I’m Thinking about Reading, Especially Reading Books – (With Insight from Werner Herzog and Kevin Williamson)

Over the weekend, I read two items that got my attention.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

One was this: Our Post-Literate Politics by Kevin Williamson of the National Review.   (Note: I try to avoid politics on this blog, and, yes, this is an anti-Donald Trump for President article from the conservative journal. But, I quote from this for what it says about reading). Here are some key excerpts:

…the candidacy of Donald Trump is something that could not happen in a nation that could read. This is the full flower of post-literate politics.

The American Founders could have a conversation among themselves because they had in the main all consumed the same library of Greek and Roman classics (in the original or in translation), British and Continental literature ranging from fiction to political economy, legal literature, and the like. This did not ensure agreement or like-mindedness — far from it. What it ensured was literate and enlightened argument.

The other item was: Werner Herzog would like you to sign off Facebook and read the Warren Commission by Chris Plante on The Verge. Here’s a key excerpt:

Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog

“Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read,” says Werner Herzog, wrapping up the post-film Q&A for his latest doc, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World.

The celebrated documentarian’s advice is directed at young filmmakers, who he feels are too often trained in practical skills, but rarely encouraged to open books. But this encouragement, Herzog explains, applies to all people, who should seek a better understanding of the world and our place in it.

Where should we start? Herzog — whose syllabus for his Rogue Film School seminar that contains no books on film — recommends starting with classics like works by Hemingway and great poetry.

I read for a living. I read, and then speak about what I’ve read. In my business book synopses, I try to capture, and share, the essence, the transferable lessons and takeaways, from the business books I select.

But I always feel like I have not read enough. There is so much to understand, so much to learn. And reading full books — reading books in their entirety, with the fewest number of distractions while reading — is a way to take a deeper dive.

This is such a “skim-the-surface” era. We flit from web site to social media site, and call that our reading, And, how can I object? I would like for you to read my blog, after all.

But, when I sit in my easy chair, and read books fully — and, to be honest, kind of slowly — I feel like I am deepening my understanding in a way that clicking from screen to screen can never match.

I’ve recently read, yet again, another article recommending that we turn off e-mail, avoid social media, and concentrate on the current book we are reading, for extended, uninterrupted periods of time.

Can anyone argue that this would be a bad idea? I don’t much think so…



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