Of Reading Many Books There is No End

The title is actually a corruption of Ecclesiastes 12:12 wherein “the preacher,” whoever that was–the implication is that he is Solomon, but I wonder–said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

We beg to differ. But of course, we have access to a much greater variety of books than even Solomon did.

One of my friends begins our too-infrequent visits with, “What books are you reading?” and another with, “What book is by your bedside at this moment?”

My wife laughs at that last question, because for me, it’s not “book,” but “books.” Usually a pile of them. Some I read, some I started on and stopped, and often I’m somewhere in the midst of three or four which I fully intend to finish.

The ones by my bed at the moment are mostly World War II era books. I don’t get very far at night before sleep beckons. I’m halfway through “You Must Remember This: The Filming of Casablanca.” I checked it out of the Jefferson Parish Library, one of my favorite places. “Casablanca” is one of my favorite movies.

The last book I finished was–ready for this?–Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” I know, I know, it’s a “woman’s book.” Here’s how it happened that I came to read it.

A few months ago, I mentioned here that Greer Garson is one of my favorite old-time movie stars. I’d just read a biography of her, “A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson” by Michael Troyan. Soon, TCM played her 1930-ish movie “Pride and Prejudice” so I watched it, and was smitten. Great movie, excellent role.

Then, a few weeks ago, PBS ran the 1995 BBC-A&E 6 hour adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” on several Sunday nights. This time, I wasn’t smitten; I was blown away. What a fascinating movie. The central character of P & P is Elizabeth Bennett, which was Greer Garson’s role. In the 1995 version, Jennifer Ehle has the part and may I say, will forever own it. If ever a person was born for a particular role, it is she.

(My English teacher at Winston County High, Pearl Lovett, would beam at my saying, “It is she.” Everything inside me wants to say,”It’s her!”)

Then, two things happened. I noticed Barnes & Noble has an entire shelf of “classics,” defined by Mark Twain as books everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read, including P & P, for about 7 dollars. A bargain, and I bought it. Then, in the atrium at Ochsner Hospital a few days later, a bookseller had a huge display of discounted books, among them the three DVDs of the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” along with a book on its making. I bought it, and quickly devoured it.

The wonderful thing is how true to the book was that movie.

Since then, I’ve quietly asked and found that many of my friends (the female variety) have read Jane Austen’s P & P five times, ten times. Few men have read it once.

The funniest thing. At the end of the Barnes & Noble book, they’ve included a couple of pages of paragraphs by famous writers about this book. No one was neutral, they loved it or hated it. Here are two excerpts you will enjoy.

“Nothing very much happens in her books, and yet, when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it to learn what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page. The novelist who has the power to achieve this has the most precious gift a novelist can possess.” (W. Somerset Maugham)

“Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.” (Mark Twain)

But I loved it.

I’m sort of reading “Maisie Dobbs” and the second in that series “Birds of a Feather” by Jacqueline Winspear, a nice British lady who was in town last week for a book-signing at Octavia Books in uptown. I went by, met her, bought the latest in the series, and listened to her tell how she came to write these novels. Since I’ve taken all your time to tell about Pride & Prejudice, I’ll not go into that lengthy story.

However, I’m struck by the power of a novelist. You have some strong convictions, prejudices, opinions, desires, or regrets, and you sit at the computer and create a world–or a tiny sliver of it–and populate it with people who will carry out your wishes, speak your words, undo what you did and maybe get it right this time, or inflict punishment on someone you’d like to. Novelists are gods in their own microscopic universes.

I don’t write fiction, but I love reading it. Often it’s truer than the non-fiction found on most bookshelves. You are actually telling a true story, but since it’s a novel and not supposed to pertain to any particular persons, you can let it all hang out, tell the full story, and simply change a few names and falsify enough details that it passes as a novel. If you do it well, you can change lives or even transform society. Many novels have.

The best reading of all is the Scriptures. Nothing supplants that. I start every day with several chapters. At the moment, I’m in the middle of II Kings–underlining, high-lighting, and marking up this Bible to give to my granddaughter Erin when I finish.

The Bible occupies a class all alone. It’s the only book I know you can read repeatedly and find new insights every time which eluded you all the previous times.

So, what are you reading? What book is on your nightstand?

11 thoughts on “Of Reading Many Books There is No End

  1. I am reading Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. It is a wonderful, logical book but if you wait too late at night, you’ll only get through a few paragraphs! Definitely requires deep thinking, but so worth it. I would love to know your thoughts!

  2. Fiction:

    Duma Key – Stephen King (creepy)

    Improbable – Adam Fawer (freaky)


    The Sushi Economy – Sasha Issenberg (globalization and fresh fish)

    Everything By Design – Alan Lapidus (architecture and “clients”)

  3. I, too, just completed the Jane Austen’s book P & P and loved it. My son and daughter-in-law waited each Sunday night, along with me, for the viewing of PBS showing of P & P, as well as many others. I loved this version and agree with you that the young lady who played Elizabeth Bennett and the gentleman who played Mr Darcey, were excellent. I’d love to have that version on DVD.

    Now I’m into one of Karen Kingsbury’s books about a young woman who comes to the aid of many young women that God puts into her path. Just started it so can’t say much more. I do enjoy her books though. She is a Christian fiction author.

    Thanks for sharing,


  4. (Raising hand to claim membership in the Jane Austin Fan club)

    As a 31 year old woman I guess I am your tipical Austin fan. I discovered her in High school and have seen movie versions of all her books. I have a DVD collection of the best for each book. Reading her books requires more “brain power” than most novels due to the difference in culture and language but they are worth it.

    I am also like Charlotte Bronte and some Dickens.

    I just finished “Praying to a God you can trust”

    and will be starting on

    “Mere Christianity” CS Lewis next week.

    The Bible has the priority in time and volume in my life but what I especially hold dear about the Bible is it’s holy power to be an endless fountain of wisdom. Now matter how many times you read it you always discover a new aspect of wisdom you had not previously noted. His word is alive.

  5. Joe,

    I absolutely love when I have more than one book on my nightstand. I wonder how people who don’t read get along in life. I actually keep a notebook where I write down words I’m not familiar with and look them up later. Words are interesting and books some of my best friends!

    On my nightstand:

    God’s Passion for His Glory – John Piper

    The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel

    Don’t Waste Your Life – John Piper

    Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen – Susan Gregg Gilmore

    By the way, I will be eternally grateful for my copy of the Pride & Prejudice DVDs — I’m one of those who have watched it numerous times but having it for my very own gives me great joy! I’ve already watched it once and am starting to plan when I’ll watch it again.

  6. I too am a P&P fan. I have 2 VCR tapes that we copied when it was orginally on A&E. My daughter has the DVD with the book about making the movie. My husband gets “annoyed” when on a rainy Sat afternoon I pull out the movie and start watching it. I can just about quote it while I’m watchng it. I love to have the book in my hand while I’m watching. My current bed side book is by Lori Wick. You are a very interesting fellow. Not many men would read Jane Austin and very few that did would admit it.

  7. Just finished “Beyond a Band of Brothers”, the WWII memoirs of Major Dick Winters. Stephen Ambrose wrote his Band of Brothers, on which HBO did its great miniseries, based on Major Winters and the creation and war experience of Easy Company, of the 506th PIR of the 101st Airborne. Like you, I also have a stack of books I am in the process of reading, from Oliver North to Ann Coulter to Newt Gingrich to John MacArthur to Rick & Bubba!

  8. Here’s a sampling of what’s circulating in our church library—


    Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg

    Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God by Kay Warren

    Glory Revealed: How the Invisible God Makes Himself Known by David Nasser


    The Last Jihad series (The Last Jihad,The Last Days, Ezekiel Option, Copper Scroll, and Dead Heat) by Joel Rosenberg

    The Shack by William P. Young

    The Restoration series (Last Light, Night Light, True Light, Dawn’s Light) by Terri Blackstock

    The Jesus Chronicles series (John: the Last Eye Witness, Mark’s Story: the Gospel According to Peter) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins

    The Books of History Chronicles by Ted Dekker

    Redemption series by Karen Kingsbury

    Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon

    Crime Scene Jerusalem by Alton Gansky

    The Wilderking Trilogy (Bark of the Bog Owl, Secret of the Swamp King, Way of the Wilderking) by Jonathan Rogers

    Summer of the Monkeys and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls


    The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun

    Quiet Strength: the Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life by Coach Tony Dungy

    Lloyd Ponder’s biography (our very own personal local prisoner of war hero)

    Check out these and other titles at your church library!

  9. Joe, I never read the book, but does it count that I saw the movie? This week we watched another Austen classic on film, Sense and Sensibility. I must confess, I enjoyed both movies. My wife and daughter loved them.

    Although I just watched P & P, and didn’t actually read it, I have been doing some reading lately:

    The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott. A wonderful book thoroughly explaining the significance of the cross.

    The Design Revolution by William Demski. A highly technical defense of intelligent design against Darwinian theory.

    Islamic Imperialism by Efraim Karsh. A history of the Muslim desire to dominate the world.

    Hmm. I think it’s time for me to read a novel.

  10. I cannot resist adding a couple of more books to this great list. Same Kind of Different by Ron Paul is a wonderful book.

    Visioneering by Andy Stanley is a must read. Anything by Ted Dekker, but especially the ones he wrote with the late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

    I read 1-2 books per week and I am a very busy head of the math department at my school. I make time for reading especially the greatest book of all times, The Bible. I can’t ever get enough of that book!

  11. Thanks to everyone who responded. I’ve been out of town for a solid week, so just now read your comments. While I was gone, my wife devoured the first two “Maisie Dobbs” books in Winspear’s series. She is smitten, and recommends them for those who love great mysteries. If you can’t find them locally, go to my favorite on-line provider http://www.alibris.com and type it in on the left side. You may even find it used for less than new.

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