Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How many books? #2

The puritan Thomas Fuller put things in a more succinct way than the previous post attempted to do: "A few books well chosen, and well made use of will be more profitable than a great confused Alexandrian library." Perhaps Samuel Johnson was aware of this when he said famously, "Books like friends, should be few and well-chosen." Fuller was a very prolific and extensive writer, there were 11 volumes of The Church History of Britain (1655) for instance. How many of his own books were among the "few chosen"? 

How might we identify "a few books well chosen"? As to lists - usually I don't concur entirely with their contents but I quite like this one. We might ask various questions of the book. Does the book promote holiness of life either by precept or example? Does the book extend knowledge and understanding usefully? Does the book promote spiritual edification? The best books are well-defined by Thomas Watson, however:

"Get books into your houses, when you have not the spring near you, then get some water into your cisterns; so when you have not that wholesome preaching that you desire, good books are cisterns that hold the water of life in them to refresh you; So, when you find a chillness upon your souls, and that your former heat begins to abate, ply yourselves with warm clothes, get those good books that may acquaint you with such truths as may warm and affect your hearts."