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A few books well read, and an intelligent choice of those few, - these are the fundamentals for self-education by reading. If only a few well chosen, it is better to avail yourself of choices others have already made - old books, the standard works tested by many generations of readers. If only a few, let them be books of highest character and established fame. Such books are easily found even in small public libraries.

For the purpose of this chapter, which is to aid in forming a taste for reading, there should be no confusion of choice by naming too many books of one author. If you read one and like it, you can easily find another. It is a cardinal rule that if you do not like a book, do not read it. What another likes, you may not. Any book list is suggestive; it can be binding only on those who prize it. Like attracts like.

Did you ever think that the thing you are looking for is looking for you; that it is the very law of affinities to get together? If you are coarse in your tastes, vicious in your tendencies, you do not have to work very hard to find coarse vicious books; they are seeking you by the very law of attraction.

One's taste for reading is much like his taste for food. Dull books are to be avoided, as one refuses food disagreeable to him; to someone else the book may not be dull, nor the food disagreeable. Whole nations may eat cabbage, or stale fish, while I like neither.

Ultimately, therefore, every reader must make his own selection, and find the book that finds him. Any one not a random reader will soon select a short shelf of books that he may like better than a longer shelf that exactly suits some one else. Either will be a shelf of good books, neither a shelf of the best books, since if best for you or me, they may not be best for everybody.

A most learned man in India, in turning the leaves of a book, as he read, felt a little prick in his finger; a tiny snake dropped out and wriggled out of sight. The pundit's finger began to swell, then his arm; and in an hour, he was dead.

Who has not noticed in the home a snake in a book that has changed the character of a boy through its moral poison so that he was never quite the same again? How well did Carlyle divide books into sheep and goats. It is probable that the careers of the majority of criminals in our prisons today might have been vastly different if the character of their reading when young had been different; had it been uplifting, wholesome, instead of degrading.

" Christian Endeavor " Clark read a notice conspicuously posted in a large city : " All boys should read the wonderful story of the desperado brothers of the Western plains, whose strange and thrilling adventures of successful robbery and murder have never before been equaled. Price five cents." The next morning, Dr. Clark read in a newspaper of that city that seven boys had been arrested for burglary, and four stores broken into by the " gang." One of the ringleaders was only ten years old. At their trial, it appeared that each had invested five cents in the story of border crime.

" Red-eyed Dick, the Terror of the Rockies," or some such story has poisoned many a lad's life. A seductive, demoralizing book destroys the ambition, unless for vicious living. All that was sweet, beautiful, and wholesome in the character before seems to vanish, and everything changes after the reading of a single bad book. It has aroused the appetite for more forbidden pleasures, until it crowds out the desire for everything better, purer, healthier. Mental dissipation from this exciting literature, often dripping with suggestiveness of impurity, giving a passport to the prohibited; this is fatal to all soundness of mind.

A lad once showed to another a book full of words and pictures of impurity. He only had it in his hands a few moments. Later in life he held high office in the church, and years afterward told a friend that he would have given half he possessed had he never seen it. Light, flashy stories, with no intention in them, seriously injured the mind of a brilliant young lady, I once knew. Like the drug fiend whose brain has been stupefied, her brain became completely demoralized by constant mental dissipation. Familiarity with the bad, ruins the taste for the good. Her ambition and ideas of life became completely changed. Her only enjoyment was the excitement of her imagination through vicious books.

Nothing else will more quickly injure a good mind than familiarity with the frivolous, the superficial. Even though they may no t be actually vicious, the reading of books which are not true to life, which carry home no great lesson, teach no sane or healthful philosophy, but are merely written to excite the passions, to stimulate a morbid curiosity, will ruin the best of minds in a very short time. It tends to destroy the ideals and to ruin the taste for all good reading.

Read, read, read all you can. But never read a bad book or a poor book. Life is too short, time too precious, to spend it in reading anything but the best. Any book is bad for you, the reading of which takes away your desire for a better one.

Many people still hold that it is a bad thing for the young to read works of fiction. They believe that young minds get a moral twist from reading that which they know is not true, the descriptions of mere imaginary heroes and heroines, and of things which never happened. Now, this is a very narrow, limited view of a big question. These people do not understand the office of the imagination; they do not realize that many of the fictitious heroes and heroines that live in our minds, even from childhood's days, are much more real in their influence on our lives than some of those that exist in flesh and blood.

Dickens' marvelous characters seem more real to us than any we have ever met. They have followed millions of people from childhood to old age, and influenced their whole lives for good. Many of us would look upon it as a great calamity to have these characters of fiction blotted out of our memory and their influence taken out of our lives.

Readers are sometimes so wrought up by a good work of fiction, their minds are raised to such a pitch of courage and daring, all their faculties so sharpened and braced, their whole nature so stimulated; that they can for the time being attempt and accomplish things which were impossible to them without the stimulus. This, it seems to me, is one of the great values of fiction. If it is good and elevating, it is a splendid exercise of all the mental and moral faculties; it increases courage; it rouses enthusiasm; it sweeps the brain-ash off the mind, and actually strengthens its ability to grasp new principles and to grapple with the difficulties of life.

Many a discouraged soul has been refreshened, reinvigorated, has taken on new life by the reading of a good romance. I recall a bit of fiction, called " The Magic Story," which has helped thousands of discouraged souls, given them new hope, new life, when they were ready to give up the struggle.

The reading of good fiction is a splendid imagination exerciser and builder. It stimulates it by suggestions, powerfully increases its picturing capacity, and keeps it fresh and vigorous and wholesome, and a wholesome imagination plays a very great part in every sane and worthy life. It makes it possible for us to shut out the most disagreeable past, to shut out at will all hideous memories of our mistakes, failures, and misfortunes; it helps us to forget our trouble and sorrows, and to slip at will into a new, fresh world of our own making, a world which we can make as beautiful, as sublime, as we wish. The imagination is a wonderful substitute for wealth, luxuries, and for material things. No matter how poor we may be, or how unfortunate, we may be bedridden even, we can by its aid travel round the world, visit its greatest cities, and create the most beautiful things for ourselves.

Sir John Herschel tells an amusing anecdote illustrating the pleasure derived from a book, not assuredly of the first order. In a certain village the blacksmith had got hold of Richardson's novel " Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded," and used to sit on his anvil in the long summer evenings and read it aloud to a large and attentive audience. It is by no means a short book, but they fairly listened to it all. " At length, when the happy turn of fortune arrived, which brings the hero and heroine together, and sets them living long and happily according to the most approved rules, the congregation were so delighted as to raise a great shout, and, procuring the church keys, actually set the parish bells ringing."

"It all comes back to us now," said the brilliant editor of the "Interior" not long ago, "that winter evening in the old home. The curtains are down, the fire is sending out a cheerful warmth and the shaded lamps diffusing a well-tempered radiance. The lad of fifteen is bent over a borrowed volume of sea tales. For hours he reads on, oblivious of all surroundings, until parental attention is drawn toward him by the unusual silence. The boy is seen to be trembling from head to foot with suppressed excitement. A fatherly hand is laid upon the volume, closing it firmly, and the edict is spoken, 'No more novels for five years.' And the lad goes off to bed, half glad, half grieved, wondering whether he has found fetters or achieved freedom.

" In truth he had received both; for that indiscriminating command forbade to him during a formative period of his life works which would have kindled his imagination, enriched his fancy, and heightened his power of expression; but if it closed to him the Garden of Hesperides, it also saved him from a possible descent to the Inferno; it made heroes of history, not demigods of mythology, his companions, and reserved to maturer years those excursions in the literature of the imagination which may lead a young man up to heaven or as easily drag him down to hell.

"The boy who is permitted to saturate his mind with stories of `battle, murder, and sudden death,' is fitting himself, as the records of our juvenile courts show, for the penitentiary or perhaps the gallows. No man can handle pitch without defilement. We may choose our books, but we can not choose their effects. We may plant the vine or sow the thistle, but we can not command what fruit each shall bear. We may loosely select our library, but by and by it will fit us close as a glove.

"There was never such a demand for fiction as now, and never larger opportunities for its usefulness. Nothing has such an attraction for life as life. But what the heart craves is not `life as it is.' It is life as it ought to be. We want not the feeble but the forceful; not the commonplace but the transcendent. Nobody objects to the `purpose novel' except those who object to the purpose. Dealing as it does in the hands of a great master, with the grandest passions, the most tender emotions, the divinest hopes, it can portray all these spiritual forces in their majestic sweep and uplift. And as a matter of history, we have seen the novel achieve in a single generation the task at which the homily had labored ineffectively for a hundred years. Realizing this, it is safe to say that there is not a theory of the philosopher, a hope of the reformer, or a prayer of the saint which does not eventually take form in a story. The novel has wings, while logic plods with a staff. In the hour it takes the metaphysician to define his premises, the storyteller has reached the goal-and after him tumbles the crowd tumultuous."

With the assistance of Rev. Dr. E. P. Tenney, I venture upon the following lists of

books in various lines of reading;


Ÿ "The Arabian Nights Entertainment."

Ÿ "Stories from the Arabian Nights" (Riverside School Library), contains many of

the more famous stories. 5o c. Ÿ Irving Bachelder's " Eben Holden," is a good book. 400,000 copies were sold Ÿ J. M. Barrie's "Little Minister," a story of Scottish life, is very bright reading. Ÿ Bunyan's " Pilgrim's Progress," is one of the most famous of allegories. Ÿ Cervantes' " Don Quixote " is so widely known that any well read man should

know it. Its humor never grows old. Ÿ Ralph Connor's three books-" The Man from Glengarry," "Black Rock," and "The

Sky Pilot,"-have sold 400,000 copies. Ÿ Of George W. Cable's books, "The Cavalier," and 2 pies. Creole Days " are

among the best. Ÿ Dinah Mulock Craik's " John Halifax, Gentleman," is of rare merit. Ÿ C. E. Craddock's (pseudonym), "In the Tennessee Mountains " is entertaining. A

powerful story of mountain-life.

Ÿ Of F. Marion Crawford's stories, among the best are "Mr. Isaacs " and " A Roman

Singer." Ÿ Alexander Dumas' "Count of Monte Christo " is a worldfamous romance. Ÿ Of George Eliot, "Silas Marner" is the best of the short stories, and " Romola "

the best of the long. " Adam Bede " ranks barely second to " Silas Marner." Ÿ Charlotte Brontes " Jane Eyre " remains a classic among earlier English novels. Ÿ Edward Everett Hale's " Man without a Country " will be read as long as the

American flag flies. Ÿ Hawthorne's "Mosses from an Old Manse" are stories of unique interest, and

"The Scarlet Letter" is known to all wellread people. Ÿ Of Rudvard Kipling, read "Kim," and "The Man Who Would be King." Ÿ Pierre Loti's " Iceland Fisherman" is translated by A. F. de Koven. McClurg,

$1.00 Ÿ S. Weir Mitchell's "Hugh Wynne" sold 125,000 copies. Ÿ Thomas Nelson Page's "Gordon Keith" sold 2oo,ooo copies. Ÿ If you read only one of Walter Scott's novels, take "Ivanhoe," or "The

Talisman." Five more of those most read are likely to follow. Ÿ Henryk Sienkiewicz's "Quo Vadis" is most notable. Ÿ Robert L. Stevenson's " Treasure Island," and " Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,"

and " The Merry Men and Other Tales," are fair examples of the charm and

insight of this author. Ÿ He who reads Frank Stockton's " Rudder Grange" is likely to read more of this

author's books. Ÿ Mrs. H. B. Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is still one of the great stories of the

world. Ÿ Of Mark Twain, " Huckleberry Finn," " The Innocents Abroad," and the "Story of

Joan of Arc" are representative volumes. Ÿ Miss Warner's "Wide, Wide World" is unique in American fiction. Ÿ John Watson's " Beside the Bonnie Briar Bush," sold 2oo,ooo copies in

America. Ÿ Lew Wallace's " Ben Hur " is the greatest of scriptural romances.

Thirty-eight books by twenty-eight authors. It would have been easier to name a hundred authors and two hundred books.

I will add from " The Critic " a list whose sales have reached six figures:

Books of Every-day Life

"David Harum," by Westcott

" Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," by Alice Hegan Rice

"The Virginian," by Owen Wister

" Lovey Mary," by Alice Hegan Rice

"The Birds' Christmas Carol," by Mrs. Wiggin .................

The Story of Patsy, by Mrs. Wiggin

" The Leopard's Spots," by Thomas G. Dixon, Jr.


727,000 345,000 250,000 188,000 100,000 100,000 125,000

" Richard Carvel," by Winston Churchill

" The Crisis," by Winston Churchill ...............................

" Graustark," by G. B. McCutcheon " The Eternal City," by Hall Caine "Dorothy Vernon," by Charles Major " The Manxman," by Hall Caine

When Knighthood Was in Flower," by Charles Major.... "To Have and to Hold," by Miss Johnston

" Audrey," by Miss Johnston " .....................................

The Helmet of Navarre," by Bertha Runkle












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