Impassioned Readers Lead Active Lives

I got my periodic jolt of meta about my favorite hobby – reading. In the NYT Boook Review there’s an essay “How to Read a Book” which sort of reviews a book “The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life” but more importantly contains some good words on reading and booksluts in general:

In fact, most of us don’t look for the ”best” books the same way we would scout out the ”best” digital camera. Whether we’re reading a novel, a biography or for that matter a book about orchids, we seek an elusive combination of pleasure, utility and intellectual stimulation, something to pique our curiosity and engage our minds. But Leveen views books as an end in themselves, treating them primarily as objects to be fetishized.

At the same time, Leveen’s focus on reinventing the paper clip has left him with little understanding of how people actually make use of knowledge in their daily lives. He is amazed that such ”great achievers” as John Adams and Nelson Mandela ”manage to become impassioned readers and lead such remarkably active lives,” adding that ”many widely read people are not bookish stereotypes but vigorous actors on the stage of life.” Of course, there is no contradiction here; if ”active” means not only successful in one’s profession but also thoughtful and engaged with the world (including the world of ideas), then reading is essential to the active life.

Are you a vigorous actor on the stage of life engaged with the world of ideas?

3 comments on “Impassioned Readers Lead Active Lives
  • “Are you a vigorous actor on the stage of life engaged with the world of ideas?”

    Oh please, Ben. You’ve got an incredible mind, and most of your blog entries are truly engaging and interesting to read, but this sentence is just a veiled form of self-affirmation. It has nothing to do with truly asking a question of the reader, and really only makes you come off as seeming insecure about yourself and whether reading so many books is truly a good thing to be doing with your time. If you truly were comfortable with being told by people to “break out of your shell”, you wouldn’t have to constantly keep defending just how “big and worldly” your shell is. You would just move on, knowing full well who you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why your actions will speak for themselves in the long run. You don’t need to keep defending who you are.

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