Books that matter

February 15, 2008

R.R. Reno writes about books – the ones that matter, and why.

Books are like minerals, buried and waiting to be found. They lie in dusty corners of used books shops or in the virtual nooks and crannies of online megastores or in remote library stacks—or in unread piles at home. Not all are precious. In fact, most are more like coal than gold: useful in a workmanlike way. If you need to know something about lithography or Levinas or the Battle of Lexington, there are doubtless textbooks and monographs and multivolume studies ready to inform. But some books shine. They do more than instruct; they nourish. They become indispensable rather than just helpful.


Not all major or minor classics are golden. Circumstances make all the difference. Some books cannot give their gifts because, for whatever reason, we cannot receive them. I tried to read Henry James when I was younger, but I found him tedious. But I recently read The Golden Bowl and rejoiced in its misty, translucent prose. A couple of decades of adulthood, marriage, and career give me just the right amount of experience with the delicate and difficult passage down the path between moral demand and personal desire. For very different reasons, only in the last few years have I been capable of reading and cherishing St. Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind to God.

Books That Matter from On The Square


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