- Problem of choice in modern days.
- Means of spreading habit.
A man is known, they say, by the company he keeps. We may as well say that a person is also known by the books he reads. In both cases it is the community of interest that decides the choice. Friends and books are alike selected on the ground that they are congenial to us, comfort us and guide us. We choose books that appeal to our minds, in them we find a world in which we like to live. They are the precious life-blood of master spirits, and so much they inspire us with their vision of life. We expand ourselves in the sunshine of their wisdom; we develop ourselves away from our little selves and become fit to see things in the right way. Our sorrows are forgotten, our joys increase when we open a book and enter into the kingdom of imagination.
Books, therefore, are a boon and a blessing. They are our friend, philosopher and guide, giving us wisdom and light. But books to-day have become a problem because there are millions of books and we have to pick and choose from among these. There was no such problem of choice of books in the good old days. Books before printing were few and rare and they were always good onces. They were really the precious life-blood of master spirits. They were written by men who cared not for money or fame. They were written because there was an urge to write. They were therefore invariably valuable.
They were the embodiments of the great thoughts and visions which inspired their authors. They were not written, as they now mostly are, for fetching money. With the advent of printing, however, book writing has become a trade and a profession. There is an over-population in iheworld of books. They are of all sorts, good, bad and indifferent, but mostly bad and indifferent. There is neither wisdom or light, nor experience nor charm, nor even meaning in very many books that come out of the press today. The publishers, reviewers and critics push up the sale of books, as agents push up the sales of any commodity. There is just one motive in the trade of book-making, and that is the aim of making money.
In addition, the number of writers has increased in modern days. This is natural because education is spreading in widely. Education has become democratic, and so the writers of books, too, have multiplied.
This state of affairs brings in the problem of the choice of books. When the market is flooded with books, the buyers of books have the problem of choosing. Now choosing books is none too easy. Choosing any commodity is easy because one knows whether the commodity is good or bad. But book-choosing requires a special insight and talent. Some lucky people have the gift of skipping over a few lines here and there and then being able to decide whether the book in question is good or bad. But the common man, anxious to satisfy his desire for reading, finds himself at a loss to decide which book is good and worth his money and time.
Fortunately, there are a few good firms of publishers which Help us in the choice of books. They publish timely reports of good books, judged by competent critics and reviewers. The perusal of such journals and catalogues will help us to make our choice. Newspapers, 100, devote a column or so for reviewing books. We can choose our books from the list of these. But the best way to choose a good book is to go to the classics. That is to say, we can never be wrong in our choice if we go in for books that have been tested by time and become classics. Time ist he wisest and most incorruptible critic of books. A book, for example, that is three hundred years old, may be taken as a book worth reading and buying and possessing. If a book has delighted and enlightened generations of people all over the world, we may be certain that it. contains something which is worth reading. This is probably one reason why some one said that when a new book was announced he chose an old one.
As we read such classics we begin to cultivate a sound taste and judgment. With the guidance of such a taste we can easily pick and choose from among the thousands that come out from the press. The choice of books becomes easy with our acquaintance with the best books. By such a choice of books our reading of them becomes fruitful.
The habit of reading should be cultivated easily. It is a habit which helps us to shape our character. But we must not be addicted to reading and turn out to be bookworms. Life is greater than books, and we must not exchange the one for the other. This does not mean that we would become book-haters. We must read good books very often. They are the best means of occupying our leisure time.
Of making books there is no end. And it is true. There is no end to the writing of books. And in our mechanical civilization, the number of books is maddening. When we visit a good book-shop, we become lost in the sea of books. We are sometimes afraid of these heaps of books. But we must develop a critical mind which picks the best of books. Having thus chosen, we must read and understand them. The best books are those which would be digested, as. Bacon tells us. For books are food for our minds and souls. As we feed so we grow. If we feed our minds on good books, we will develop a sound and healthy outlook on life. If not, we might become either dull or rebellious or cynics. It is, therefore, important that we should develop a critical taste which guides us in the choice of books. And this taste could be easily developed if we begin with the time-tested classics of the world.