An old saying runs to the effect that “a man is known by the company he keeps.” There might be another one to match it, in that a woman is known by the books that she reads; and in this latter consideration, both quality and quantity weigh.
Of course, no one could be expected to spend the entire time in improving her mind, so it is not to be inferred that one must read only heavy matter, but neither should a woman look only for amusement in her reading. Literature should be selected in such a way that balance will be demonstrated. This will emphasize a well-balanced woman, a poised mentality.
The manner of reading should be careful and thorough (no matter how light and inconsequential the subject matter). Accuracy is as important in reading as in speech. The familiar term, “Watch your step” can be applied to reading and might almost answer as a literary motto.
Nothing is more trying to a man than to have a woman read the newspaper and immediately misquote what she has read, then meet his remonstrance with a flippant, “Oh well, I thought it said what I said.”
Incidentally, it is worth noting that newspaper reading, if thorough, stimulates the mental capacity and supplies much in the way of general education if the editorials are included.
“I just love nature books,” said a bright girl, “I read all I can get.” But on being questioned, it was apparent her concentration had been so cursory that she had no particle of information to give out.
Akin to this is the tendency of the woman who fails to assimilate her reading, and has such mental indigestion that she is tired with her own recreation, as well as a bore to others when she attempts to discuss even the “best seller.”
“I’ve just read such a delightful book,” exclaims the average woman. When pressed, however, as to its contents she replies frivolously, “Oh, I don’t know, only it was delightful.”
This is the “eternal feminine” that has made the joke papers a success.
In novel reading, one should be keenly alive to the great opportunity there is offered to broaden the human sympathies. The woman who looks deeply into the humanity disclosed in the characters of a well-written novel will find her own nature deepened so that in her relationship with the world she will express more understanding and greater toleration, and a tolerant woman is always alluring.
Give children optimistic books to read. Give boys’ books to little girls and vice versa to a degree, for it rounds out their temperaments in mutual agreement when the years advance. There is a liking among many growing girls for melancholy stories. This should be curbed.
A librarian in one of the large private libraries of this city had a little girl come to her with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in her hand.
“That is sad,” suggested the librarian.
“Then I’m sure I shall like it,” said the child firmly.
In such a case great tact would have to be used; any direct opposition would only increase the trend. Never read aloud “horrors” before children; this is especially to be guarded against with sensitive dispositions.
Women who feed themselves on so-called racy literature do themselves enormous harm, not only in what they absorb, but among their acquaintances. Conservative people do not care to be seen with a companion who carries about a notorious book undeniably risque.
“I have no time for reading” is often heard, and this tendency should be dealt with summarily. For anyone will find that a page a day will carry them through many books of worth, and that takes but five or ten minutes at morning, noon or night. Sometimes even a chapter or two can be covered in this way and at the end of the 365 days of the year a very much broadened consciousness will be the result.
It takes a mastermind to live entirely on its own thoughts, notably if one would not grow morbid, and a good book will do wonders to remake health by resting and awakening thoughts.
The habit of the day seems to be to eliminate poetry from chosen lines of reading. This is an error. Those who are to a reasonable proportion familiar with the best verse will find that they have a smooth and easy grace in general expression that is worthwhile.