Recently while searching on the internet for the original source of a quote I liked, I came across a little gem of a book entitled A Noble Life by Mary C. Haskett. This work, published in 1919, was written as advice to young people and addresses different practical topics like relationships and character qualities. Of course the language is a bit dated, but I’m sure much of the advice is still useful and applicable. Let me just clarify that I’m not necessarily recommending the entire work, as I haven’t read it, but I did find these two brief chapters contained a lot of valid points, so I thought I would share them with you.
A Noble Life by Mary C. Haskett
Chapter 2: Books
Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. A little library growing larger every year is an honorable part of a young man’s history. It is our duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life.
The influence of books upon man is remarkable: you may judge a man more truly by the books and papers he reads than by the company he keeps; for his associates are often, in a manner, imposed upon him, whereas his reading is a matter of choice.
A good book is the most appropriate gift that friendship can make. It never changes; it never grows unfashionable or old. It is soured by no neglect, is jealous of no rival; but always its clean, clear pages are ready to amuse, interest, and instruct. The voice that speaks the thought may change or grow still forever; the heart that prompted the kindly and cheering words may grow cold and forgetful; but the page that mirrors them is changeless, faithful, immortal. The book that records the incarnation of divine love is God’s best gift to man, and the books which are filled with kindly thought and generous sympathy are the best gifts of friend to friend.
(I chuckled at what Ms. Haskett says here about giving books as gifts; everyone who knows me knows that if they receive a gift from me, it will most likely be a book.)
Every family ought to be well supplied with a choice selection of books for reading. “A reading people will soon become a thinking people, and a thinking people must soon become a great people.”
Dear reader, make up your mind to read only good books. Life is short and books are many. Instead of having your mind a garret crowded with rubbish, make it a parlor with rich furniture, beautifully arranged, in which you would not be ashamed to have the whole world enter.
To the weak, and to the strong in their times of weakness, books are inspiring friends and teachers. Against the feebleness of individual efforts they proclaim the victory of faith and patience, and out of the uncertainty and discouragement of one day’s work they prophesy the fuller and richer life that grows strong and deep through conflict, sets itself more and more in harmony with the noblest aims, and is at last crowned with honor and power.
Chapter 15: Reading
One’s reading is usually a fair index of one’s character. Abstain from those books which, while they have some good things about them, have also an admixture of evil. You cannot afford to read a bad book however good you are. “The influence is insignificant,” do you say? I reply that the scratch of a pin has sometimes produced lockjaw.
Inferior books are to be rejected in an age when we are courted by whole libraries and when no man’s life is long enough to compass even those which are good and great and famous. Why should we bow down at puddles, when we can approach freely to the crystal spring-head? To read with profit, the book must be of a kind calculated to inform the mind, correct the head, and better the heart. These books should be read with attention, understood, remembered, and their precepts put in practice.
To those who plead the want of time to read, we would say, Be as frugal of your hours as you are of your dollars, and you can create time in the busiest day. The time you devote to reading good books is time well spent. We cannot afford to neglect reading good books.
Beware of novels that are of a cheap and trashy quality. Many a noble tree has been eaten through by minute insects, and many a promising character has been injured by the excessive reading of even the higher class of novels and novelettes.
Of all the books ever written, not one contains such instructive and such sublime reading and so meat a variety of it as the Bible. Resolve to read it. You will find realities there more wonderful than any picture of fiction drawn by the finest penciling of the master-hand of the most practiced novelist that has shone in the dazzling galaxy of ancient or modern writers.
We should read slowly and try to remember what we read. Reading is good pastime for young and old. We should not neglect so important a duty as reading. It is a duty we owe to ourselves and our families.
Much of what is said here relates to the purpose of my blog and supports the little motto that I embrace: “So Many Books, So Little Time.” When it comes to reading, I suppose really both quantity and quality count. What we read does influence how we think, and in turn, how we behave (as Benjamin Wiker’s book 10 Books That Screwed Up the World
explains). Like Haskett, I believe the most important reason for learning to read well is so one can read and understand God’s Word, the Best of all Books. To own and to be able to read the Bible is a privilege that people in centuries past didn’t enjoy. By the way, the quote I was searching for the source of is: “A reading people will soon become a thinking people, and a thinking people must soon become a great people.” Haskett put this statement in quote marks in her book as well, so I have yet to find it origin.
Incidentally, I could find virtually no information about the author of A Noble Life, which appears to be somewhat rare. Mary C. Haskett may have died unknown to most, and yet she left her small mark in the world with her little book.
- E-text of A Noble Life (www.lcoggt.org)
- How do “A Reading People become a Great People”? (pilgriminstitute.org)
- The Virtue of Unread Books (www.storywarren.com)
- Why We Love to Read (www.challies.com)
- My review of Ten Books That Screwed Up the World (imallbooked.com)