Reading the classics every day

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When Mike Dariano invited me to guest post at, I immediately checked out the site to see what other posts look like. Mike told me that “Each guest shares three good things to read, three good things to watch, and three good things to use and offers a comment about what makes those things good.”

It took reading three, maybe two, posts for me to decide that I’d love to be in that company. So I put together my list and sent it to Mike. He posted in on July 17, 2015. My post included this, under the heading of “three good things to read.”

“Read or re-read the classics. I devote a segment of every day to exercise, meditation, and reading the classics. I’m working my way through Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations right now. Two other favorites are Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship.”

Since then, I’ve received several emails that all asked one or both of two questions. Here they are, with my answers.

What’s a classic?

There are lots of definitions, so you pick whatever works for you. For my daily reading, I want books that help me reflect on my life and, hopefully, live a better one. I’m partial to essays and short forms that I can read in a sitting or two. Here’s the list of the books I’ve been reading and re-reading for about fifty years.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by Plutarch

Essays by Francis Bacon

Essays, Poems and Addresses by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I acquired all of the above through the now-defunct Walter Black’s Classics Club. I carried them in my seabag as a Marine and they’ve sat on the shelf in very place I’ve lived.

Montaigne’s essays used to be in the classics group, but I never was able to wring the value out of them. I’ve also added two classics to my original list.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Selected Essays of Samuel Johnson

That’s the list of my classics. Now for the other question.

How do you find time to read the classics?

I’ve learned that, at least for me, “finding time” never works. You have to designate it.

I don’t spend a lot of time every day on this. It’s usually about fifteen to twenty minutes, unless I get caught up in what I’m reading. I can work that into a daily schedule, along with my Bible reading, my exercise and my prayer and meditation.

The trick for me is to make a habit of it. That habit is tied to another habit, daily exercise.

I’m sure of one thing, those books have become part of me and they’ve influenced the way I think and live. I doubt that there’s anything else that I might have done with all those fifteen minute chunks of time that would have had more impact.

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