First of all, have you ever wondered how not to write a paper?
Now to Walter Scott, who has made a contribution to the debate going on here about what one should read and how one should read it; here’s a description of his hero Edward Waverley’s reading:
With a desire for amusement, therefore, which better discipline might soon have converted into a thirst for knowledge, young Waverley drove through the sea of books, like a vessel without a pilot or rudder. Nothing perhaps increases by indulgence more than a desultory habit of reading, especially under such opportunities of gratifying it … Edward … like the epicure who only deigned to take a single morsel from the sunny side of a peach, read no volume a moment after it ceased to excite his curiosity or interest; and it necessarily happened, that the habit of seeking only this sort of gratification rendered it daily more difficult of attainment, till the passion for reading, like other strong appetites, produced by indulgence a sort of satiety.
Waverly has suffered the fate that many heroes and heroines from 18C and 19C novels suffer — he is without sufficient parental supervision of his reading material; his mother died when he was young and his father doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention. In novels from this time, trouble is sure to develop if young people are allowed unfettered access to libraries. I haven’t gotten all that far in the novel, so I’m not sure what direction it’s heading in, but I’m certain that this lack of reading discipline foreshadows some sort of trouble for the young man.
Now, I believe both in young people having unfettered access to libraries and in teaching them (somehow) to develop discipline in their reading. How do you accomplish both of these things though? I’m not sure. But discipline is important to me, just as reading purely for pleasure is. I think I’d be suspicious of someone like Waverley who never, ever finished a book he wasn’t entirely enthralled with or someone who never challenged him or herself with something difficult.
Maybe it’s good I don’t have children so I don’t have to worry about such things …