Value of Books

Prudence 8/5/2019

Before the printing press arrived in Europe, books were an item that the average person could not easily obtain. Books in that time were handwritten and definitely not cheap. By the 1500’s, books cost about 1/5 of what they did before the printing press. Sure they were a lot less, but still more than the average person could afford.

In the early 1500’s printing presses were still relatively new in Europe. One of the greatest thinkers of that time was Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, or better known today as just Erasmus. According to the trusted sources at Wikipedia (uh-hmm), Erasmus wasn’t a wealthy person. But what did he say he did with the money he acquired?

When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. -Erasmus

A few centuries later another notable scholar said something similar. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.” He went on to state that spending money on books was more important that spending money on food.

Even in Franklin’s time, books could have not been easily acquired. Yes, maybe easier than in Erasmus’ time, but nothing compared to today. Today, books are everywhere. Many are free or can be borrowed. You can get it in any way imaginable (print, digital, audio). There is information on almost anything your heart desires, all you have to do is Google it to point you in the direction you want to go.

This week, I was packing up my home office. Countless books were going into boxes. Some of the books, I may never get around to reading in my lifetime. Hopefully, that is not true of the ones on my Kindle.

For those that know me, they know I have a passion for reading. It has become a part of my identity. I like to read. If I am not paying attention, I can easily sit for hours engrossed in a novel. In my younger years, all I read was fiction. As I got older, my preference has turned to non-fiction only reserving fiction as a before bedtime routine.

Lately, I have started to wonder how all of this reading has helped me. I love to read books that teach valuable lessons. I believe they can in some way help me become a better person or live a more meaningful life. I consume one and then move on to another. Some I will read and afterwards wonder why I even wasted my time. Others leave their mark, but yet I still move on to the next. These are the ones that have me thinking that maybe I need to slow down. Absorb it. Maybe read it again or as Naval Ravikant suggested in his interview with Joe Rogan (#1309), stop and meditate on it. Would this not be of much more value?

The wisdom that I am pondering today goes back to the basics. Quality always wins over speed. At the beginning of every year, I lock in a goal number of books to read. Why does it matter if I am not getting anything from it? I need to slow down and soak it all in. And if I didn’t get it the first time, I need to go back and read it again

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