How to Read a Book

A response to Rod Dreher's Pre-Conference on How Dante Saved My Life

At the very first conference, in July 2002, Dr. Charles Reed presented a wonderful talk that he called “Reading as if for life,” a title drawn from Dickens’ David Copperfield.

Today, July 15, 2015, Rod Dreher showed us what it means to read as if for life. He reflected through the day on the meaning of the title of his recent book How Dante Can Save Your Life.

If you weren’t here, I’m sorry you missed it. I’ll write one or two things that impressed me, then ask others to add their insights. First, this:

Do not read (or write) for glory from men: read to save your soul. Anything else is, as Wes Callihan expressed it, scarring your conscience.

I had the great good fortune of not going to college straight out of high school. I only graduated 15 years after my high school commencement. This allowed me to hold on to my illusions about what an education can achieve – and while I wasn’t in college, I sought it with all my heart.

I sought wisdom. I sought healing. I tried to look smart. I tried to learn everything. I tried to be an expert in many fields. I tried to get a general education.

But in it all, there was always one drive that I could never have expressed (and I don’t know where it came from), though I’ve learned to since then: I’ve always read for one main reason: to expand what Augustine called “the mansion of my soul.”

There are other reasons to read, but not to read the “Great Books.”

Were you here? What did you take from the day’s conversation?

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