He loaned me a copy. Next week I gave it back. I stopped at page 13. I did not even try to re-read the book until my senior year in college. That book, more than any other book I had read (or tired to read) before or since let me know just how ignorant I was of history and culture I am a part of.
In Surprised by Joy Lewis writes about the shape of his early life up to the point of his conversion. To tell this story he uses books and authors as short hand. He explains none of the books and authors he mentions. Why would he? If you read the autobiography of an author who is the leading Medieval and Renaissance scholar of his generation, who would not expect books and authors to be the touchstones of his entire life?
Fifteen years later I created an index of the book for the New York CS Lewis Society. In the 246 pages of text are 250 books and authors from Aristotle to Wordsworth, from Aeneid to the Well at the World's End.
In 1977, college was in my future, but my will to go was set. So much of what I was trying to understand would be more understandable when I understood the culture I lived in. When I understood and knew the great works of literature and of philosophy that were the context in which the Church grew.
The other thing that was becoming clear with my reading was that the founders of America, and every man or woman of learning from antiquity to now was multi-lingual. One of the biggest gaps in my understanding of the Bible was not really getting the idea of how immensely far the modern English Bible is from Jesus speaking Aramaic and Hebrew in Roman-occupied Israel. For thousands of years, serious Bible students learned Biblical languages.
So I signed up for a course in Biblical Greek from Fort Wayne Bible College. My last year n Germany, I completed two semesters of Greek. It was fun, but I was alone learning Greek until a German Jehovah's witness came to my door. We talked for a while and I found out he was also learning Greek. For the last few months I was in Germany, he was a regular visitor. When he came over, we parsed Greek verbs and talked about the difficulties of translating Greek in to modern languages. Just before I left he invited me to his wedding. I had to leave Germany before the ceremony, but I was delighted he asked.