It’s hard to imagine Mark Hamby sitting still long enough to read a book.
On Friday, he zipped around energetically at a Nashville homeschool convention to drum up enthusiasm for his business, dashing from one person to the next to strike up a conversation.
Sure enough, he confessed to not liking books when he was a kid.
“I used to hate to read,” he said. “Reading and I didn’t go together.”
That makes it all the more interesting that his business is books. More than 20 years ago, he started Lamplighter, which publishes out-of-print novels from the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. His booth at the Teach Them Diligently convention being held this weekend at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center is piled high with them.
“Every book we publish has to personally captivate me,” he said. “They must be something that will have kids on the edge of their seats.”
They also must teach moral lessons and draw readers to Christ, said Gamby, who developed a hunger for great Christian literature when he became a Christian at age 22. He looks for books that have strong themes of endurance, faith, hope and love.
The books he publishes were popular at the time of their release because parents wanted stories with moral truths that would help guide their children in life, Gamby said. In our age of moral compromise in which many no longer adhere to the idea of absolute truth, that is no longer the case, he said. Gamby sees Lamplighter as an effort to revive an appreciation for books that pass along godly wisdom while also entertaining children and adults alike.
Lamplighter makes dramatic audio recordings of its books that are available on CD and featured today on 2000 radio stations in 31 countries. To make the recordings, Gamby has recruited top actors and actresses whose credits include Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and Downton Abbey. The recordings are made in London, Hollywood and in an old Gothic church building in western New York state, where Lamplighter is headquartered.
Lamplighter also has a guild that offers classes in drama, photography, filmmaking, visual arts and culinary arts.
Gamby said he makes some changes to the old books he publishes to make them more exciting or to ensure that the lessons in character are clear.
“I don’t have to add a lot, but I do add some,” he said.