Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Read Any Old Books Lately?

Keep your very old books repaired and treat them gently.jpgYou probably read a variety of material–hopefully, some of it related to work or to personal or professional development. For interesting perspectives, try reading books and magazine articles about supervision, management, leadership or personal development, written thirty or more years ago. You will find that much of the material could have been written yesterday, while some of the material is is amusing or irritating, viewed from 2008 perspectives. Any old, non-fiction book can be a wonderful window into the world of the past

One of my prized possessions is a reference set of 6 books, first printed in 1907 and reprinted in 1910. I have used those books repeatedly and find them to be fascinating and worthwhile for many reasons. For one thing, it’s very interesting–and sometimes poignant–to read articles about historic figures, written while they were still living. Nicholas II and Alexandra, his beloved Tsarina, and their children had not yet been executed; Theodore Roosevelt was no longer the president but was active in conservation projects; John D. Rockefeller had just given over fifty million dollars to various colleges (In 1910 money!). 

In the section on physical development the comment is made: “It is not enough to exercise the limbs and muscles to build strength. Every man, woman, boy and girl should also exercise their hearts and lungs. This can be done through daily rapid walking, or exercises such as arm swinging for prolonged periods, to increase breathing and pulse and develop strong pulmonary and vascular systems. Without a healthy heart and lungs, the other muscles have little value.” So much for aerobic health being a fairly modern discovery!

I have a dozen or so books on supervision written from 1935-1985 and find them to be tremendously useful for comparison and contrast about training topics. I often read an excerpt from one of those books without telling participants the publication date. For example, the chapter of one book on leadership is titled, “Teach Young People To Work.” It discusses how young people coming into the work force need to be taught to take responsibility and to do more than just enough to get by. Young employees, the author says, often have unrealistic expectations and want all the benefits of tenure long before they have paid their dues as a valued employee. Then, I show the book and read the date of the copyright: 1967.

You can find old books and magazines at estate sales and garage sales, online, in used bookstores, and sometimes in the homes of older relatives and friends–like me! Some classics are costly, but I simply look for any old reference book, or books on topics about which I teach.  I also let people know I’m looking,  and I occasionally receive an old book or magazine in the mail.

In yesterday’s training journal post I mentioned using old photos or scans from old books or magazines in PowerPoint slides, and that is another reason to look for older publications. However, the main reason is to see the issues and concerns of supervisors, managers and employees decades ago. It’s also interesting to consider how the books and magazine articles written today will seem to those who collect old resource material in 2050.

February 22nd, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 3 comments