Reading for Pleasure
A. Every man is his own best critic. Whatever the learned say about a book, however unanimous they are in their praise of it, unless it interests you, it is no business of yours. Don't forget that critics often make mistakes; the history of criticism is full of the blunders the most eminent of them have made, and you who read are the final judge of the value to you of the book you are reading. This, of course, applies to the books I am going to recommend to your attention.
B. And so I beg of you, if any of you who read these pages are tempted to read the books I suggest and cannot get on with them, just put them down; they will be of no service to you if you do not enjoy them. No one is under an obligation to read poetry or fiction or the miscellaneous literature which is classed as belles-lettres. He must read them for pleasure, and who can claim that what pleases one man must necessarily please another?
C. We are none of us exactly like everyone else, only rather like, and it would be unreasonable to suppose that the books that have meant a great deal to me should be precisely those that will mean a great deal to you. But they are books that I feel the richer for having read, and I think I should not be quite the man I am if I had not read them.
D. The first thing I want to insist on is that reading should be enjoyable. Of course, there are many books that we all have to read, either to pass examinations or to acquire information, from which it is impossible to extract enjoyment. We are reading them for instruction, and the best we can hope is that our need for it will enable us to get through them without tedium. Such books we read with resignation rather than with alacrity. But that is not the sort of reading I have in mind. The books I shall mention in due course will help you neither to get a degree nor to earn your living, they will not teach you to sail a boat or to get a stalled motor to run, but they will help you to live more fully. That, however, they cannot do unless you enjoy reading them.