A Case for Reading Books

A Case for Reading Books
The Reader's Turn

Have you ever wondered why we make the choices we do that determine how our lives are directed? Why do we respond to something one way instead of a different way? What is at the bottom of it all?

I submit to you the human nature that we and all people are endowed with and have been since the beginning of mankind that causes us to follow one fork in the road instead of the other.

From the beginning of time to the present, we have had pride and humility, envy and gratitude, love and indifference, hate and friendship, avarice and sharing, and other combinations in our DNA forever.

In past generations, liberal arts colleges had at their foundation the teachings provided in the “100 Great Books,” from which the lessons for their students were derived from what worked and what didn’t in striving for a good and satisfying life.

Some of the authors included Plato (who wrote of the wisdom of Sophocles), several playwrights of Greek (pre-Christ) plays, Tolstoy, Chaucer, Cervantes, Dickens, Austen, Emily Brontë, Shakespeare, and others. Many are still in print because the insight they give still stands true to show us how decisions we human beings make lead to good or bad outcomes.

If we want to avoid catastrophes in the future, we need to study the past. The big lie today is that socialism offers a bright future and that this time, this kind of socialism is different. Socialism has been tried more than 40 times and failed every time to improve its citizens.

It fails because it is structured on a totalitarian, top-down hierarchy. Anyone who does not adhere to the desires of the leadership is punished. People get ahead, not on their own merits, but on the amount of fealty they give to the top tier.

For me, the simplest means to understand what works and what doesn’t is in a book first published in 2011 and written by Thomas Sowell: “Intellectuals and Society.” It contains 546 pages plus 100 pages of notes that support what is written.

Don’t let the length frighten you, Mr. Sowell uses a lot of one-syllable, everyday words, and he writes in an easy-to-read style. He will help you understand life’s trial and error experiences of billions of ordinary people who have accumulated more wisdom than a relatively few highly rated intellectuals.

The 546 pages boil down to the thesis that we make decisions primarily based on the incentives and restraints that are presented to us.

I have read it three times and learned new things each time. I’m looking forward to reading it once again.

As Jeff Minick, a teacher and author said in a recent article, “Most of what we read on the sites and blogs we visit is ephemera. Here today and gone tomorrow. ... But books—good books, great books—inhabit the mind forever.”