Castles on Clouds

I’m a couple of chapters away from finishing Les Miserables,* thanks to the enthusiasm of a friend** and to Nick Senger’s excellent chapter-a-day read-along schedule.*** It’s a fantastic read – hard going at times, but deserving of its reputation. Beside the story itself (forgiving its long string of ridiculous coincidences), I most enjoy the little**** insights into life in another…

Schopenhauer on reading yourself stupid

Schopenhauer had quite a lot to say about reading. He liked good books, but was highly skeptical of most books, and especially of contemporary ones. Here he is – in dialectical* opposition to most of my other posts about reading – on the effects of reading too much: When we read, someone else thinks for us; we repeat merely his…

More on old books: Mortimer Adler on permanent literature

The faster things change, the more important our reference points if we want to avoid motion sickness. The great books are always contemporary. In contrast, the books we call “contemporary,” because they are currently popular, last only for a year or two, or ten at the most. They soon become antiquated. You probably cannot recall the names of the bestsellers…

Extending books: Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen on Timeful Texts

Picking up Tuesday’s post about transactional reading and contemplation, here’s something interesting that goes a little further in thinking about how we might immerse ourselves in books or other texts. Today’s gem comes from Andy Matuschak (former leader of the R&D group at Khan Academy and all-round interesting fellow), who’s working on developing more effective tools for thought and learning.…

Misreading the mind: Ezra Klein and Nicholas Carr on transactional reading and contemplation

Ezra Klein: If you can get the argument of a book – through book reviews or book essays or a Wikipedia page or something – that actually isn’t what the book can do for you primarily. Getting the main argument of a book is very easy. It’s the time you spend in in it, where you begin to make connections…