Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 2, 2013

Read Good Books

While in Kolkata last month, I mentioned to our students in one of our evening devotionals how much I love the story of Don Quixote. Written in 1605 by the Spanish novelist and playwright Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote is considered to be one of the world’s greatest literary works. One key lesson from Don Quixote is the importance of seeing others not just as they are, but as what they can become. Ultimately, the story of the Knight of the Woeful Countenance reminds me of the importance of living in such a way that I might, as Don Quixote hoped to do, “add a measure of grace to the world.”

Don Quixote Cover
So, you can imagine how happy I was when Jake Gries, one of the students on our India team, surprised me with a 1945 edition of “The Adventures of Don Quixote” after we returned home. The old library book that he gave me has some great illustrations. I love the faded and dog-eared pages and the somewhat fragile feel of the book. Holding this particular book in my hands triggered all sorts of memories of my first encounter with this wonderful story when I was a kid. Books have a way of doing that — of preserving our memories between their pages like a pressed flower.

Don Quixote Cover Pic
What I also appreciate about Jake’s gift is that he took the time to write something personal in the flyleaf of the book. That makes Jake’s gift even more special to me. My grandfather unwittingly left our family a legacy of love notes in the books that he gave to each of us and also in the books in his own library. I have also made it a practice to do the same in books that I give away as well as books in my personal library. Maybe someday a family member or someone else who ends up owning one of my books will be encouraged by what they read in the flyleaf.

I am an advocate of reading good stories — enduring stories that have withstood the test of time. Mark Twain once described a “classic” as a book which people praise but don’t read. That’s pretty much true. People in our busy day tend to prefer the Cliff’s Notes summary to actually sitting and reading an old story one yellowed page at a time. Reading a good story is about much more than getting through the story. It’s also about letting the story get through you, of allowing it to seep into your thoughts so that your imagination is stirred and engaged.

Don Quixote Reads
I love the opening lines in “The Adventures of Don Quixote” because they tell us how Don Quixote’s imagination was stirred and what inspired him to set off on great and chivalrous adventures.

When he had nothing to do, which was most of the time, Don Quixote read books of long ago. He read everything that had to do with knights and challenges, battles and tournaments, chivalry and enchantment. He would begin a book before breakfast, and seldom leave off until his candle guttered in the light of the following day.

Each of us should take the time to read good books filled with the kind of stories that will inspire us to do good and noble deeds. Don Quixote “had a mighty expectation that, if he rode with lance and shield, he might fare as gloriously as those same knights over whose stories he had pored so long.” May we too, like Don Quixote, read good books and go forth with great expectations of adding a measure of grace to the world.


Responses

  1. Love this book, and love this post! Anyone who quotes Cervantes AND Mark Twain is ok in my ‘book’.

  2. I love this post. I find that I reflect and meditate on the gospel in new and deeper ways through reading good books (and not necessarily ‘Christian’ books too). It is amazing to journey through the eyes of another through good fiction or be mentored by the deceased through great non-fiction. I am trying to instill the love and value of reading into my children as well. My oldest daughter and I have Daddy/Daughter Book Club each week. We get together and talk through our reading and highlight themes and elements of the book. it has been a blast…. A great discipleship tool as well.

    • Great word, Matt. I love your Daddy/Daughter Book Club meetings — building great memories while teaching lessons that will serve your kids for a lifetime. Thanks for sharing.


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