Thursday, August 23, 2007

James V. Lee on Reading

Last Thursday, August 13, Doris Lakey told us why she reads and what keeps her reading a book. This week we hear a different point of view. Today, James V. Lee, author and publisher, tells us why he reads.
I probably have a completely different take on this subject than you or most of your readers have. (Why not? I've been told I'm weird, anyway.)

I don't read much fiction--never have. I've always been interested in picking the brains of people that are better informed or smarter than I am. So I'm not looking for style or clever prose. I'm searching for ideas that inspire and enlighten.

I've probably read every book that Og Mandino wrote. Some other authors were Napoleon Hill, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Henry Drummond, James Allen, Norman Vincent Peale, J. Paul Getty, Rudyard Kipling, etal. Then there were such classical essayists as Voltaire and Marcus Aurealus. Alexander Pope observed that some books are to be tasted, some chewed, and some to be swallowed and digested. The above books fall into the third category, and much of their content made its way into my character.

All of these authors have one thing in common: they discuss ideas, which, according to some philosophers is what great minds do. Average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.

I'm especially put off by historical novels that confuse young minds that need to know the truth. For example, a few years ago a movie was made of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (I assume someone wrote a book about it first.) The movie combined the Pearl Harbor bombing (1941) with the Battle of Britain (1940), and the Battle of Midway (1942) as if they were concurrent events and then wove a love story through the whole scenario. They made it worse by inadvertently including in one scene the USS Arizona Memorial. Young people have a hard enough time just learning historical facts without skewing them.

Then there is such a thing a literary overkill. A few years ago, I was a member of a western writers group. At that time, the group was searching for some way to make western novels more popular with the general public. Cowboy stories circa about 1880 were prolific when I was a kid. How much more can be fictionalized about that era? Probably the whole genre should have been concluded when Zane Grey died.
Thank you, James, for your perspective. You can find out more about James V. Lee and his books at Salado Press.


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog today, and especially your post "James V. Lee on Reading," and I thought that you might be interested to learn that a new edition of Napoleon Hill's classic book "Think and Grow Rich" has been published.

    Its title is "Think and Grow Rich!" (subtitled) "The Original Version, Restored and Revised." I am the editor/annotator of this new 412-page edition, which is really an homage to Dr. Hill. (For several years I was the editor-in-chief of "Think & Grow Rich Newsletter.")

    What I have done is this: to restore Dr. Hill's book to its original manuscript content (it was first published in 1937, but was abridged in 1960), annotate it with more than 50 pages of endnotes (most of the persons and events he discusses are generally unknown to readers today), index it thoroughly, add an appendix with a wealth of additional information about Dr. Hill and his work, and revise the book in ways to help remove certain "impediments" to reading the book today (language that today would be considered obsolete, sexist or racist). None of these things had previously been done with TGR.

    If you would like to learn a little more about this project, a quick visit to will give you some details. The "Editor's Foreword" provides more complete information, and the “Testimonials” page will demonstrate how well-received this new book is around the world.

    Here is the book’s page...

    The book is available on all the Amazon websites and most other online sellers (it is now the No. 1 best-selling version of TGR on Amazon), it can be ordered by any bookstore, and it will start appearing in bookstores soon.

    Our edition of TGR! is superior in every way to other versions on the market. It is a trade paperback, not a pocket-size mass market paperback. It is unabridged. It is 412 pages versus 230+ (depending on the edition). It looks better, feels better, reads better than any other version. It is fast becoming the "version of choice" among Napoleon Hill devotees and other students of success and high achievement.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    Ross Cornwell, Editor

  2. Thank you, Ross. If someone is interested in reading Dr. Hill's book, they might want to look into this new edition.

  3. I am also someone who prefers to read books that make me think. Think and Grow Rich is my personal favorite. I am reviewing the book chapter by chapter on my blog I hope you can visit and leave some of your own insights.

  4. Well, James, you have really hit on something with your reading preferences. Thank you Michael for stopping by and for your work on reviewing Think and Grow Rich.

  5. I read this post via Doing It Write!, and liked James' post, though I have to say he should lighten up on Hollywood's versions of history: Hollywood will always be Hollywood. And historical fiction, too --- fiction is fiction, and about character as much as it is history, but there are some really good historical novels out. Consider Stephen Harrigan's "The Gates of the Alamo" or even Edmund "Bud" Shrake's "The Borderlands," both excellent excursions into Texas' past.

  6. Hi Todd. I haven't read The Borderlands, but can second your opinion on The Gates of the Alamo. And you're right about Hollywood. They've never been known for historical accuracy but for entertainment. If you're watching a movie based on "true" events, you have to take it with a grain of salt, to use an overused phrase.


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