January offers a good time to discipline ourselves. One area worth our attention is reading good books. Before the modern era, people viewed the reading of good literature as a means of learning and raising virtue, or morals. Today we often think of reading as just another form of entertainment.
For years I've heard the saying, "Leaders are readers." I've read the advice numerous times from ministry and corporate pastors and executives that leaders of people and organizations should set aside one hour a day for reading.
In our day, most people tend to bow to the idol of the television for hours a week. Why not lose 30 minutes a day of t.v. time and instead dig into a good book?
In her excellent book On Reading Well, Karen Prior writes, " [I]t is not enough to read widely. One must read virtuously. The word virtue has various shades of meaning . . . , but in general, virtue can most simply be understood as excellence. Reading well is, in itself, an act of virtue, or excellence, and it is also a habit that cultivates more virtue in return."
C. S. Lewis warned that childhood and adolescent boys left to their own tastes and preferences will always choose low. In our day that means, boys left to choose their own reading will always choose superheroes, potty humor, and generally sarcastic material (ever heard of Diary of a Wimpy Kid?). Our children need parents guiding them into good, virtuous literature. In classical education, that means digging into classic literature written well that extols the best of the human experience.
Prior explains in On Reading Well that we can improve our character by listening to and obeying God---as well as by reading and studying great authors. Prior introduces courage via Huckleberry Finn; justice in A Tale of Two Cities; faith as portrayed in Silence; chastity as seen in Ethan Frome; patience in Persuasion; and so on. Discover what virtues look like and where vice leads.
I gave a copy this Christmas to my two oldest children and am reading my own as well.
Click here to see my personal January reading list.