The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 36, No. 49, Ed. 1 Saturday, April 9, 1949 Page: 4 of 8
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A Guide To
. . good tasto it not acquired through heredity, but ii a produot of environment plus
training in the peroeption of distinotions. Enjoyment requires the proper atmosphere and
a feeling that there is time to relaxi four years in ooliege provide the time and should provide
the atmosphere. .—Cowling and Davidson, Colleges for Freedom.
By Henry L. Walters
and Will A. Augsburger
Dr. Tsanoff Says -■
The Bible: The background of
our civilization is partly classical,
partly biblical. The Bible might
therefore be called the nursery.
Such books as Job, Isaiah, and
Luke contain some of the finest
literature and poetry in our cul-
Homer: Iliad; Odyssey.
Greek Tragedies: Aeschylus—
"The radical disagreement ,of re-
vered tradition with the actual
standards of thinking men is re-
%'ealed in the moral perplexities of
Greek tragedy . . . The appalling
problem engrosses Aeschylus in
tion to virtue and this sublime con-
fidence in the Highest are the more
tragic because of Sophocles' forth-
right portrayal of man's woes and
his evident inability to justify vir-
tue in plain human terms."
Euripides — "(Euripides) really
belongs to another generation, and
to it he appeals. The old myths
outrage his humanity, and his dra-
matic treatment of them clearly
shows that he rejects them as true
accounts of the divine. He feels
keenly the woe of humankind,
wrong and oppression and the wild
lust of revenge which oppression
(Editor's note: The quotations
are from pages ,3 and 4 of The
Moral Ideals of Our Civilization by
Tsanoff, to which the reader is
referred for further comment pert-
inent to the Greek tragedies).
Plato: Dialogues, including the
In the Middle Ages, Dante: Di-
vine Comedy—This poem is an
open expression of poetic genius.
"The divine wisdom of life eternal
as the high destiny of man of
which St. Thomas gave an intellec-
tual statement, found a complete
utterance in the great poem of
Dante whose description as
'Aquinas in verse' and as 'the
voice of ten silent centuries' indi-
cates his intellectual kinships but
also his supreme position as the
poet of Christian-medieval civili-
zation." (Moral Ideals, p. 71).
Spinoza's Ethics—this is a very
interesting combination of philo-
sophical subject matter with logic,
mathematics and metaphysics.
"Ideas were living forces v to Spi-
noza, forces in living or ill, and
this conviction determined his con-
ception of the aim of philosophy."
(Moral Ideals, p. 184).
Goethe: Pt. I and Pt. II—Faust
is to modern poetry what 'Dante
was to that of the Middle Ages and
Homer to that of classical an-
tiquity. "The dominant idea, aim
and touchstone of Goethe's think1-
ing, is his deep conviction of a
living principle in nature, in the
external world, and in humanity."
(Moral Ideals, p. 354).
Tolstoy: War and Peace—In
modern literature it^is difficult to
select the one that is best. How-
ever, Tolstoy was probably the
most universally known writer of
his time. *
Darwin: Origin of the Species.
From Oriental literature, if we
have one example: The Buddhist
The important thing in reading
is to develop a sense of relative
worth and importance—to seek
first the best. Human life is short,
and it is advisable not to frit away
one's time on things not worth it.
We should do our reading from the
top. Thus one gets to know the
really fine things. He finds out
that some books are worth read-
ing again and again.
If you have one shelf make it
contain the best. In some respects
th ebetter requires some kind of
expertness; best things h ve a
quality of universality. The Gospel
and Shakespeare recommend them-
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409 Bankers Mortgage Bldg. Houston 2, Texas
Harrassed by assignments
and obsessed with the thought
of impending examinations,
the student is likely to over-
look all but his immediate
studies. It is therefore the purpose
of this article to bring to light
various questions which confront
the college student concerning the
liberal education which he expects
to obtain from college. There is
also the consideration of his in-
tention to continue reading after
leaving college. Which books
should he read and what should he
expect from them? What books
should he purchase for his own li-
brary and for which books should
he depend upon the college and
public libraries ? How should he go
about building this library and
where should he start?
In an attempt to find answers to
these questions we have "held in-
tecyjews with five professors and
three authors, whose ideas we sub-
mit for your consideration.
Which books should we read?
Here are Mr. Williams' views.
t What To Read?
That Is the Question
"Books are like women's dresses.
Every woman needs them but you
couldn't convince any woman that
she ought to have a dress like
everybody else's dress. Likewise,
the books that fit and please one
person's mind are not the books
that would fit and please another
person's .mind; therefore, I'm not
a great believer in list of the
hundred best books. What is best
for one person is hot best for an-.
other person. This leads to the
question of whether there is a
basis of Western culture which all
share. I don't know exactly what
Western culture is. The so-called
intellectuals have a lot in common,
but the intellectuals are far from
being the dominant group in West-
ern culture. The very idea of de-
mocracy runs counter to the idea
that intellectuals should dominate.
The chief things that, the majority
of people comprising Western cul-
ture seem to have in common are
the comic book, Bing Crosby, and
the glorification of sanitary
plumbing. I know no five foot
shelf of books that contains these
cardinal elements of Western cul-
"I think that everybody ought
to approach a book with his mind
already made up, or opinionated.
That is, a person should bring to
" a book ideas and convitions of his
own, and seek in the book ideas
and opinions that are so convinc-
- ing that they force the reader to
alter or add to his own mental
equipment. * Hence the question—
what should a student look for in
a book—resolves itself to this ques-
tion: 'Can the book give me any-
thing I don't already have?' Since
different individuals have different
mental equipment it seems obvious
that one book could give one per-
son a great deal and yet give an-
other person nothing. JVe should
. i?bt lopk' for books that merely
justify or echo our own opinions,
but we should look for books that
make us change our mind."
Read to Consider
In addition to Mr. Williams'
comment upon this particular ques-
tion, we quote from the writings
of Francis Bacon . . . "Crafty
men condemn studies, simple men
admire them, and wise men use
them . . . Read not to contradict
and confute, nor to believe and take
for granted, nor to find talk and
discourse, but to weigh and con-
sider. Some books are to be tasted,
others to be swallowed, and some
few to be chewed and digested;
that is, some books are to be read
only in parts; others to be read
but not curiously; and some few
to be read wholly, and with dili-
gence and attention. Some books
also may be read by deputy, and
extracts made of them by others
but that would be only in the less
important arguments and the
meaner sort of books; also the
distilled books are, like common
distilled waters, (tasteless) things.
Reading maketh a full man; con-
ference a ready man; and writing
an exact man. And, therefore, if a
man write little, he had need have
a great memory; if he confer lit-
tle, he had need have a present
wit; and if he read little, he had
need have much cunning, to seem
to know that which he doth not."—
What to Buy?
Which books should the student
purchase for his own library and
for which books should he depend
upon the college and public li-
braries? Who is better qualified
to answer tjjis than a librarian?
Here are some opinions from Dr.
"I assume that you are talking
about the average Rice student,
whose budget, I hear, is limited.
There is no point in buying a book
that you don't think you will want
to read more than once, unless
some professor demands that you
buy it. There are several guides
to good reading. For example, St.
John's List, The Chicago Great
Books List, and Good Reading.
When you buy a book you should
buy a good substantial edition that
will last, and make sure it is
authoritatively edited. The way to
find that out is to consult a stand-
ard bibliography or some one who
knows, and a student in college is
usually able to find a professor
who specializes in almost any field.
To be more specific on this ques-
tion of what a- personal library
should contain, every student
should have a good/ dictionary and
some handy guide to English us-
age, e.g., Fowler, Modern English
Usage. IJor doing a lot of writing
and hunting for the right word,
Roget's Thesaurus is handy. These
three are certainly standard books.
You will also want handbooks and
guides in your field of interest,
and, if you can afford it, a good
The above is a reference shelf.
Beyond this it is a matter of per-
sonal taste, and the important.
thing is to pursue ideas that inter-
you. I don't buy many new novels
because few are worth reading
more than once. I once had a pro-
fessor who used to say he never
read a book which had been pub-
lished less than five years. The
wheat was then separated from
For reference books which he
doesn't use frequently and for
keeping up with current books un-
til he knows they are something
he really wants to keep, a student
might well rely on the public and
college libraries. The Saturday Re-
view of Literature and the New
York Times Book Review usually
have authoritative reviews on
books of general interest. The
Scholarly Journals in various fields
review the scholarly books.
An expansion of some of these
points seems pertinent. What you
read doas not matter, so long .as, «
it is worthwhile material: The im-
portant thing is to begin reading.
The student may begin with Ho-
mer or Shakespeare, Hardy or
Hemmingway, and follow any line
that interests him. However—it's
easy to fall into a rut. To avoid
this, vary your reading. Here are
two suggestions: first, don't fol-
low at the outset any one subject
for more than a month at a time,
and second, vary the age about
which you read. If you follow an
ancient author, then contrast him
with a modern one. And above all,
in the light of increased knowl-
edge continue adding books to your *
The project of building a li-
brary need not be an expensive
one, for the cost of any particular
hook is wholly dependent upon the
student's income. The books listed
and many more can be purchased
either in expensive or inexpensive
editions. Any book dealer will
gladly furnish this sort of infor-
mation. The best books are cheap.
In forming your personal li-
brary some system will be help-
ful; for example, one might pur-
sue his book lists, placing asterisks
by the books which he has read,
and x's beside those which he
hasn't. A diminishing number of
x's will be an index to progress.
Of this the reader may be cer-
tain: Intelligence is not hereditary,
nor is it acquired through divine
intervention. It is the result of
careful reading and observation.
The question of where to start is
not critical. Start anywhere. But ,
Here’s what’s next.
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The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 36, No. 49, Ed. 1 Saturday, April 9, 1949, newspaper, April 9, 1949; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth230804/m1/4/: accessed March 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Rice University Woodson Research Center.