In days gone by before the invention of printing press the books had to be written by hand on parchment – a very slow and laborious process. Even in those days there were a large number of books. These days with the invention of printing press the market is flooded with books and that too in different languages. Thousands of publications come out every year. It is very difficult to read all the books. A right and judicious choice is necessary before one starts reading the books.
There are books which do harm rather than good to the readers. The market has ample literature that comes in the category of ‘trash’. This literature deals with sex, violence and drugs. The study of this type of literature is likely to have a bad effect upon the character of the reader. Detective novels though provide a channel to the pent up energy of the youth yet they also teach the young methods of violence, robbery and many other evils. Therefore choice and that too a wise one is necessary before one starts the habit of reading books.
What should be the principle in the choice of books? It depends upon the taste of the individual. A religious minded person should read scriptures, whereas a person having taste in history should go through books on history. Biographies and autobiographies of great saints, leaders and politicians have a major role to play in the life of an individual. One learns to tread the right path by following in the foot-steps of the great saints and leaders. Their lives teach us that we can also make our lives sublime if we abide by the principles laid down by them. Persons interested in tours and travels will take to books on these topics. A scientist will only be interested in books on science. Science fiction can be of interest even to a common man. People having taste in illusion can read books on ghosts and supernatural element. Individual taste must determine the choice; choice should not be guided by the views of others. We should read what we like reading. We must go through our favorite books by authors liked by us. Books must be chosen so as to give us joy. Some books are helpful in fostering noble ideas in us whereas other books lead us to a life of sin and vice. Such books should be avoided.
Thinking of books in English only, no one can hope to read them all. Even a man of leisure can read only a limited number of books throughout life. Try as we can still a large number of books must remain unread for ever. It is better if we begin with classics in English literature. A ‘classic’ is a book that has stood the test of time and has been placed by critics and readers of taste in the category of books of first class. A book that is read in the range of the moment may be forgotten in a few years; it may be worth reading or not. But a book that has been read for generations with pleasure and profit has proved itself to be worth reading. The young reader should begin with some of these books. Let him read in fiction, some of the novels of Scott, Dickens, Thackeray; Shelley, Tennyson, Browning; in general literature, Lamb’s essays, De Quincey, Ruskin, Carlyle, Stevenson. And there is a large number. These books will help to form his taste and liking for good literature. To sum up we may say that choice of books depends upon time at one’s disposal, individual taste and temperament. Wrong choice is harmful.