In college, I heard an old Swiss-born professor (the inimitable Roger Nicole) once say that when you’re in your library – no matter how big or how small – you are “in the company of friends.” It struck me. I’ve been a hopeless bibliophile ever since.
Will Durant put it this way:
All you have to do is walk in the library door and the great company open their arms to you. They are so happy to see you that they come out with you into the street and to your home. And they do what hardly any friend will — they are silent when you wish to think.
There are at least three downsides to becoming a Book Lover, however. First, it’s a hobby that can be as expensive as having a child. (OK, not really.) Second, reading a book takes time: which means less time with someone (or something) else. Third, it can be a tough thing to have unread or underutilized books within your grasp or gaze. I know from experience – my stack of “next-to-read” books is much too high!
Rest assured, I’ve learned to rationalize away each of these objections to collecting books and building a library. My wife Rachel will attest to this.
As for the cost of it, for years I’ve loved to tell her (with books in hand at the checkout of some used bookstore) that “some things are worth the cost.”
As for the matter of time, a friend reminded me again just this weekend that while a good read might take me away from time with family and friends, it could multiply the richness of the time I’d share with them when we had it.
And as for the matter of the tyranny of books unread, I’ve learned to be content with the advice of Sir Francis Bacon:
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
I swallowed my pride years ago and decided “to read a book about how to read a book.” Mortimer Adler’s masterpiece, How to Read a Book, helped me understand the four ways to read, and how to deal with those books in whose company my time has been brief. Inspectional or skim reading is not a bad thing, I learned. In the end, as Adler put it:
It’s not how many books you get through –
it’s how many books get through you.
This is context to share that we’re FINALLY (thanks to the initiative of our young friend Caleb Vogel) in the process of getting the 7,000 or so books here at The Homestead uploaded and accessible online for friends and visitors. The first three shelves of The Homestead Library are scanned and live, and available for check out. You can browse a shelf here, and we’ve provided full access at www.magnalia.org/lodgings.
We hope you’ll make use of this free and public service in a day when libraries, books, and even reading itself are all too undervalued. Adler was right:
We must become more than a nation of functional literates. We must become a nation of truly competent readers, recognizing all that the word competent implies. Nothing less will satisfy the needs of the world that is coming.
And so, happy reading to us all!
Make sharing easy!