Chapter 21: Reading And The Growth of The Mind

Chapter 21: Reading And The Growth of The Mind
(From the book: How to Read a Book. (The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading.))

Review done by Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 6-25-12

After getting this far in the discussion, then we must make the effort to read as you have never read before. This is our task and obligation. (p.338)

What Good Books Can Do For Us

If you want to be a better reader then you need to read books that are over your head. You must read books that will stretch your mind. We must go beyond entertainment reading. We need to read for understanding. The books we read should make demands on us.

There are good books and there are bad books. A bad book has nothing to “pin us down.” p. 340.

“A good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable-books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of life.” (How to read a Book. p. 341)

The Pyramid of Books

There are several million books in the western tradition. Most of those books demand one reading. Some books we keep as references in order to remember certain points. This is where writing on the margins comes in. We can refer to our margin notes.

Sometimes we go back to a book that once thrilled us and we are disappointed. Why? The book has not changed. We have changed and have grown.

There are less that one percent of the books that make severe demands of the reader. Less than 100 titles demand further readings of the text.

This is a quote about a good book, “Your impression of increased understanding on your previous reading was not false. The book truly lifted you then. But now, even though you have become wiser and more knowledgeable, it can life you again. And it will keep on doing this until you die.” (How To Read A Book. p. 343)

There is a list of 130 or so recommended titles. The author states that we “Should seek out a few books that can have this value for you. They are the books that will teach you the most, both about reading and about life. They are the books to which you will want to return over and over again. They are the books that will help you to grow.” (pg. 344)

The Life And Growth of The Mind

There is a test…if you are marooned on a island, what are the ten books that you will like to have with you?

“By the time most people are thirty years old, their bodies are as good as they will ever be; in fact, many person’s bodies have begun to deteriorate by that time. But there is no limit to the growth and development that the mind can sustain. The mind does not stop growing at a particular age; only when the brain itself loses its vigor, in senescence, does the mind lose its power to increase in skill and understanding.” (How To Read A Book. p. 345)

Senescence: The state of being old : the process of becoming old.

“The mind can atrophy, like the muscles, if it is not used. Atrophy of the mental muscles is the penalty that we pay for not taking mental exercise. And this is a terrible penalty, for there is evidence that atrophy of the mind is a mortal disease. There seems to be no other explanation for the fact that so many busy people die soon after retirement. They were kept alive by the demands of their work upon their minds; they were propped up artificially, as it were, by external forces. But as soon as these demands cease, having no resources, within themselves in the way of mental activity, they cease thinking all together, and expire.” (How To Read A Book. p. 346)

“Television, radio, and all the sources of amusement and information that surround us is our daily lives are also artificial props. They can give us the impression that our minds are active, because we are required to react to stimuli from the outside. But the power of those external stimuli to keep us going is limited. They are like drugs. We grow used to them, and we continuously need more and more of them. Eventually they have little or no effect. Then, if we lack resources within ourselves, we cease to grow intellectually, morally, and spiritually. And when we cease to grow, we die.” (How To Read A Book. p. 346)

Interact with us using Facebook

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.