There are books in the world that I love. Many books are dear to my heart because they have stirred me in some way spiritually or intellectually. I began as a child reading books. My teachers encouraged me to read.
They enriched my intellectual life by insisting that I read certain books— history books, novels, biographies and other kinds of books. I was taught to take care of library books and thereby my own personal books. Books became an important part of my education, not just in schools but in my personal studies.
At each level of school I learned about important books. I read as much as I could, learning about all kinds of books and other reading materials—newspapers, journals and magazines. When school was in session, I was a regular patron of the library.
Then I discovered the public library with all its wonderful resources—books, magazines, recording, newspapers, microfilm, microfiche and vertical files. I paid attention to others who appreciated books, my friends, teachers, neighbors, relatives and pastors. When I became a Christian and started attending church, I began frequenting the church library. I talked with my pastor who learned of my interest in books.
I became a regular visitor to his library, often borrowing important books available nowhere else to me. Some books in my personal library my pastors gave to me. Others contributed to my library, one summer the ladies’ group at church made a significant contribution to my library of 20 books, virtually tripling the number of books in my personal library. I read those books and still use them.
When I became a student at Eastern Kentucky University during my Sophomore year of college in 1965 I met another book lover, Professor Kerney Adams who was chair of the History
Department at the University. He loved books, especially history and philosophy. I was introduced to a whole new world of books to read and study—Plato, Aristotle, Harry Elmer Barnes, Soren Kierkegaard, Ruth Benedict, William James and Paul Tillich. Through his course Ideological Foundations of Western Civilization that surveyed in two semesters the philosophy, social development, intellectual contributions of western history from the Greeks to the modern era I learned about the importance of ideas, intellectuals, books, ideologies, and thinking.
In Professor Adams’ classes I learned to listen, to express my ideas in conversation, and most important I learned to write. I was already keeping a personal journal, recording my ideas, thoughts and observations about life, books, and myself.
My journals have become a great treasure of ideas.
These continue to enrich my reading, thinking and literary life, making available a record that can be consulted and used in manifold ways.
In these thousands of pages there is a record of how books contribute to and change my life.
I have come to cherish the classics and the ordinary books—Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Ethics, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Grace Abounding, Paul Tillich’s The Protestant Era, History of Christian Thought, and The Courage to Be, William James’ Pragmatism, Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Prayer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Alfred North Whitehead’s History of Philosophy, Religion in the Making,
All of these books are fine. I appreciate all of them for a number of different reasons. They are each one important, but they fall far short in satisfying the needs of man, particularly spiritually. They do not even begin to touch the deeper needs of man’s inner life. There is a book that has come to be for me the Book of books. It is the Bible. It is a book that overshadows all the rest. I have read it through many, many times. I hardly miss a day reading some part of the Bible, thinking about what it says and seeking to apply its teachings to my life.
Some books I cannot recommend that others should read, but I can always recommend this marvelous book. It is actually a collection of books, a library in a single volume.
As a child we didn’t have many books at our house, but my folks did have a copy of the Bible that had a record of their wedding and some information about other members of the family. It had numerous drawings depicting different biblical characters and scenes. I was fascinated by these illustrations and will have to confess that these were of more interest in the beginning than the text for reading. I’m not sure what happened to that volume, but through the years as a child I read that copy of the Bible in the old King James English. Then in time I was given a copy of the Bible to personally use. I remember my mother taking me to the “Five and Dime” store in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, to buy Bibles for my sister and me so that we could have a Bible to take to Sunday School. That was my first personal Bible. I still have that Bible. It is a cherished possession. It contains my childish notes and markings as part of my personal intellectual journey. Of course, since that first Bible in 1959 I have owned and still have many different copies of the Bible.
I have belabored this point because I wanted to confirm in your thinking that I’m not inexperienced when it comes to books. I know books. I have frequented bookstores, libraries, book sales, personal libraries in Europe, Asia and all over North America. From those early years that I’ve mentioned here I have continued to add books to my library which now numbers several thousand volumes.
Of all these many books, I must say that the most important book, the most valuable book, the best book and the most read book is the Bible. It is the greatest of books.
In message it is the most profound. In application it is unequaled. In advice it is superb. In authority it is ultimate. It is a book that all should read.
I believe it is still a best seller among all books.
Let me hear from you on what you think about the wonder and marvel of books, especially the Bible.