In Defense of Old Books

We live in a culture that places a premium on things that are new. Discontent, if not a virtue, is certainly a way of life. Understanding this, marketers highlight “newness” as a primary attribute of their products, assuming that this equates to better.

Lines of Old Books with Leather Covers - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/naphtalina, Image #5885818

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/naphtalina

The implication is three-fold:

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  1. New is more valuable than old.
  2. New is more relevant than old.
  3. New is more accurate than old.

In the book publishing world where I work professionally, this is especially true. Not surprisingly, all the bestsellers lists are dominated by new books. In fact, booksellers typically give up on new books after 60 days and ship the unsold ones back to the publisher. They do this to make room on the shelves for the avalanche of new books that are in the pipeline. Last year alone, more than 1 million new books were published in the U.S.

That’s why it was refreshing to read again C.S. Lewis’ Introduction to On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. I am teaching this book in my adult Sunday school class as part of a series on the early church fathers. In preparation for that, I spent the entire first session on Lewis’ introduction. In it, he makes the case for old books, arguing why it is so important to be steeped in their writings.

He begins his essay by saying that we often mistakenly think that old books are for scholars rather than for the rest of us. As a result, we often think it is better to read some new book about some old book rather than read the book itself. Instead of reading, for example, Plato’s Symposium directly, the modern reader

would rather read some book that is ten times as long, all about ‘isms’ and influences and only once in every twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said” (p. 5).

Lewis says that we do this because we don’t think we can understand these great minds. But he then argues that it is precisely this very greatness that makes the original author more understandable than the modern commentator. As a result, the old books are usually easier and more delightful to read.

Lewis then suggests that if we must choose between an old book and a new book—particularly in the area of theology—we should always select the old one. He then provides three reasons why:

  1. Old books are safer. A new book has yet to be proven. It is still on trial. Furthermore, amateurs are in no position to judge it. “It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light” (p. 4). Conversely, old books have stood the test of time. The ages bear testimony to the validity of their ideas.
  2. Old books provide context. Lewis compares reading a new book to stepping into the middle of a conversation. People may be in the middle of a debate about a point made earlier in the conversation. Or perhaps they are laughing and making asides. Regardless, you have no idea what is being said, because you missed the beginning of the conversation. Reading the old books provides context, so you understand the entire conversation.
  3. Old books provide a corrective. Every age has its own particular outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and blind to others. Even writers who seem to oppose one another share the same contemporary outlook. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. “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” (p. 5).

Lewis is careful to point out that there is no magic in the past. Certainly, when it comes to theology, we can’t point to a “Golden Age.” Even in the New Testament era, heresies abounded. Immorality was rampant. People then were no more clever than they are now. They made as many mistakes as we. But—and it’s a big but—they did not make the same mistakes. He notes, “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction” (p. 5).

In this sense, Lewis says quite humorously, books from the future would be just as good a corrective as books from the past, but, unfortunately, they are more difficult to obtain.

In the final analysis, Lewis is a realist. He concedes that his readers will not likely confine themselves exclusively to old books. (And it’s a good thing for those of us who make our living publishing new ones!) He compromises by saying, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one until you have read an old one in between.”

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I am particularly excited about reading these early church fathers, some of whom I have read before and some that will be brand new—at least to me.

Question: Do you agree with Lewis’ basic premise? What old books have you found to be particularly valuable?
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  • http://ramblingteacher.blogspot.com Elias

    I am a fellow fan of this book and the introduction by CS Lewis. If I may add something to your excellent summary, Michael, it is that Lewis points out that our present perspective also provides a corrective to those ideas which are erroneous in the old books, thus making them even safer!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, excellent point. Thanks.

  • http://www.validleadership.com James Castellano

    I do not agree with Lewis 100%. However, classics such as Think and Grow Rich, The Greatest Salesman in the World, and Magic of Thinking Big will be relevant forever.

  • jddoug17

    I love old books (grateful for Abe Books for finding them), and I love that you are teaching your SS class on early church fathers. I would suggest including a few of the women who had profound impact on spiritual life in the church–throughout history–would also be enlightening and deeply helpful.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That would indeed be helpful. I will keep an eye out for that.

    • Aaron S.

      For instance, Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (most commonly referred to as “Madame Guyon”) would be a great addition, though she definitely doesn’t fall into the “early church.” In fact, she falls more into the reformation period.

    • Jeff

      http://www.amazon.com/Womans-Place-Churches-Earliest-Christianity/dp/B002G9U3X2/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1328942941&sr=1-1-catcorr

      A great read (not old though) based on quality research of very old roman culture and early church home gatherings for Christian worship. Women’s leadership roles are highlighted.

  • matthewdbenson

    But it's ok to read 'old books' in a new format, right? Such as on an eReader such as Amazon's Kindle. The photo suggests that old books are 'old', but rather we mean older / original texts. It's the content that counts, not the cover.

    On that last point, how do publishers see that? I'm often confused whether publishers sell / price the intellectual property or the tangible property – therefore I'd expect ebooks to be cheaper than paperbacks (assuming pricing for tangible product), or paperbacks, hardbacks and ebooks to all be (nearly?) the same price (assuming value is in the intellectual property).

    If one were to say that the latter is in fact roughly the real world case, then paperbacks and hardbacks provide an additional, valuable option (which should mean that ebooks have lower price) in that the intellectual property can be passed on / shared (clearly that has economic value to the owner).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. Unfortunately, the Popular Patristics Series has not yet been digitized. (I bought a copy of On the Incarnation for my Kindle, but it didn’t have the intro by C.S. Lewis. In fact, it’s a different translation.

      Yes, nearly all publishers are selling ebooks for roughly half the price of print-books: $9.99 – $12.99, depending on length and the formatting required.

  • http://larryhehn.com Larry_Hehn

    I still find The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence to be my "go to" book for prayer and attitude check. The old books to me come from a less complicated, less distracted time where people were more likely to focus on things that are truly important. I appreciate their perspective.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is a wonderful book. Another one along the same line that you might like is Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom.

      • http://larryhehn.com Larry_Hehn

        I will definitely check it out, Michael. Thanks for letting me know about it!

    • Andy Scott

      Thank you for this reminder on Brother Lawrence's excellent little treatise. I read it long ago, and I shall now go back and read it again.

  • http://pleasingtoyou.com Teri Lynne Underwood

    This is one of my guiding principles in reading … for every "new" book I read, I also read something that has stood the test of time … a classic in some form or fashion. Reading a book like "Radical" and following it with "The Imitation of Christ" gives richness to both.

  • http://www.larryshallenberger.com Larry Shallenberger

    Cheers to Lewis. I definitely agree. I'd also suggest that the authors who bother to read classic works can avoid the unavoidable homogeneousness that comes with popular authors reading each others blogs and speaking at each other's conferences.

    Older books that have impacted me?

    The Brothers Dostoevsky reminded me that we are all an amalgam of nobility and depravity.
    Don Quixote taught me that faith without doubt is insanity.
    And I read Hemingway to straighten out my convoluted sentences.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent list. I especially love Dostoevsky.

    • Windows and Paper Walls

      The Brothers Karamazov? :-) My fav of the Russian classics…

      • http://www.larryshallenberger.com Larry Shallenberger

        Yes– the coffee must not have kicked in yet.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    I agree to a point. It is best to read the original author's work to get a context for the writing, but later commentaries are also helpful. One thing about reading old books is the language. I have a real hard time with certain historical time periods. The language may be English, but I can barely understand it.
    One of my favorite "old" books is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Even though this was written over 50 years ago, the principles are still applicable today. It is a true classic just like the ones James mentioned above.
    Maybe a great take away for authors is to write books that have a timeless message.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It really has to do with the translation. If you get a decent translation, the text is readily accessible. The one I suggest by St. Athanasius is very easy to understand.

      • Adam_S

        I do think it is ironic but we really do need more new translations of old books. Language changes and frankly, a lot of translation methods are better. The new translations for Bonhoeffer are much better than the old. Many old books you can get for free (at least electronic versions) but many times it is worth it to pay for modern translations.

  • http://twitter.com/thedailyrob Rob Brock

    I read this introduction on Saturday night, after you mentioned the St. Athanasius text on Twitter. The same logic should be applied to Bible reading. You could balance new books and old books and still end up straying from God's will if you don't immerse yourself in the Word every day.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. In fact, I made this vey point in my Sunday School class.

  • http://betterlifecoaching.wordpress.com/ Darren Poke

    C.S. Lewis is one of the greats and anything that he writes is worth getting your hands on.

    I like the rule of reading an old book before you start another new one.

    J. Oswald Sanders' "Spiritual Leadership" is staring at me and I may need to dust it off. Published in 1967, I hope it counts as an old book under C.S.Lewis' criteria.

  • http://twitter.com/peramarv peramarv

    wondering where to get some of the 'old books' in ebook format? google Project Gutenberg

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I would start there.

      • Adam_S

        I would start at Christian Classics Etheral Library for Christian books. http://www.ccel.org

  • http://emilyakin.com Emily

    I have found The Time of Your Life: How to Accomplish All that God Wants You to Do (Mark Porter, Victor Books, 1983 and 1988) to be an excellent resource for time management from a Christian perspective. It is out of print but available on Amazon and on used book sites: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Your-Life-Mark-Porter/….

    I review the book on my blog: http://emilyakin.com/the-time-of-your-life-by-mar….

    I wish some publishing company would get the rights and put out a new editon. I assume that the author is dead because I can find nothing about him on the Internet.

  • http://www.realanswers.net Bob Christopher

    I agree with Lewis' premise. Thanks for sharing it here. Perhaps, the publishing world will incorporate his premise in their business models moving great Christian classics off of their back lists.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      We have tried publishing the classics at Thomas Nelson from time to time. It is difficult to make them work commercially. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be much demand. I think this is a place where pastors could have an enormous, positive impact by quoting from the old books and encouraging their people to read them.

  • Windows and Paper Walls

    I don't think this is EXACTLY what you were talking about, but I recently found an older book in my brother's garage, the fantastic memoir "Disturbing the Universe" by Freeman Dyson, and even though the physics that were discussed in the book were several decades old (and in some cases, obsolete), it was enjoyable from the first page to the last. It somehow didn't feel dated…and I'm so glad I found it!

  • pete

    I love The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal.

    • Andy Scott

      An excellent recommendation.

  • http://anam-cara.typepad.com Shelia

    The ancient books that have endured have done so because they are timeless. Though rooted in their era, perhaps, they do not pander to appetites. Successive generations affirm the wisdom and life to be found therein.

    As regards the language, I happen to prefer the eloquent and robust articulation I find in books written before our century. I fear that language has lost a good deal of her strength and beauty in recent generations. Ancient texts give that back. I can always tell, as I read the writing of a recent author, who she has read.

    I probably read 70-80 books in a year. And yet, I will never be able to read all the books I wish to. As I prioritize, I find the balance tipping in favor of the old texts.

    Thanks, Mike, for a stimulating post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      When I was asked in the class, “What qualifies as an old book?” I suggested we start with dead authors. I still think that is a good benchmark. Personally, I think authors before the 1900s are a great place to start. While there are exceptions, generally I think the older the better.

      • http://anam-cara.typepad.com Shelia

        Ha! You know, when I said before our century, I did mean more than a hundred years ago. Sometimes I still think of myself as a resident of the 20th century. Chronos is not my friend. :)

  • http://forrest-long.blogspot.com Forrest Long

    Thanks for a great post! I am very selective in what I read for new books, especially books on the church and Christian life. I read the Early Church Fathers regularly, as well as Orthodox spiritual writers, both old and more recent (none of which you can find in Christian bookstores today!) and I read the Puritans. I get more despondent over what comes out in modern Christian writing because alot of it is like much of the modern church- a mile wide and an inch deep. Maybe there is a correlation between the two. Christians need to read the Christian classics, and I don't mean from 25 or 50 years ago. I recommend to pastors a set I am working through- "Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers". These are powerful sermons rich in theology and practical living. The church today is impoverished because of the thinking that only that which is modern is relevent, especially when much of what is modern is spiritual fluff- not all, but alot. There is an amazing difference today in the spiritual quality of books published by Orthodox publishers in contrast to mainline and evangelical publishers. The spiritual depth of Orthodox publications is amazing!

  • Matthew Krebs

    I like reading history, and it seems that the best historians are cognizant of communicating the perspectives, motivations, political movements of a given society. I like William Manchester's books in particular… excellent writing about the WW2-Cold War world. Also wrote a great book about the Dark Ages, "A World Lit Only By Fire."

  • http://guymwilliams.net guy m williams

    I certainly agree with Lewis. I led a men's small group through Mere Christianity over 8 months' time (not old by patristics standards, but still by someone who's deceased) and we found it to be the most relevant book we'd studied together. On the Incarnation is good. I also enjoyed St Athanasius' The Life of Antony. Very cool to see how the great saint learned from and was inspired by a Christian previous to him.

  • KaylaFinley

    Awesome post! I love old books. I love that they've stood the test of time and can still be found relevant. One of my favorite things about reading Lewis, too, is that the diction is so completely different than how we speak today and I find it beautiful. Even in reading older fiction, it's easy to see that people used to have more of a backbone when it came to defending their values, and I think it's an important lesson.

    There's pressure, though, to stay current, and read what everyone else is reading. If I see a book that has been on the bestsellers list for 30 weeks, I'm already way behind. I know it's an internal pressure, but I still want to know what's going on.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s why I think Lewis’ recommendation of one book for every new one is such a helpful rhythm. Thanks.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Great point, Kayla, on staying current. As someone who works in technology, this is especially challenging for me. However, I do like the 1-for-1 suggestion of pairing 1 old to 1 new and plan to work on that. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://musicroad.blogspot.com kerry dexter

    I studied the early church fathers at univeristy, and return to them at times, what was fascinating to me, though, was to read your post, Michael, and the comments, from the perspective of what I do now, which is folk music particularly Irish music, both historic and contemporary. there are many parallels in the ways people approach tradition and new thought on the subject in those fields, both in written world and in the music itself. there is, of course, the distinction of using tradition as a source for one's own creativity, which is I suppose more explicit (sometimes) in art than in theology. anyway, it sounds as though your class will be a fine journey for both you and your students.

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    Some great recommendations here in the comments!

    For a slightly old (1905) book that will knock your socks off and requires no translation (for English speakers), I'd recommend Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith by G.K. Chesterton.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that is a powerful, wonderful book. Thanks.

  • http://keithjennings.typepad.com/keitharsis Keith Jennings

    I love old books! I majored in Literature and it changed my life and career arch.

    Billy Collins wrote a witty poem titled, "The Trouble with Poetry." The trouble with poetry, he writes, is that it makes us want to write more poetry. The same is true of books, new and old, isn't it? The more we read, the more we want to read. It's a vicious cycle when time is scarce!

    Classics I love include Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters," and anything by Mark Twain.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

    This post has one, fundamental flaw – it's not the original (old) text! Kidding of course, now we just need to read an old post to match it.

    On a more serious note, I really appreciated the suggestion of pairing 1-for-1, old for new and plan to make that a new approach. Perhaps keeping one old book on audio for my commute and running, with a new book for bedside reading.

    Thanks for sharing Michael.

  • DSNY

    Absolutely.

    The best and most engrossing book I have ever read in my entire life is the book (which feels like an understatement, to call it that): A Course in Miracles.

  • http://twitter.com/LaureeAshcom @LaureeAshcom

    i love old books… the language and the history… i would always rather read them in the oldest printed form i can… that is why i have a nice collection of really old books. it is like they were meant to be honored and re-read.

    some books seem to me to provide a warning… you know… those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. :)

    thanks for your thoughts, michael!

  • http://twitter.com/bassmanbrian @bassmanbrian

    Context is such a large issue. When reading the Bible, seeing who is speaking, who is being talked to, and evaluating the when, where, and how are all relevant issues. Taking this somewhat hermeneutical approach to reading any old book is a good way to go. If we are aware of the signs of the times so to speak, we will be much better off for having this knowledge. Older books do tend to have more complex language, and are a sign unfortunately of the depreciation of the importance of reading among the population at large today. I believe this complexity makes us pay closer attention and more fully mentally engages us. The Federalist Papers are an example of this, as are some Victorian era texts.

  • http://twitter.com/davidteems @davidteems

    Books are our memory. They taught us how to speak, how to shape our thoughts, how to imagine. It’s difficult to consider a world without Shakespeare (and he is still so far ahead of the rest of us). And Dante. Even Peter Pan. We speak in such high terms, particularly in a spiritual context, when we talk about the NOW (indeed, if we know what that means). And that is not a bad thing. I've written on that myself. NOW may be the closest thing we have to an understanding of eternity, or the timeless, the immediate. But to live in a continuous present with no past is not only unattractive; it's dangerous. We risk a kind of cultural alzheimers. We need our old books. The King James Bible is an old book, I think. And yet it is part of our deepest cultural memory. It belongs right up there with mom, the flag, and apple pie. It taught us what God sounded like, how to address him, how to perceive him—things that are imprinted in the deepest part of me, in the deepest part of all of us. We are simply incomplete without them.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree on the King James version of the bible. I fear that in our desire to make the scriptures accessible, we have lost the majesty of that great translation. Frankly, this is one of the reasons the New King James Version is my favorite modern translation.

  • http://refreshmoments.com Mary Pielenz Hampton

    I agree. One of my favorite 'old' books is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He expresses words that are deep inside my soul in ways I haven't found to articulate.

    I've been working on a blog post for 5 Minutes for Faith that makes the same point about reading the Bible. We read lots of books about the Bible and listen to speakers speak about it, but we don't spend nearly the same kind of time actually reading the Bible itself. (I am most guilty of this myself.)

  • rachebec

    Wonderful post. It is easy to be lured by the 'best sellers' rack when choosing my next read, but I've found it important to make a deliberate effort to mix up the era, the topic and the point of view when reading. I do love old books and am always delighted when I can get old books in new technology-friendly formats (so much easier than carting arround a bookshelf). Although there is something still very satisfying about reading old, musty books from my grandfather's library that have stood the test of time in more ways than one.

  • http://www.glitterinthesun.com Jane Wells

    C.S. Lewis, for me, has become the breeze that blows away the cobwebs.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    I definitely agree with Lewis' premise. "Chronological snobbery" as Lewis calls it, is an issue that many of us struggle with; it's easier to assume that because we have more knowledge (a wider base) that it's better knowledge. Which it might not be (and probably isn't).

    As for old books that I've found valuable, outside my Bible, Calvin's Institutes, Luther's Bondage of the Will, The Confessions of Augustine are all works I greatly appreciate and have found immensely helpful. More recent "old books" include works by Martin Lloyd-Jones and Spurgeon.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Interesting. My first excursion into older theology books included Calvin and Luther. I thought both of the ones you mentioned were very accessible. Those two volumes led me back further into church history, where I encountered Ignatius of Antioch and Athanasius.

      By the way, Calvin did not have access to Ignatius when he wrote the Institutes. (A spurious collection of letters was circulating, but they weren’t the real ones.) I have often wondered if Calvin would have ended up with an episcopal form of government if he had read the real letters. He certainly would have had to argue contrary to the consensus of the early fathers for his presbyterian viewpoint of church polity.

      • Aaron Armstrong

        It definitely would have been interesting to see how his view of church governance would have been shaped, absolutely. I've not had an opportunity to dig into Athanasius much at this point, although I want to.

        I agree that Luther and Calvin are extremely accessible as writers; I actually find them to be far moreso than many current authors (and that's mostly because I don't get a lot of the pop culture references).

        Question: What are a couple of "new classics" (written within the last 40-50 years) that you think will stand the test of time?

  • http://blog.hafchurch.org/peter Peter_P

    I hate society's constant striving for the latest and greatest thing.

    In many churches they insist on having at least one new song in the worship service every week. What's wrong with the millions of 'old' songs?

    With books, people are looking for the latest new idea or theology to rave about for a couple of weeks until the next new thing comes along.

    We are just never satisfied.

    Ever.

  • dheagle93

    I was recently asked what short advice I would give a new minister at his ordination, and my advice went somewhat along with what you're saying here: I said to be sure to read at least one out-of-print per year. Not just a classic that has remained in print, although those should be much of your reading, but one that has outlived its usefulness to publishers (no offense intended). You'll have two reactions: you'll either glean something new and different, that isn't being repeated. Or you'll realize why no one prints the book anymore! Either way, it's worth the time, rather than spending all of your reading on the latest craze.

    And to answer your question: Epitaths for Eager Preachers, not very old, but out-of-print about ministry and mistakes. Classics? I've been reading various classics that are available free on my new Kindle. Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli, and some lightweight stuff like Jules Verne and such. It's been good to see the language before we started getting "lol-ed" to death!

  • http://www.gospelofkingdom.com Gregory Scott

    Michael, great post! I totally agree about old books. The best writers/books I've read are ones that have stood the test of time: Seneca, Xenophon, Pliny the Younger come to mind. Their books were preserved because they were copied, and they were copied because they were well-written. I'm currently reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall…and am so glad I decided to read it myself rather than just continue to read about it.

  • Andy Scott

    The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan. It has few rivals in describing the Christian's life as a journey, and its insights into the Bible, salvation, human nature, struggle and victory are penetrating.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Pilgrim’s Progress is one of my favorites, too.

  • Ali

    Okay so I think this is one of my all-time favorites of your posts! I loved the introduction to On the Incarnaion when I read it, and I agree with what Lewis says.

    With regard to your list: are you going to read all them as part of your class? I have read a few of those on the list but not all.

    I tend to turn to earlier books when I read fiction. The Victorian period is one of my favorite periods.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, right now I am just planning on going through three others in addition to On the Incarnation: On Wealth and Poverty by St. John Chrysostom, On Social Justice by St. Basil, and On the Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus.

  • http://refreshmoments.com Mary Hampton

    Came back to add the book that probably was responsible for my biggest life-change–Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.

    I didn't like the book at all the first few times I tried to read it; I think I just wasn't ready for it yet. At one point though, God used it to teach me to really trust Him and then be willing to trust people too. If it weren't for that book, I'm not sure I'd be married today.

  • http://www.MotorcycleMoment.blogspot.com Eric

    In a previous blog you were in favor with self-help books. You called them your “mentors”. I notice that many of the authors/speakers are saying the same things (i.e. align yourself with uplifting people, spend your time in useful stuff, don’t go into debt, …). I have been listening to Benjamin Franklin. He was saying the same things in Colonial times. I also notice he’s easy to understand. Good stuff in old books.

  • http://www.toddburkhalter.com Todd Burkhalter

    i also agree with Lewis. New ideas (or overthinking a subject) sometimes will get in the way of just simple truths or principles. One of my favorites, considered to be a classic, in the financial business where I make my living is George S. Clason's, The Richest Man In Babylon. A great book of financial principles told in parables. Should be on everyones required reading list!

    Todd Burkhalter
    Catalyst Wealth Management
    Director of Financial Planning

  • http://www.zipboxmedia.com J @sell music online

    I think it's a great point that they did not make the "same mistakes." I enjoyed this, thank you. I love c.s.

  • http://www.areteguides.com James Cohen

    Michael, you nailed it again. I am an avid reader of ancient theology, philosophy and science. I provide analysis of this for corporations to help improve the well-being and unlock the spiritual potential of staff and clients. The wisdom to be found in old books is so valid today. I'd be very happy to send you some sample guides for distribution in your group.

  • http://9awalsh.com/ Nina

    I definitely agree with Lewis that we should read old and new books. New authors do not have exclusive knowledge. Old authors bring much to light that modern authors cannot. My major focus in reading is history connected to my genealogy. Currently, I am writing a book based on my great great grandfather's Civil War diary as a Union soldier. Since he had only 6 lines per day in his tiny volume, he didn't say much. My research is piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of his contribution to the war effort. Recently published books are helpful in learning about the Civil War, but it is the books published almost 150 years ago that contain the gems of information to fill in the blanks.

  • Karen Keisler

    Why does every generation have to start over and figure out what God needs us to do and how He wants us to live? The classic authors offer us so much. (Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, Brother Lawrence, Hannah Whithall Smith, Smith Wigglesworth, etc.) We should read and reap what they learned, and then build upon that foundation.

  • http://www.ourcheapbooks.com/ Jack

    A great post!
    The old books to me come from a less complicated, less distracted time where people were more likely to focus on things that are truly important.

  • http://thenoreaster.wordpress.com TheNorEaster

    I certainly do believe it is very important to read a very old book: The Bible.

    That is where much of my inspiration comes from — spiritually, personally, and even as an aspiring writer.

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  • misanthropope

    of course publishers push new books and ignore old ones. old books are ALREADY OWNED by the people who would want to own them. do you expect advertisers to tell you “no, don’t bother with our product; what you already have is probably better”?

  • Aaron S.

    For instance, Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (most commonly referred to as “Madame Guyon”) would be a great addition, though she definitely doesn’t fall into the “early church.” In fact, she falls more into the reformation period.

  • Andrew Winch

    “Old books are safer.” For me, this is my safety net. I actually have to force myself to read contemporary lit. If it’s been written less than 50 years ago, I usually have trouble trusting it. In fact, I probably wouldn’t read anything contemporary at if I didn’t need it to influence my own writing. Have you ever heard Christian speculative fiction (sci-fi, at that) written in an overtly classic voice…well, if you want to, let me know. Haha.

  • Armoured Fury

    Today me and my girlfriend went to this book store that was closing down, so pretty much you filled a bag with books and paid 4 Euros.

    I was just looking around and i walked downstairs and saw this little red hard back book all alone on the shelf just laying there. I opened it because i was intrigued at how old it looked… Turns out it’s from 1899 so i HAD to have it! I went around for the rest of the time looking not for modern books but for books from the early 1920′s, even one from 1943.

    I dunno why but i felt it my duty to “save” and preserve these old books from this closing store. Yes i know they’re not like super rare or anything but it’s the history that matters to me.