Alan Jacobs might be right. I certainly resist reading those who are polemical and partisan. I do not find it helpful to feed the fire of my own self-righteous anger. I know it is in there. I know I harbor hatred; I know I have enemies. I also know there are some writers who capitalize on these impulses. They stoke fear and inflame passions.
Jacobs’ advice here helps us to eliminate options, making us think more carefully about what not to read. But how do we decide what to read?
What if we asked, “Does this writer help us to better love one another?”
That would mean we would read books that would help us:
- Gain a greater understanding of the human condition.
- Have compassion for a broader diversity of the human family.
- Develop a consistent ethic.
- Inspire creative action.
- Communicate more clearly.
- Have courage.
- Differentiate between truth and falsehood.
- Become aware of the mistakes of the past and how to avoid repeating them.
- Grow in wisdom and knowledge.
- And, last but not least, encounter God, or experience the divine.
There is something worthwhile in reading books that address current controversies, or pulp fiction that can help us pass the time. But the more books I’ve read, the more discriminating I’ve had to become. The sands are running out of the hourglass. My time reading must be worthwhile. Every pick counts.