Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why I'm Reading Old Books

I'm reading Augustine's Confessions and rereading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Confessions is difficult to read so I had to remind myself why I'm reading a 1500 year-old book. C.S. Lewis says it well in these two quotes from the same essay.

"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 one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."


"keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them."

C.S. Lewis, Introduction to Athanasius, On The Incarnation.

photo by Lin Pernille ♥ Photography

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