Reading Plans: Read Some Old Books in 2019

Guest writer Adam B. Shaeffer holds an MA in Spiritual Formation from Talbot School of Theology and a PhD in Theology from Durham University. He is already a big fan of Logos 8.

In my previous posts, I’ve highlighted some of the new features in Logos, but in this post, let me turn to an oldie but goodie: Reading Plans.

As I’ve already made clear in another post, I love C.S. Lewis. His imagination and clarity have been gifts to me through the years. It’s fair to say that he has shaped my thinking in some significant ways, and one of those is in his insistence on the value—no, the necessity—of reading old books.

Why read old books?

In his introduction to a translation of St. Athanasius’ The Incarnation of the Word of God Lewis comments, “If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said.” When it comes to reading theology, we can’t rely solely on new works because they are part of a conversation that has been going on for centuries. We need to know the context of the conversation if we want to truly follow along.

Another benefit of reading old books is that they allow us to see the world from a different perspective, and inhabit that perspective for a time. This is also, incidentally, what Michael Heiser helps us to do in The Unseen Realm: inhabit the Ancient Near Eastern way of perceiving the world. It also has the effect of keeping “the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds,” which in turn combats what Lewis and his good friend Owen Barfield referred to as chronological snobbery. Newer may be better (Logos 8 is a great example of this in my mind), but it is not always so.

Lewis’ rule: one for one

Lewis suggests a simple rule: for every new book you read, read an old one. But if that feels too daunting, “you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

With Reading Plans in Logos, this is remarkably easy to do. To take Lewis seriously and to better integrate into this ongoing conversation, I have committed to reading at least four old books in 2019 (but hopefully many more). Would you consider joining me?

If so, start by picking a book, either from your library or from the Logos store. If your library features resources from The Classics of Western Spirituality series, that’s an excellent place to begin.

Once you’ve selected a resource, click Docs > New > Reading Plan and choose from the available options. From there, it’s just a matter of setting the relevant parameters for your plan.

In the example above, I’ve selected the complete works of Pseudo-Dionysius from the Classics of Western Spirituality series. I’ve set the plan to commence on January 1, with readings assigned to every weekday and the intention of finishing the book by the end of March.

Whether it’s reading Pseudo-Dionysius with me or reading something else entirely, once you’ve set your schedule, stick to it. Your heart and mind will be expanded, as will your appreciation for the deep knowledge, wisdom, and devotion of the Church in ages past.

The Church is so much bigger than our twenty-first-century context might suggest. Our roots reach down deep into the soil of centuries, and our faith has been nourished and shaped for nearly 2,000 years by the careful cultivation of faithful saints and brilliant scholars, religious mystics, and regular joes.

In short, by people like you and me.


What old books do you recommend? Share your thoughts or reading recommendations in the comments below. Or, join my Faithlife group: Reading Old Books.

Written by
Adam B. Shaeffer

Adam B. Shaeffer (PhD, Durham University) rarely had time for books until he discovered the fantasy novels on his dad's shelf at age 12; the rest is history. His primary research interests revolve around the interplay between theology and literature, attending to fiction's power to narrate theological insights through the thoughts and lives of imagined people and places. His poetry and fiction have appeared in *Jabberwocky,* *Resident Aliens,* and *This Mutant Life.*

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Written by Adam B. Shaeffer
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