About 20 years ago, I ran across this in an essay by C.S. Lewis:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.*
Lewis argued, “I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.” He also offered this suggestion: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
My reading habits immediately changed. I started reading old books—in many cases, very old books.
And so it is that we will be considering Richard R. Peabody’s The Common Sense of Drinking, which was published in 1931, at an upcoming residential recovery retreat at Hazelden Betty Ford’s Dan Anderson Renewal Center. The book contains ideas and phrases that were later popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous such as “once a drunkard always a drunkard” and “halfway measures are of no avail.”†
Many thanks to Kim Albers and Peg Schroeder for inviting me back!
* C.S. Lewis. Undeceptions. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1971, p. 161–166.
† The first edition of the Big Book appeared in 1939.