Value in old books and a new feature on this website…

When I was practicing as a clinician, I frequently recommend books to patients and clients as an adjunct to therapy. I even kept an extensive library of the books I recommended, in order to loan them out to those who couldn’t find copies of them or who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) afford them.

I still review and recommend books on this site. I think that books, audios and videos are invaluable to any self-improvement program. Just as most of your education is found in your “homework” assignment rather than in the actual classroom, most of your growth and development is in what you do outside of coaching, counseling, consulting or therapy. Reading tops the list.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about the value of older “classics” in self-improvement literature. Promoters of reprints of the old books like to say that many of our newer writers are merely rehashing old ideas and that we can get a lot from old writers, stuff that we don’t hear about today or that somehow has greater import by being more “original.”

But, there is very little literature of any genre that is unique. Almost every idea is built on something already known. Let’s face it: much of our philosophy in the West comes from ancient Greece and Rome. And many of our ideas for self-improvement come not only from Greco-Roman philosophy, but also from the teachings of the Buddha, from Indian mystics and from the Judeo-Christian bible.

Put them together with a knowledge of history, observation, research, experience and logic, and — voila! — other ideas emerge. Sounds just like what a writer does, eh? So, self-improvement (including business self-improvement) writers do end up saying a lot of similar things.

However, good writers come up with ways of thinking about the classic ideas that make them relevant to their own generations. They also illustrate them with stories that are contemporary for their readers. Plus, they write in styles that are popular for the readers of their own time. That’s why most of us will prefer the newer books. They are easier and more pleasant to read.

Yet, there’s a charm to the “old fashioned” styles and expressions. Many appreciation them. And the early books contain some wisdom and some ethical values that may have been, well, not lost but temporarily misplaced during the changes that naturally occur in education and culture as we develop technologically and socially.

Just as an example, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” are considered as relevant and helpful today as in his day.

And just think of all the articles and book chapters of modern writers that begin with quotes of famous thinkers and doers of earlier ages. I often use the idea embodied in a quote to make a point relevant to psychology or business today.

This is a long way of saying that I’m beginning a new feature on my website. I’m going to be adding old books for you to download from time to time.

Today, I have two classic books that cover an inspiring historical event. One describes the event’s relevance to business and employment. The other is the personal experience of the main actor in the event.

1. A Message to Garcia
2. How I Carried a Message to Garcia

There’s no particular reason I chose these two books. I just happened to run across them when I was thinking about adding the “download old books” feature. Next time, I’ll provide some better known old classics. And I’ll take the time to give a brief overview of each.