C.S. Lewis on Reading Old Books
C.S. Lewis got it right in his assessment of benefits and the necessity of reading old books. Now I just need to do a better job of following his advice.
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should be content himself with the modern books….This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology….Now this seems to me to be topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old….it is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read on old one to every three new ones….We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books….We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century…lies where we have never suspected it….None of us can fully escape this blindness….The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”
Quoted by John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, from C.S. Lewis’ “On Reading of Old Books” in God in the Dock