Hear, hear

One of the many well-proven ways to save money for book lovers like myself it to have access to a good library system.  Our own library system has saved us tons of money by often carrying the latest books being discussed in newspapers or on the bestseller lists.  

The only problem is that for someone like myself, I will often check out far more books than I can possibly read or digest in the time I have them checked out.  Just because information is free or easily accessible (read library books or the Internet) doesn’t mean that it will lead to a greater level of wisdom and knowledge.  In my case, it often leads to a shallower understanding of many subjects and a tendency to be impulsive in what I read.  

A writer from the mid to late-1800′s, Samuel Smiles, touched on this in his 1859 book Self-Help:

Thoroughness and accuracy are two principal points to be aimed at
in study. Francis Horner, in laying down rules for the cultivation
of his 
mind, placed great stress upon the habit of continuous
application to one subject for the sake of mastering it thoroughly;
he confined 
himself, with this object, to only a few books, and
resisted with the greatest firmness “every approach to a habit of
desultory reading.”  The value of 
knowledge to any man consists not
in its quantity, but mainly in the 
good uses to which he can apply
it. Hence a little 
knowledge, of an exact and perfect character,
is always found more valuable for practical purposes than any
extent of superficial learning.

One of Ignatius Loyola’s maxims was, “He who does well one work at
a time, does more than all.”  By spreading our efforts over too
large a surface we inevitably weaken our force, hinder our
progress, and acquire a habit of fitfulness and ineffective
working. Lord St. Leonards once communicated to Sir Fowell Buxton
the mode in which he had conducted his studies, and thus explained
the secret of his success. “I resolved,” said he, “when beginning
to read law, to make everything I acquired perfectly my own, and
never to go to a second thing till I had entirely accomplished the
first. Many of my competitors read as much in a day as I read in a
week; but, at the end of twelve months, my 
knowledge was as fresh
as the day it was acquired, while theirs had glided away from
recollection.”

It is not the quantity of study that one gets through, or the
amount of reading, that makes a 
wise man; but the appositeness of
the study to the purpose for which it is pursued; the concentration
of the 
mind for the time being on the subject under consideration;
and the habitual discipline by which the whole system of mental
application is regulated. Abernethy was even of opinion that there
was a point of saturation in his own 
mind, and that if he took into
it something more than it could hold, it only had the 
effect of
pushing something else out. 

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