Book Review: Emerson: The Mind on Fire

I slogged through 300+ pages of Robert D. Richardson’s biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson called Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Throughout my life I have seen so many Emerson aphorisms that I was determined to try to understand this incredible mind a little better. Like a lot of esoteric stuff I read, I didn’t understand all of it – I take an admittedly piecemeal approach to my self-directed study of meaty intellectuals and philosophers – but I grasped enough to be inspired. Emerson, arguably one of the country’s most influential intellectuals, truly lived the life of the mind. The most interesting part of the biography for me is its discussion of Emerson’s reading habits. He was a voracious and active reader, furiously taking notes, underlining, and remembering well-phrased sentences. He always wanted to read from the source, not others’ opinions of a source, and then form his own opinion. This book is not one you won’t be able to put down, but if you’re interested in philosophy, public intellectuals, or biographies, I recommend Emerson: The Mind on Fire.

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