigham Young had wives, and as little acquainted with them. Then came the Renanish epidemic, and the attempt everywhere was made to mingle romance and religion, with frequent punches at religion, and we prided ourselves in being skeptical. Be independent in your literary tastes. Make up your mind what is best for you to read, and read it. Master a few good books. Life is short, and books are many. Instead of having your mind a garret crowded with rubbish, make a parlor with rich furniture beautifully arranged, into which you would not be ashamed to have the whole world enter.—Christian Herald.

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