Ecclesiastes 12:11–12 (NKJV)
11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. 12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
"Hello, my name is Gadfly and I am a book-a-holic." I might as well get that out of the way. Books have some kind of compulsive hold on me that could easily turn into, if it is not already there, an obsession. There are something over 2000 volumes sitting on shelves in various spaces distributed between home and office. I haven't even attempted to survey the e-books, .pdf files, etc. that fill out the "ones and zeros" of the dedicated hard drive attached to my computer. I have not read them all, of course. A fairly large percentage I have, I am acquainted with the contents of another large percentage, some are in the "I've got to read this someday" list, others, not many, mostly just look good on the shelf.
It would be very hard for me to quantify the effect those books have had on my life. It's somewhere between zero (I would be virtually the same if I had never read or purchased any of them) and 100% (I am the product of what I have read filtered through the screen of my experience). How can anyone seriously evaluate the degree to which anything has shaped their own person? But there is the fact... the books are there... and I have spent a serious amount of time doing something with them. Some reflection on that fact might be in order.
Somewhere near the core of the question is our view of what "books" represent and to what end are they directed? Each of us differ on this point and each of us probably go through stages where we answer differently. At one point I viewed serious books in an almost mystical way. They represented "wisdom", an acquired attribute that people who were a lot smarter than me gained through the magical and infallible process of higher "education." The guy must be smart... he wrote a book. That kind of thing.
That stage didn't last too long.
What I have evolved to is the point where any book I read is a conversation with the author. To be charitable, some authors are idiots, but not all that many. Every author is a person, dealing with something that is important to him or her, and even though they may be long dead, it is possible to interact with him or her, to scribble furiously in the margin, to pause and try to make sense of what was said, to laugh out loud at their humor, to get a feel for the heart that lies behind the sentences.
All this is to say that I no longer (and have not for a while) view books as bastions of propositional truth, removed by design from the personality and character of the author. These folks got up in the morning, put on their trousers or panty hose like the rest of us, lived their life, thought about things, and, like some of the rest of us, got some kind of personal relief out of writing stuff down. Some of them are delightful, some are pompous prigs, most are just folks.
"Thus, reader, I, myself am the (subject) of my book: there's no reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure about so frivolous and vain a subject. Therefore, farewell." Now there's a guy, with whom I would like to have shared a drink and a pipe.
But Ecclesiastes is right. "Of the making of many books there is not end." If we think that reading a bunch of books is going to inevitably endow us with much wisdom, we are in for a pretty sad experience. There's only one Book and one Author from whom actual Wisdom can truly be gained. If reading lots of books by human authors is out of proportion to my seeking understanding through Scripture, then my compulsion with books would not only be counter-productive, it would be deadly. I must not only view the Scriptures differently than other books... I must view the Author quite differently. Here is wisdom... to know and be taught by God through His Word. (Psalm 51:6)
Now, back to my reading. ....