On Books and Reading

by Tom Wacaster

I have been blessed to acquire a sizable library over the past three decades. I have read most of what is in my library at least one time [excepting of course reference books; I never could catch the “plot” to Webster’s dictionary so I gave up after the first page or two]. Though some think I read too much, I can assure you that my reading accomplishments pale in comparison to some others with whom I have been acquainted. While I was living in the Houston are in the early 90’s, I had the opportunity to visit the late Burton Coffman. On that occasion he told me that he had a self-appointed goal of reading a book a week, and the fact that he achieved that goal for more than 30 years is remarkable. That adds up to slightly more than 1500 books read in that 30 year span. The late brother Franklin Camp read extensively during his lifetime, completing anywhere from 6 to 8 books per month over his illustrious 50 plus years of preaching. That is a total of 3,600 books read in his lifetime. The late Winford Claiborne, likewise, read a great deal of material. He, of course, was an avid speed reader, which explains why he could read a book in one setting. He once told me that he tries to read from three to five books per week (depending upon the size of the book). Over forty years that totals just over 6,200 books. Guy N. Woods had a personal library of more than 8,000 books. He too was an avid reader, and his extensive knowledge on a great number of subjects manifested his reading habits. I have never kept a tally of the books which I read, nor how many I might read in a week’s time (certainly nothing equivalent to what these brethren read). Brother Woods once wrote:

Books are history’s priceless heritage, the storehouse of the wisdom of the ages. Were it not for them, but little – very little – of man’s thrilling past would be known and preserved for us and the struggle of mankind through the ages only imperfectly realized. To consort with those who lived in ages past, reliving their experiences and profiting by their mistakes and rejoicing in their triumphs is surely one of the noblest and grandest privileges vouchsafed to man. Blessed indeed is he who has made books his friends. They are ever present to stir his emotions, cheer his heart and edify his mind; and, when on occasion they are neglected, they exhibit no resentment, upbraid him not, but patiently wait his pleasure to flood his heart and mind again with their precious stock of rich resources. A collection of good books is a fairyland of delight, a storehouse of treasure, providing a haven from the world’s current distresses, putting all who choose in the company of the earth’s greatest philosophers, its most profound thinkers and its wisest minds. Nor does this select company erect barriers to exclude any. Here, indeed, is one of the few areas in which the affluent and the poor are not turned away. Into what other select company of distinguished people may one appear at a time and place of his own choosing and consort with them to his heart’s content? (Gospel Advocate, 11-1991, page 32).

Solomon wrote, “of making many books there is no end…….” (Ecc. 12:12). I have learned through the years that when you finish one book, there is another one waiting for you to engage. I usually have between 50 to 100 books stacked on my shelf, the floor, or the top of my desk awaiting my attention. And yet, when confronted with the opportunity to purchase yet another good book, my desire gives in and my newly acquired book is simply added to the stack of books waiting to be read. Authors and publishing companies are pumping out the books faster than any human being can possibly read them. It seems, therefore, that you and I should be very selective of what books we read with regard to time spent and subject matter entertained. Christians should go about building a good personal library. But most important of all, he should spend time in the Book of books. All else is inconsequential so far as the value and lasting effect any single book will have upon your life.

At the close of the aforementioned article by Guy N. Woods, our beloved brother concluded:

There is, I think, no work in which man engages in which there is such great obligation to be both efficient and proficient. Great though one’s natural talents are, no man approaches his potential who is indolent in mind, who does not enjoy and use good books. He who brings within reach of lost humanity life eternal, sows the seed of immortality, contributes to the well-being of those involved in a fashion not otherwise possible and while so doing faithfully serves his Creator. To achieve these goals, one must study….Great though a man’s native talents are and respectable his formal education, I have never known one to attain to his potential in life who is mentally lazy, intellectually indolent and has little or no regard for good books.

Take the time to do some serious reading. I really think that the more one reads, the more he will want to read. After all, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers” (Charles W. Eliot).

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