Books And Reading
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Everybody reads. Old and young, rich and poor sit daily with book or paper, poring over pages of print with intent and absorbing interest. One man reads to ascertain the latest news. Another scans stock-quotations and the market reports. Another seeks to fathom some intricate problem of knowledge, while another reads to enjoy the glowing thought and beauteous verse of some master of song. One woman reads, perhaps, to kill time and busy the mind, that would otherwise be miserable in its idleness. No doubt there is much such reading, just for mere amusement, because it happens to be the easiest and laziest way to pass a leisure hour. But another reads to hold converse with the best minds of the ages, to fill the mind with knowledge and the soul with highest aspiration. To such an one books afford the highest happiness and the best means of culture. The hungry mind is fed, the hours are filled with pleasant occupation, and all misanthropy and discontent and peevish repining are driven forever from that woman's door.
But this almost universal habit of reading is one of the most significant "signs of the times." It is fraught with the greatest consequences of good or ill to our people. According as books and papers are good or bad will the mind of the reader be improved or debauched thereby. The worst elements of our society are being continually made worse by the corrupt literature that is spread broadcast over the land. Just in the proportion that good literature has power to uplift and ennoble human life, so has corrupt serials and "blood and thunder" novelettes power to destroy all there is good in human character. If a good book is good then a bad book is ineffably bad, and this question of what the people shall read is one of the most important of the present day. The reading of poisoned literature has grown to the dimensions of a great social and moral evil, and a few thoughtful words on Books and Reading are most appropriate to a book like this.