The Old Words, and Maybe the Old Books, Are Best of All

Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again.
Lyrics by Peter W. Allen and Carole Bayer Sager

“… the old words are best of all.”
Winston Churchill


I read quite a few books, and a whole lot of sample pages of books.

(In the old days, I would sit in a bookstore, and read a few pages in each of a whole stack of books I would collect from my browsing. I almost always bought one or two of the books).

These days, from the Amazon site, I tap my iPad screen, and get the sample pages into my kindle app in a matter of a few short seconds.

So, early this morning, I read the sample pages of a just-published book. It was… ok. I probably will not read the full book. I don’t want to name it – because I want to say something negative about it.

amusing-ourselves-to-deathHere’s the problem. Practically everything I read in the sample pages I had already read – better said, with more depth and substance, in a book I read about thirty years ago. Admittedly, that book was a true classic: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. But I so wanted the author of this new book to just say: “stop what you’re doing, go read Postman’s book, and then get back to me.” But, alas, no mention of Postman’s book. Maybe he quotes it or refers to it later in his book. But not in the introductory pages (the sample pages I read). And, he should have.

Years ago, I read a new introduction to a reissued Elton Trueblood book. Dr. Trueblood was a prolific author, and I read many of his books. In this new introduction, he stated that a curse of the modern age is that we treasure everything new and ignore and almost ridicule that which is old. In his view, that was a big mistake! I agree.

I encourage my students to develop and keep a serious, life-time reading list. And, I generally recommend putting Neil Postman’s books on that list (especially Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly).

But, for this blog post, I simply say – the author of this new book should have referred to Mr. Postman. It would have added something good to his introductory pages.

(Maybe he hasn’t even read Neil Postman’s book. I hope that is not true. If that’s the case, he didn’t finish his research).


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