Why Are Books Important?

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Nathan A. Hughes

Puritan Board Freshman
Books date back many hundreds of years. It is estimated that there have been over 130 million books published. In 2011, 180,000 books were published in the United Kingdom alone. In recent years readers have favoured the e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle over the traditional paperback. In this paper I am not going to solely defend the printed format of books over electronic ones. However, I will say this, personally, I prefer hardback books as they last longer and they are my preferred style of reading material. I believe books should last a lifetime, this is why I prefer hardbacks. Paperback books do not last long if they are well used and read. Hardbacks withstand the test of time.

The e-readers has some major disadvantages. If the device runs out of power, brakes or is stolen then you have lost not just one book but the entire collection. True, with the Kindle you can download the same purchased book again on a new device free of charge. However, you will have to wait until you get a new device. The last negative point I would like to make regarding the Kindle is this, the Kindle is not a book. The Kindle does not have any paper and the feel of the kindle is nowhere near the same as a real book.

On a more positive note, the Kindle does have some advantages over the traditional book. Kindle books are usually a lot cheaper and easier to carry around in your pocket or a bag. The thought of having access to many books on a device that you can slip into a pocket is thrilling and wonderful. You can increase and decrease the font size which is a great feature and you cut down on shelf space on your bookcase. The Kindle is also ideal for travelling. Recently I have acquired a Kindle, I came kicking and screaming into the 21st century and I must confess that the Kindle is a very useful tool.

To me books are as important as food. We eat to feed our body and we read to feed our minds. For me the smell of a brand new book is one of the greatest. We do not appreciate how much work and effort has gone into making a book these days.

For myself to hold a book and feel the paper is when I am most happy and relaxed. I am in my element when reading and studying a good book especially if the book is theological in nature. I believe it is very important that we all read good material, it is fundamental to our mental well-being and how we view the world around us. Reading is much more than a mere pass time or hobby. Consider this, if God chose the means of a book containing 66 books to reveal His truth to us what does that say about books in the sight of God.

To quote Francis Bacon, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” What I think Bacon is saying here is this, some books are to be studied and read carefully others are to be flicked through and other are to be taken seriously and masticated over. Having said that it is very important that we read at a pace and level that we can understand. If we read too fast or too slowly we will find understanding the book a challenge. I like to read a wide range of books from history and poetry to biographies and Christian books. However there is only one book that we should read above any other. The book I speak of is the living Word of God, the Holy Bible.

The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt once said, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” The 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan I believe explain Roosevelt’s words very well when he said, “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.” I don’t believe that Reagan was thinking of Roosevelt’s remarks when he said this, but I think the two quotes go very well together. They complement one another.

The Holy Bible ought to occupy our thoughts and conscience on a daily basis and the reader of the Bible will do well to apply the truths contained therein to his heart, soul and life. No-one who has submitted to the authority of the Bible has ever regretted that wise move. As Reagan said the Bible addresses every area of concern regarding spiritual life. The Bible is worth reading and obeying. In the front of my Bible I have written this quote by Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

When reading it is ideal to find a peaceful area and make yourself comfortable. For some this might be in your bedroom or in a library. Personally I am most comfortable when sitting in my wing armchair with a blanket over me and a cup of tea. You can cut yourself off from the stresses and concerns of the day. You can create your own world when reading and lose yourself in the book. It is also a good idea to read when you are most alert and have the time. Some people are at their peak in the morning while others find they can focus better in the evening. Whatever time of day best suits you I suggest you dedicate 1-2 hours a day for reading. This maybe a lunch time or an evening.

There are 10 main reasons why I believe books and reading are still important to us today.
1. Proffer and contribute to knowledge

Books contain a wealth of knowledge and can be a great source to learn new things. As I have mentioned before it is wise to read a range of topics especially subjects you are interested in. I believe time is too short to read books that you don’t like. Do not follow the trend of reading the latest book just for the sake of reading it. As we read we stimulate our brains and keep them active. Studies have revealed that reading has positive effects and can prevent dementia. It is important that we exercise the brain and keep it healthy. As a footnote to health I have found that reading helps a greatly with depression and mental health. I have suffered from depression for a considerable amount of time, since reading more my mind has benefited a lot. I find episodes of depression are reduced when reading and thinking about what I have read.

2. Improves memory

Linked to the first point reading improves our memory. It is believed that by reading out loud or listening to an audio book enables us to remember more. This is based on the fact that we receive the information twice, firstly when we read the words on the page and secondly when we hear the words spoken.

3. Better sleep and less stress

Speaking from a personal point of view I have noticed that I sleep a lot better when I’ve read a book for about an hour leading up to the time I go to sleep. When watching television or using a screen the light tricks your brain into thinking that it is still daylight and that makes falling to sleep harder. I do not watch TV much, but when I do I find this to be the case. Reading relaxes us and thus our stress levels decrease.

4. Enhances your writing and critical thinking skills

If you were to ask a well-known writer how they started writing or what made them take up writing, at some point in the past there would have been an influential book or writer that captured their mind and interest. It is profitable to read well-written books because it will help you with your writing. When we read we take in important in a far more profound way that watching a screen. Reading causes us to think about what is happening in the book and what the writer wants us to know. To be honest with you I find television boring and rather dull. Books are far more pleasurable and captivating than modern technology and television. There are very few TV programmes I enjoy.

5. Broadens your vocabulary

Contrary to popular belief one does not have to read the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to learn new words. I am sure you will find that there are many words you did not know by just reading a book. By reading books we learn new words.

6. Break from the world and social media

Sadly we live in a society that is taken up with the internet and particularly social media. There is nothing wrong or harmful about these, but they must be used in moderation and correctly. Spending most of the day reading your social media feed is a waste of time and profits you nothing. That time could be spent more wisely. I believe we can all benefit something from having a break from online activities and not being always connected to our social media account(s). Studies have shown spending too much time online or in front of a screen is damaging to our health, especially regarding our eyes. Those that spend hours glued to a screen are at high risk of developing myopia. That is one reason why reading is important.

7. Learn your present and past.

The seventh point I wish to make is very pacific. I believe in order to understand why things are so today we need to have an understanding of the past. By learning from the past we are better prepared for the times that come. We are at risk of repeating the mistakes and failures of the past if we do not learn about them. History plays a very important part of who we are and why we are what we are. Even our own personal history can tell us a great deal. By reading history books we have the opportunity to go back in time and learn what people said and wrote long after they’ve gone. I believe we cannot appreciate the present day without a knowledge of our history. I think this is very important regarding Church history. We ought to be aware of significant events in the history of Christianity. This knowledge will allow us to appreciate what we have today and what those who are now in heaven did for us today.

8. Ameliorates our morals

This point can only benefit us if we read the Bible. With the aid of the Holy Spirit we will discern sin from righteousness. The Puritans writers left us some great material that all true believers ought to read and own personal copies of. The Puritans are clear, direct and scriptural based. Their books challenge us to search our hearts. A Christian book should never make us only joyful or feel good from cover to cover, a good Christian book will cause us to feel uncomfortable at times and will provoke us to ask important and profound questions regarding our own Christian conduct and sanctification. There is nothing wrong with Christian books that encourage us, but if that is all the writer is focused on it is advisable to read something that will provoke us to ask questions that lead to a strengthening of faith, a knowledge of our own sinfulness and cause us to glorify God. We ought to read books that teach us something and stir us up. There is no point in reading books by John Owen for example if you have no idea what he is saying. It is better to read J.C. Ryle and learn something rather than trying to read a deep book and learn nothing. Reading should be done on a personal level and not for show. Reading should be enjoyable and satisfying. If we read what is considered the deep and profound books for show then we have missed the point in reading. We should read books that are tailored at our reading level and that meet the needs we have. Books we read ought to depend on our reading ability and what we can profit from.

9. Increases our focus and concentration

We live in a very fast moving and ever changing society. We are custom to 24 hour news and we lead busier lives than 50 years ago. We hardly have time these days to stop and think. We are constantly connected to friends online and find being alone difficult. All these are factors to having high stress levels and a lack of concentration. One good way to increase our focus and attention levels is by reading. It is good for us to cut ourselves off from society and the daily distractions that demand our time. That email or Facebook notification will still be there in an hour. Do not feel the need to check your device every few minutes. We need to have that time to ourselves to relax and unwind. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much more alert you are after benefiting from that time alone with a good book. When we read we are focused on the pages and our attention is drawn to what we are reading. Get control of your reading time and your ability to concentrate will improve.

10. A productive way to spend time.

It is true that we learn something new every day. Reading good books teaches us something new. It also deepens our understanding and knowledge of a particular subject. Reading is a good way to spend your time, especially when you read the Bible. You can never read too much of the Bible and you can never spend too much time in Scripture. The more of Scripture we read the more we deepen our understanding of spiritual matters and the better prepared we are when attacks and questions come our way. Scripture teaches us that if we hide truth in our hearts we will not sin against the Lord. Also we are to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us. It is also true that we reap what we sow. So, reading is important for our development and growth. If we read books that provide us with good spiritual guidance and truth we will benefit greatly from that. If you store up in your mind the wrong things then it is more likely that it will become part of your character. What we think and read does matter. Our brains are like computer hard drives only at lot more advance. The human mind can recall an overwhelming amount of information, memories and knowledge. You only have one brain use it well. Treat your brain with respect. God has given us our brain to use for good. Let us employ our time in what will profit our mental well-being and spiritual well-being.

There are of course a lot more to be said about the benefits of being a bibliophile, but I think I have given you more than enough to consider. I would like to close by quoting the American novelist and poet Christopher Morley “There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love, and like that colossal adventure it is an experience of great social import. Even as the tranced swain, the booklover yearns to tell others of his bliss. He writes letters about it, adds it to the postscript of all manner of communications, intrudes it into telephone messages, and insists on his friends writing down the title of the find. Like the simple-hearted betrothed, once certain of his conquest, “I want you to love her, too!” It is a jealous passion also. He feels a little indignant if he finds that any one else has discovered the book, too.” It is my hope and prayer that by God’s grace you will master the power of reading.

Yours heartily in Christ
Nathan A. Hughes
Phil 1: 21

Read this article on my blog
Just going to say that a Kindle Fire is a tablet, not an e-reader and I think you'd have a lot more positive experience with one with an e-ink screen, but regardless, the experiences are vastly different!

I grew up with books, I have five or six-hundred in my physical library (many old and collectible ones) and yet I read my Kindle primarily. I track how many pages and books I read per year and the amount more than doubled since I moved over to Kindle, primarily because it's always with me and I can just open it to whatever spot in whatever book I was reading. And read one-handed and on my back for extended periods of time!

You may still very much prefer physical but trying to use a Kindle Fire as a reading device isn't really going to reveal the major benefits of an e-reader.
Just going to say that a Kindle Fire is a tablet, not an e-reader and I think you'd have a lot more positive experience with one with an e-ink screen, but regardless, the experiences are vastly different!

I grew up with books, I have five or six-hundred in my physical library (many old and collectible ones) and yet I read my Kindle primarily. I track how many pages and books I read per year and the amount more than doubled since I moved over to Kindle, primarily because it's always with me and I can just open it to whatever spot in whatever book I was reading. And read one-handed and on my back for extended periods of time!

You may still very much prefer physical but trying to use a Kindle Fire as a reading device isn't really going to reveal the major benefits of an e-reader.
Thank You for that Logan. I did not know that a Kindle Fire is a tablet and not an e-reader. I might try an e-reader. I agree with you, one can save a lot of money via the e-reader. I can see how you would read a lot more via the e-reader. They are much better to carry around. I always bring a book with me when I go out. I will give it a go. Regards.
I have to confess to glancing up on a physical book page to see how much battery I have left :book2:

I've recently discovered Audible with mixed reviews. It can fill voids where reading is impossible -- cooking or driving -- but lags in what I remember.

For serious study, a physical book ranks first followed by Kindle, then Audible.
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