Why We Should Read Old Books

I know it’s been a while (a long, loooong while) since I last posted. End of semester paperwork and grading poorly written essays will do that to a person.

Anyway, I’m here now, so let’s get started with something rather easy. Check out this article by the great classicist Victor Davis Hanson on why we should read old books. An excerpt:

In the tragic world, thousands of personal agendas, governed by predictable human nature, ensure that things do not always quite work the way they should. We can learn from classics that most of us are more likely to resent superiority than to reward it, to distrust talent than to develop it. With classical training, our impatient youth might at least gain some perspective that the world is one where the better man is often passed over — precisely because he is the better man. Classics remind us that our disappointments are not unique to our modern selves. While we do not passively have to accept that unfairness (indeed Achilles and Ajax implode over it), we must struggle against it with the acceptance that the odds are against us.

And another:

Great literature and a knowledge of history serve as friends that reassure us that we are neither crazy nor alone. We can anticipate disasters rather than always having to learn through them. We expect paradoxes, given human nature, and so we do not need to weep over what happens to us, as if it is unique and unprecedented.

If you know Hanson’s work, you’ll know that he often mixes his specialty (classics and military history) with contemporary politics (of the more right side of the spectrum, limited government flavor). So, if that’s not your bag, fine. Feel free to pass it over. Still, he makes some very interesting points about the desperate need for us today to learn lessons from the past.

Posting may still be light for a while, as the summer semester starts next week, and presently we’re potty training our son. (I’m about to gnaw my thumbs off in frustration, too. Anything in the classics about potty training? Or perhaps I just need the Bible and a bottle of whiskey instead.)


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3 thoughts on “Why We Should Read Old Books

  1. anitadresden

    Hello it is great to get blog that is commonsense. Not that I am it is not well written or researched-it is. However today so much emphasis is put on the more contemporary author that the older one are sometimes forgotten. They have a lot to share with we writers of today- Just Saying…


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