Happy is the man who acquires the habit of reading when he is young. He has secured a life-long source of pleasure, instruction and inspiration. So long as he has his beloved books, he need never feel lonely. He always has a pleasant occupation of leisure moments, so that he need never feel bored. He is the possessor of wealth more precious than gold. Ruskin calls books, “Kings’ Treasures” – treasuries filled, not with gold and silver and precious stones, but with riches much more valuable than these – knowledge, noble thoughts and high ideals. Poor indeed is the man who does not read, and empty is his life.
The blessings which the reading habit confers on its possessor are many. Provided we choose the right kind of books, reading gives the highest kind of pleasure. Some books we read simply for pleasure and amusement – for example, good novels. And novels and books of imagination must have their place in everybody’s reading. When we are tired, or the brain is weary with serious study, it is a healthy reaction to lose ourselves in some absorbing story written by a master hand.
But to read nothing but books of fiction is like eating nothing but cakes and sweetmeats. As we need plain, wholesome food for the body, so we must have serious reading for the mind. And here we can choose according to our taste. There are many noble books on history, biography, philosophy, religion, travel, and science which we ought to read, and which will give us not only pleasure but an education. And we can develop a taste for serious reading, so that in the end it will give us more solid pleasure than even novels and books of fiction.
Nor should poetry be neglected, for the best poetry gives us noble thoughts and beautiful imaginers clothed in lovely and musical language.
Books are the most faithful of friends. Our friends may change, or die; but our books are always patiently waiting to talk to us. They are never cross, peevish, or unwilling to converse, as our friends sometimes are. No wonder a reader becomes a “book-lover.”