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“The worst thing about new books is they keep us from reading the old ones.” –Joseph Joubert

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) was a French moralist and essayist, remembered today largely for his Pensées (thoughts).

Coach Wooden had a fantastic home library with thousands of books. When asked once how many he had read, he said about 75%.

In Pat Williams’ book Coach Wooden, the origins of Coach’s love of reading are described:

Joshua Hugh Wooden was the one who first instilled a love for poetry and great literature in young John Wooden.

In his own commentary, Coach observed, “Poetry, biographies and all the other great books will greatly enrich your life. There are so many that are so good, and they will all be available to you. The poetry Dad read to us when we were children instilled a love of reading…. Drink deeply from those great books of your own choosing and you will enrich yourself.”

“We had no electricity, plumbing or conveniences,” Coach Wooden recalled, “and for entertainment, Dad read books to us in the evening by the light of the coal-oil lamp.

“Sometimes we’d hear Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ or even William Shakespeare. Before we were sent off to bed, he’d always include a verse or two from the Good Book.”

Coach’s copy of Idylls of the King is old and tattered and full of notes he made and other passages he underlined. On the top of the first page of the introduction, Coach wrote out two ideas he thought were valuable from “The Coming of Arthur”:

Doubt which judges by the senses is matched against faith which judges by the spirit.

The birth of a spiritual man who rules by force of character and not by right of birth.

These two ideas reflect Coach’s approach to others—always trust first—and coaching—be a leader, not a dictator.

I think I better go read some old books and see if I can get a little wiser.

Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.