THE BEST BOOKS.
Infinite riches in a little room.
"Some books," said Mr. Ruskin, "are for the hour. Some books are for all time." The true and right reading of a good book is as distinct and particular a process as the writ ing of it. A good book, being the translation into speech of the truth which the environment of men and things holds for us, requires, in the reading, a reference back to its original source. It is only by working our way back to the source of things that we become educated. The source of things, and of life, being spiritual, all education is, naturally, a spiritual develop ment.
Many readers mark a book as they peruse it. Some mark the passages they recognize to be true.
If the reader persists in this to the end, he actually draws his own portrait in the book. He sketches himself in his own opinions.
There is a better way.
Do not stop to delineate yourself in the book you read; rather, make a short sketch of an other sort. Mark every passage that is not quite clear, every one with which you do not agree.
This may mean continuous marking for a time. But where it is done faithfully it spells what there is in the book worthy of your fur ther attention. It makes your possible future portrait.
Set this book, thus marked, aside as worthy of being taken up again and again. As the pas sages become clear, as the meaning of the great translator of human events who wrote it be gins to glow to you, as it did to him, rub out the marks. When you can say : "The truth this man discovered I now fully understand," then you really know the book. And there will be no more marks left in it.
A scholarly man once told me that, when a boy, he was required in school to memorize the sixth book of Virgil, punctuation and all.
He did not understand it, but his wonderful gift of memory, like that of Lurgin Sahib's little boy in Kim, impressed it with photo graphic fidelity upon his mind. I call him scholarly, because he never let go of that mas terpiece. He continued to give it thought, to dwell with it as he grew older. It became alive
to him. Now, though one of the busiest men of affairs, he possesses not merely the memo rized lines of Virgil, but the vital meaning of the author.
Great books, rightly read, become great men tal possessions.
They make for growth for they are the staple food of the mind.
Books of the hour are confectionery. Par taken of too much, they cause mental indiges tion. And mental indigestion is not scholar ship. It is wise to Fletcherize food, and it is no less wise to Fletcherize good books, for out of books, as well as out of experience itself, there proceeds a liberal education.
A liberal education is an education that lib erates. It liberates the latent and inherent powers of a man.
One has only to have implicit faith in him self, to set before himself a definite and lofty purpose as the goal of his endeavor, and work incessantly. Then he will win his freedom.
Countless men have paid their tributes to good books, not as playthings for the idle hour, but as veritable means for generating power. In some men this latent power is appealed to and liberated by contact with the world of men and things ; in others it springs to action at the call of men and things faithfully portrayed in the pages of true books.
The satisfying and gratifying fact in either case is this : A man has latent power, undevel oped resources, unrevealed possibilities, and he should never rest until by one means or another he can reach to the fullness of himself. He will find as his reward that the stream of power is never-failing, for its source is universal life.
Hence, significant men look within and trust themselves instead of perpetually looking with out and mistrusting others.
What books should we own? Ruskin, Emerson, Carlyle, Lubbock, and many others have attempted to answer this question by making lists of the best books.
No man can read these lists of books with the utmost profit to himself, because, in the last analysis, it is discovered that they are the best books for those who have recommended them.