Balanced reading will include classics of the past and worthwhile contemporary literature

A free-flowing stream of ideas is essential to a healthy intellectual life. A stream of old ideas, recirculated through one’s consciousness, results in mental (and perhaps even spiritual) stagnation.

To avoid stagnation, the stream must be replenished with fresh thoughts from one’s own experience or the experience of others. Reading books is perhaps the most efficient way to refresh the stream with the experience of others while at the same time gaining perspective, stimulation, and interpretation concerning one’s own experience.

A Personal Inventory. An inspection of one’s own book-reading habits can provide insight into the state of one’s stream—fresh or stagnant. List the books you are reading now. List the books you have read during the past quarter, the past year. Note the types of books. How many were read to kill time? How many to enrich time? Note the quality of the books to which you devoted x number of hours of your life. What range of subjects did you cover?

Consider the depth. What proportion were light and amusing? How many were at a greater, yet still comfortable depth? How many made you tax your mind and stretch your soul? To what extent have your recent reading habits refreshed the stream of thought that is filling the reservoir of your being?

In every generation some public figure restates the truth: “Show me the books a man reads and I will know the man.” Are you willing to have your bookshelf scrutinized? Perhaps you should examine it yourself. Look at the age of the books. See if they are old—passed down from your parents or published during the decade you graduated from college. Perhaps they are all new—newly published ...

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