Reading Well

Reading is letting someone else model the world for you. This is an act of intimacy. When the author is morose, you become morose. When he is mirthful, eventually you may share in it. And after finishing a very good book one is driven a little mad, forced to return from a world that no one nearby has witnessed.

You should embrace the visceral quality in reading. Read mostly fiction. Read slowly. There is a kind of marinating that happens with very good works, they are always more than their story. The goal is not to digest information, but to layer over your reality with a fresh coat of moss. Your own world becomes colored by these stories, so it is worthwhile to spend time seeking the excellent works from across cultures and history.

If you read what is excellent you will not suddenly become excellent, but a life that is sown with stories is one better positioned to think and dream. The more stories, the more likely one is to understand and identify all the influences that act upon oneself in life.

I also tend to stress fiction because I think, especially among my professional peers in the industry of software, that there is too great a fondness for non-fiction. I think this arises from a belief that superior knowledge of the world comes from non-fiction. This thought is attractive to people who build systems, but over-systematizing and seeing systems in everything can be a failure mode. Careful descriptions and summaries miss too much of the world. Hard distinctions make bad philosophy.

As previously mentioned, my reading habit has taken a hit this year, but I recently read:

I’m currently reading:

…and a few technical books that aren’t very interesting. I have these audiobooks on hold on the library app: Radical Compassion by Tara Brach, Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave, Becoming by Michelle Obama, A Promised Land by Barack Obama, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

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