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5 Things We Should All Read

Apr 9, 2008
There are certain types of books which we should all read, and ways in which we should all read, which will benefit us greatly.

Biography - Biography is one of the most practical fields of study for the public speaker. Nothing is of keener interest to audiences than the stories of how great men met the difficulties of living. We are always more interested in people than in things. Biography throws a warmer and more penetrating light upon history. Its gossip makes the past real and near.

Vocational Reading - The broad-minded man must be sharpened to the point required for scratching a living. Whether he is a teacher, lawyer, doctor, or business man he must be abreast of the theory and practice of his occupation. He must have not only skill in living, but in getting his living. He will have a library of his business, he will be familiar with the trade journals, house organs, and other papers of his craft or profession.

This paragraph might be taken for granted were it not for the fact that probably the majority of professional men do little reading about the theory, philosophy, or practice of their vocations after they have graduated from the schools. Their own experience and contact with others in the same work become their only guides. These are most important, to be sure, but they are so close to everyone that it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. Books and magazines can be read with great benefit by the professional man.

How to Read - This brings us to the question, How to read? Francis Bacon in his essay "Of Studies" says: "Read not to contradict, nor believe, but to weigh and consider." Most readers, if they understand at all, give themselves up completely to the author. One should, of course, give him a sympathetic reading, try to understand his point of view, but not believe him until the thought has been examined in the light of one's own experience. Almost everybody is in awe of print. The use of the word "propaganda" during the War and since has done much to mitigate this tyranny of books and papers. What one reads is not necessarily so.

Challenging "Facts" - This is especially true of chains of reasoning. In such instances the reader owes it to his self-respect to challenge, refute or approve the logic - to be reasonably sure the writer has established his case. Even facts, for which we have to depend upon observers and students from all over the world, can be reported to prove contradictory ideas. "Figures don't lie, but liars can figure." Many "facts" are not facts at all.

Many arguments, many speeches, are based upon such facts - upon unsound premises, upon things taken for granted that need close examination. The reader or listener is seldom attentive enough to introductory paragraphs or remarks. If these are accepted without thought, the whole of a false plea or doctrine or argument will often be accepted. G. K. Chesterton in his lecture, "The Ignorance of the Educated," quotes Artemus Ward, who said, "The trouble with people is they know too many things that ain't so." We talk of "half-baked ideas." They are usually the other fellow's.

Newspaper Editorials - The easiest exercise on discovering fallacies may be had with newspaper editorials. These are often written to be consistent with a known attitude or policy in regard to public questions. Some newspapers have a consistent prejudice against England or Japan, against the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, against the League of Nations, or they may be consistently conservative, liberal or radical. Special pleaders seek to justify themselves, not necessarily to discover the truth.

Read the papers and the editorials opposed to your views and try to find the fallacies in their reasoning.

Read widely and often and you will grow in your profession and as a person.
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