t is with great delight and much anticipation that we at The C.S. Lewis Institute are launching a new, regular interactive feature from Knowing & Doing to help readers benefit from reading the great “old books.” We are calling this feature “A Book Observed: An Online ‘Old Book’ Club”.
C.S. Lewis famously prescribed, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”1 In each issue of Knowing & Doing, we plan to include an article featuring one great old book that we know will provide valuable reading for those who want to deepen their faith and connect to a long tradition of thoughtful devotion. This article will introduce the book and offer suggestions for how to best approach it. In addition, we are providing an interactive online experience so that readers have an opportunity to engage in a discussion about the book with others, enabling them to benefit even further from their reading of these great books.
As a young man, Lewis observed in a letter to a friend, “When one has read a book, I think there is nothing so nice as discussing it with some one else …”2 Years later, Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others would gather regularly at The Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford for discussions of great ideas, books they were currently writing, and many other stimulating topics that weren’t often discussed in other settings. One can only imagine the stimulating discussions that developed and the wide variety of great books that were quoted or endorsed. We hope that by encouraging the reading of great “old books”, and facilitating a community experience of lively online discussion of those books with others, our new book club will help stimulate spiritual growth and powerful discipleship of heart and mind.
I’ve offered the first installment for this new feature elsewhere in this issue. It is my hearty endorsement for Jonathan Edwards’s The Religious Affections.
For the rest of this article, I will offer some thoughts on the question: Why read the great old books?
My family and I sat glued to our TV on September 6, 1995, as we watched Cal Ripkin circle Oriole Park at Camden Yards. As he trotted, he high-fived fans who stood to cheer as he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played. As the camera panned the cheering crowd, it zoomed in on a sign that read, “We consider ourselves the luckiest fans on the face of the earth.” I responded by saying, “Ooooh! That’s good!”