The choice of books
Nowadays in one language only, scores of new books are published in a month and thousands in a year. Think of the number in all the languages in the world! Thinking of books in English only, no one can hope to read them all.
Even a man of leisure can read only a limited number of books in a year. And most readers are busy people, they can spare only a little time a day to read. Try as we can, a large number of books must remain forever unread. So a choice of books must be made.
On what lines should the choice be made? Well, it is good, to begin with, the classics. A “classic” of a book has stood the test of time and has been placed by critics and readers of taste in the first class. A book that is the rage of the moment may be forgotten in a few years, it may be worth reading, or it may not.
But a book that has been read for generations with pleasure and profit, has proved itself to be worth reading. So let the young reader begin with some of these. Let him read, in fiction, some of the novels of Scott, Dickens, and Thackeray; in history, Macaulay, Gibbon, and Green; in poetry, Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning; in general literature, Lamb’s Essays, De Quincey, Ruskin, Carlyle, Stevenson, and so on. These books will help to form his taste for good literature.
For the rest, individual taste must determine the choice. Some will take to history and biography; some to travel and adventure; some to science and philosophy; others to general literature and poetry.
Whatever subject is chosen, the best books, old and modern, should be sought out and read carefully. After all, it is not the number of books one reads that counts most. A few books read thoughtfully will be of more value to the reader than many skimmed through and forgotten.