The year of our Lord twenty-twenty was a great year, and a great year for reading books. I went on quite a few adventures while journeying through many different pages. These were pages that I physically turned with my hand, as the pages ahead of me visibly began to turn into pages behind me. The tips of my fingers felt many pages, some were yellowed with age, or browned with coffee stains, others were clean and hot off the press with much turning and staining ahead. Some pages were turned many times before by people I will never meet, others have never known fingers other than mine. No matter where they came from before, all of those pages are now mine. But they are not mine to display in a pristine case like a trophy, showing off my accomplishments. They are put on a shelf, to be taken down again, and again, and again; maybe by me, but certainly by my flesh and blood, so that the words, ideas, truths, and stories that leapt off the pages and sunk into my mind and flesh, can do the same for my sons and shape them, as they have shaped me – coffee stains, cigar ash, and all.
All of the books that I read, I buy physical copies of to own and to keep. I keep them not for myself, but because I am building a library for my sons. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. There are many different ways that a good father can leave an inheritance for his children. Certainly the Proverbs are speaking about more than merely dollars in a bank account (though that is an obvious way). As a Christian and a Pastor, a big part of my life is spent in books, and it is important to make the most of that time. Reading good books that will grow my mind and abilities to minister to others is an obvious use. But what about my sons? I don’t want them to simply benefit from the things that I impart to them, but I want to hand them the tools, resources, stories, and worlds to encounter all of those things, as I have gone before them and encountered.
I want them to be greater men than me, and leaving them on their own with no library to guide them will set them behind and not ahead.
It is important to me to leave a physical library to my sons (and daughters if I ever have any). Audio and e-books may be more convenient and cheap; and I may be able to get through a lot more books that way, but those aren’t things I can leave for my sons. There’s no smashed bugs or food crumbs between the pages. It costs more money, but what’s money for if not to use for good ends? This year I journeyed through over seventy books. As my fingers gripped each page, pieces of me fell into each book. Leaving a physical library for my sons is a way to leave them part of me. No, the books won’t last forever, but the legacy might. My hope is that my sons would pick up the mantle and continue building onto what I have passed down to them, such that the library evolves and grows and changes over time, as old books fall apart and new books are added to it. Hopefully the best ones will still be in print for ages to come and new editions could replace the old. Some will be lost to history, but the shape they made on me will not.
In building a library I am using my reading time for more than just that time, and for more people than just myself. I don’t want to read so much in order to impress my colleagues; I want to read to leave a legacy for my family name; and not in a way that gets people to remember me, but in a way that passes down good theology and good stories, because good theology and good stories creates people that can change the world. I want to change the world such that the knowledge of the glory of God fills the earth as the waters cover the sea. This is one way I can contribute to that. In other words, I am building a library for my sons because I am a Postmillennialist, and I believe that the future will need the good theology, good stories, and good history that I enjoy. I have no idea what technology the future holds, and I do not claim to be a prophet, but it is my contention that the future belongs to physical books, and not e-books or audio books. Digital books are a fad, for the world is incarnate – incarnate books belong in it. May the future book making technology be the making of physical books that last thousands of years of use.
Regardless of whether you will be a library-builder or not, you ought to be building something to leave for your sons. And when good men leave a legacy for their sons, they are building Christendom. So yes, I am building a library for Christendom. Remember the Proverb, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.”
Here is a list of some of my favorite books that I read this year: