ROBBERS come in various forms.
First there is the burglar, the man who defiles the sanctity of a home, by breaking in and snatching treasured possessions.
Then comes the gossip and slanderer, the person who, in Shakespeare’s words “filches from me my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him and leaves me poor indeed”.
Then there is heartless seducer or rapist, who robs a girl of her innocence, and leaves emotional scar which time can scarce erode.
But an Italian proverb highlights robbery of a different kind, and runs “There is no worse robber than a bad book”.
It is robbery of style, for one thing. How can anyone develop a proper facility in any language, without reading good examples? That’s one reason for avoiding, ‘Fifty shades of grey,’ which all agree is abominably written trash.
A bad book is also robbery of money. Admittedly, the full retail price of a book is a small price to pay for the joy and enrichment which a talented writer provides for his readers.
Does the few pounds we pay for a paperback adequately reward the writer for the research and inspiration contained in his pages? But I have read books which were frankly a waste of money. I once began Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Kane and Abel’, but cast it aside after thirty pages, thinking, “I have heard all this on Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’.”
And how many of the ghosted autobiographies of sports stars are worth the paper they are printed on? For them, it is purely a commercial ploy, to earn royalties before they fade from public view.
A bad book is robbery of time. The great American historian and biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, wrote, “Time alone is irreplaceable. Waste it not.”
Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of the great poet, once confided to her diary that she feared her brother was wasting his mind on magazines.
Later, in his poem ‘The Prelude’ William Wordsworth conceded that in youth he had “read lazily in trivial books”.
A bad book is robbery of ideals. Many have found their faith and ideals shaken by pernicious books , authored by people who would scarce recognise goodness if they confronted it.
Sir Walter Scott, at the end of an industrious life, was comforted by the knowledge that nowhere in his prolific output had be written anything to disturb another’s faith.
Jesus once said: “If your eye offends you, pluck it out’ (Matthew 5;29). His words were an emphatic way of stating that there are certain things we are better off not seeing or reading.
The apostle Paul advised, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things” (Philippians 4; 8).
The ‘Good Book’ does not rob, but rather offers life. “The unfolding of your words gives light’ runs a verse in Psalm 119 (vs 130), a sophisticated poem which describes the benefits of God’s word.
So toss away ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’, and turn to the book that truly enriches.