old books

Throwback Thursday: Reading Old Books

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. -C.S. Lewis

Recently someone asked me which books and authors have been most influential in my spiritual development at different stages of my life. I answered Soren Kierkegaard, C.S. Lewis, Rob Bell, and Jacques Ellul.

I noticed a few similarities about the people on this list:

  • They are from within the last 200 years.
  • They are men.
  • They are protestant.
  • They are white.

In short, they’re all like me.

I did not conclude from this that modern, white, protestant, males are the best, but that I have a very narrow experience of the great wealth of Christian authors from whom I can learn and grow and gain wisdom.

It is somewhat ironic that I would list C.S. Lewis because his introduction to On the Incarnation by Athanasius is an amazing defense of reading old books. Given that his first paragraph is about how people don’t feel they can read the masters and so would rather read an explanation of their work, it would be ironic for me to outline it for you. So go read it. Its short and easy to read. I linked it above. And again here, just in case. Then continue on.

Did you read it? Good.

I’m convinced of Lewis’ assertion that each age has its own assumptions that it is not even aware it holds and that books from other ages act as a corrective to that as well as that our different set of assumptions act as a corrective to the assumptions they didn’t realize they held. I think it would be safe to add gender, ethnicity, denomination, and others to that. Reading an upper middle class white American write about liberation theology just isn’t the same as reading Oscar Romero.

So I’ve decided to explore the great cloud of witnesses that are different than me. I’ve resolved to read one book a month written by an author who is different from the list above in at least one way.



Every first last Thursday of the month will be “Throwback Thursday” where I’ll discuss what assumptions of mine were confronted, and which assumptions of the authors our age helps to confront. But I’d love it if you would take Lewis’ advice and read these authors yourself rather than just read my thoughts on them. That way you can correct my own assumptions as well as take part in the discussion.

This month I’ll be reading Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, a Catholic nun (probably, but she may have been a layperson) from the 14th century. So pick up a copy and come back February 21st 28th. And if you don’t read it, you should still come back.

In the meantime, which old books should I read?


edit: I originally intended to do this every third Thursday just for the sake of alliteration. I have since changed my mind and will post on the last Thursday of the month so that months aren’t divided making it easier to remember.