On Books (Of Course)

OK, so I may as well devote a few more words to one of the great gifts in all of life. I refer of course to books and reading. These things are for many a great passion and a sublime pleasure. While all people can enjoy the delights of reading, Christians should certainly be included here.

We of course are to read and study the Bible regularly, but we also should be reading widely and deeply. Some of the greatest books we can read are the biographies and autobiographies of great saints and famous Christians. As Aiden Wilson Tozer once said, “Next to the Holy Scriptures, the greatest aid to the life of faith may be Christian biographies.”

Right now I am reading the biography of David Wilkerson by his son Gary (Zondervan, 2014). It is always so inspiring and encouraging to read about great men and women of God. And a good biography will not be a hagiography. Gary presents his father as he really was: a very gifted and anointed man, but one with shortcomings and problems as we all have.

But the case for reading I will not here make. Those who are already avid readers will need no convincing, while those who don’t read (and there are many of these folks), well, they likely are not reading this anyway! So in one sense this article is rather redundant.

bookI have always been a reader, and my growing library is testimony to this. And that of course can be problematic. As a popular meme making the rounds states, “One does not simply cease buying books because one has run out of bookshelf space.”

This is my perennial problem. I do have what seems like an ideal solution: I keep telling my sons that if they would just move out of home, their bedrooms would make for great libraries. But for some odd reason they do not seem too enamoured with that thought.

Anyway, sometimes I write articles for the slightest of reasons. And so my reason for writing this is very slight indeed. I simply have collected a number of neat quotes about books and reading over the years, so I thought I needed a cheap excuse to showcase them.

And that is what I am doing here. So in no particular order, here are some of my fav quotes about books and reading. If you are a book lover there will be no need to justify myself here. If you are not, well, you can turn away and leave now!

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” Anna Quindlen

“What can be better than to get out a book on Saturday afternoon and thrust all mundane considerations away till next week?” C. S. Lewis

“If one must read only the new or only the old, I would advise them to read the old. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow oneself another new one until you have read an old one in between.” C.S. Lewis

“Do our own young people read books? Do they know the pleasures of the solitary reading of a life-changing page? Have they ever lost themselves in a story, framed by their own imaginations rather than by digital images? Have they ever marked up a page, urgently engaged in a debate with the author? Can they even think of a book that has changed the way they see the world . . . or the Christian faith? If not, why not?” Al Mohler

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles William Eliot

“A house that has a library in it has a soul.” Plato

“Whatever you read, read the Bible first. Beware of bad books: there are plenty in this day. Take heed what you read.” J.C. Ryle

“Make books your companions;
let your bookshelves be your gardens:
bask in their beauty, gather their fruit,
pluck their roses, take their spices and myrrh.”
Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon (1150-1230)

“Like the dope fiend who cannot move from place to place without taking with him a plentiful supply of his deadly balm, I never venture far without a sufficiency of reading matter.” Somerset Maugham

“Reading maketh a full man; speaking, a ready man; writing, an exact man.” Francis Bacon

“Some books are to be tested, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Francis Bacon

“One book is enough, but a thousand books is not too many!” Martin Luther

“My books. I cannot tell you what they are to me – silent, wealthy, loyal lovers. . . . I do thank God for my books with every fiber of my being. Friends that are ever true and that are ever your own.” Oswald Chambers

“Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them, masticate and digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analysis of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride come of hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be, ‘much not many’.” Charles Spurgeon

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” G. K. Chesterton

“But those dealing in the actual manufacture of mind are dealing in a very explosive material. The material is not merely the clay of which man is master, but the truths or semblances of truth which have a certain mastery over man. The material is explosive because it must be taken seriously. The men writing books really are throwing bombs.” G. K. Chesterton

“If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying.” John Ruskin

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” Henry Ward Beecher

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past centuries.” Descartes

“In books lies the soul of the whole past time.” Thomas Carlyle

“The man who does not read good books, has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” Mark Twain

“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who will get me a book I have not read.” Abraham Lincoln

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island…and best of all you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” Walt Disney

“In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot, or will not, read…it is not true we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.” S.I. Hayakawa

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect we should ask him what books he reads.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Many times the reading of a book has made the future of a man.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Read the best books first, or you may not have the chance to read them at all.” Henry David Thoreau

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have laboured hard for.” Socrates

“The reading of good biography forms an important part of a Christian’s education. It provides him with numberless illustrations for use in his own service. He learns to assess the true worth of character, to glimpse a work goal for his own life, to decide how best to attain it, what self denial is needed to curb unworthy aspirations, and all the time he learns how God breaks into the dedicated life to bring about His own purposes.” Ransome W. Cooper

“Biography transmits personality…who can gauge the inspiration to the cause of missions of great biographies like those of William Carey, Adoniran Judson, Hudson Taylor, Charles Studd…” J. Oswald Sanders

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

“Give attendance to reading.” Paul, in 1 Timothy 4:13

“Please bring with you … the books, especially the manuscripts.” Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:13, Phillips Version

[1489 words]

5 Replies to “On Books (Of Course)”

  1. “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus

    LOL! …

  2. Gordon McDonald in his book “Ordering Your Private World” set me free from the guilt of wanting to buy books, because he said that books are in the “must buy” section of any budget along with food and clothing etc, though I personally believe clothing is only something you must wear to be decent and warm, not something to make a statement with.
    If I didn’t have books I would have been mad by now. I used to only rely on the audio library having maybe 3 or 4 books available to me at a time, but the kindle and the availability of audio books on a 3g network device have changed all that and I couldn’t be happier, praise the Lord for modern technology – when it works.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  3. ‘Ordering You Private World’ changed my life too Ursula.
    I am enjoying the lovely life-affirming memoirs that Slightly Foxed publishes.

  4. Here is one of my favourites to add to your list, Bill. I am unsure where this one originated, so am unable to give proper credit where it’s due – ‘Having a huge number of books is not exactly about reading them all, it’s about having the possibility of reading them.’

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