One of the most delightful things about a good book is, I think, its companionship. While we are able to enjoy good books, we are surrounded by an imaginary world which is peopled with good and noble characters, who let us share their inmost thoughts.
Books are, indeed, the only means we have of entering into the thoughts of the great men of all ages. While we commune with them, we are for the moment lifted up to something of the same height as that on which they stand, and we see the prospects beneath with their eyes. What is real and vital stands out sharp and clear, what is false and trivial is lost. Nor is the good we get from reading transitory. We read some noble thoughts, ponder on them, and find them true. They become also our own, a possession, none can take away from us for they mold our characters, and enter into our every being.
Book on history makes us realize how people lived in past ages how they built up their constitution and laws. Biographies of great men are very valuable, especially when they do not dwell too much on unimportant facts, but let us see something of the inner lives of the persons described.
Good novels, whatever may be said to the contrary, are of very real use in widening our sympathies. While we read a novel, we lose our own personality in that of the hero or heroine, and we feel emotions as we go through experiences which we may never have in our own lives. Novels enable us to enter more sympathetically into the feelings of others.
In Milton’s noble words,
“A good book is the precious lifeblood of a. master spirit, embalmed and treasured up to a life beyond life”.
But after all, the power of a book has some limitations. No two person Shakespeare alike. One will understand more than the other, neither will understand more than what is already in some degree in him. A book cannot create. faculties in a man, nor can it give him any fresh qualities. No man ever became a genius by sheer force of reading. There must be some affinity between two minds, or they will never understand one another.
Finally, we may say that the chief end of a book is to awaken and develop those good qualities which might otherwise have remained dormant in a man forever.