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Posts about reading (old posts, page 1)

The Best Writing Advice I Could Give You

Sometimes Seth Godin makes it easy for me to do the newsletter.
There’s a pithy post that says everything I want to say.
So, to the kids I coach, this is the best writing advice I could give you!
(Everything below the break is Seth, (emphases mine))


Decorating a car with bling, mudflaps and an airhorn is a form of signalling. You can show your peers that you have the resources to waste on superfluous adornments.

(Did you see what I just did there? I could have said, “You can show your friends that you have money to burn,” but I didn’t.)

Overwriting has a long tradition, particularly among academics. Make it a bit more complex and wordy than it needs to be. Write run-on sentences. Apparently, complicated writing must be more true.

One reason for this commitment to overwriting is that it keeps the hordes away. It’s difficult to read and hard to imagine writing. And so scarcity is created.

And yet, the articles and books that stand the test of time are straightforward. They’re memorable. They can be understood by the reader you seek to serve.

Simply write.

Write simply.

As few words as you need, but no fewer.

But simply write.


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Absolutely Make Time for Reading

From the Writing Routines1 pdf that is available on signing up to their mailing list…

“If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King, On Writing

“I write two pages. And then I read and read and read.”
José Saramago, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature

“I can’t begin to tell you the things I discovered while I was looking for something else.”
Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language

“...EVENINGS: See friends. Read in cafés....”
Henry Miller author of Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn, and more.

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  1. I love the site and its interviews. Go visit and see if you like their stuff. 

Being Wrong

Shane Parrish’s highlights from this gem of a Ted Talk by Kahthryn Schulz.

… The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us is that we just assume they are ignorant. You know, they don’t have access to the same information we do and when we generously share that information with them, they are going to see the light and come on over to our team.

When that doesn’t work. When it turns out those people have all the same information and they still don’t agree with us we move onto a second assumption. They’re idiots. They have all the right pieces of the puzzle and they are too moronic to put them together.

And when that doesn’t work. When it turns out that people have all the same facts that we do and they are pretty smart we move onto a third assumption. They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.

So this is a catastrophe: our attachment to our own rightness. It prevents us from preventing mistakes when we need to and causes us to treat each other terribly.

You can watch the whole talk below or click here. It’s twenty minutes well spent.



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Writing as the Most Important Thing You Could Do Every Morning

From a Ryan Holiday post on journalling,

“I don’t journal to “be productive.” I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me.

Morning pages are, as author Julia Cameron puts it, “spiritual windshield wipers.” It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found. To quote her further…: ‘Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.’”

Also totally love the quote that opens the article,

“Keep a notebook.
Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it.
Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain.
Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter.
And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”

—Jack London

Go, read!

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What Does Reading a Book Do to Your Brain?

From What Does Immersing Yourself in a Book Do to Your Brain?

Reading allows us to try on, for a few moments, what it truly means to be another person, with all the similar and sometimes vastly different emotions and struggles that govern others’ lives.
The reading circuitry is elaborated by such simulations; so also our daily lives, and so also the lives of those who would lead others.

The novelist Jane Smiley worries that it is just this dimension in fiction that is most threatened by our culture: “My guess is that mere technology will not kill the novel. . . . But novels can be sidelined. . . . When that happens, our society will be brutalized and coarsened by people . . . who have no way of understanding us or each other.” It is a chilling reminder of how important the life of reading is for human beings if we are to form an ever more realized democratic society for everyone.

Empathy involves, therefore, both knowledge and feeling. It involves leaving past assumptions behind and deepening our intellectual understanding of another person, another religion, another culture and epoch. In this moment in our collective history, the capacity for compassionate knowledge of others may be our best antidote to the “culture of indifference” that spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Pope Francis describe. It may also be our best bridge to others with whom we need to work together, so as to create a safer world for all its inhabitants. In the very special cognitive space within the reading-brain circuit, pride and prejudice can gradually dissolve through the compassionate understanding of another’s mind.

The whole article is a slow, lovely ode to reading and empathy.

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Want to Write Better? Become a Better Reader!

Busy with exams this month, so leaving you with this Austin Kleon post with tonnes of quotes on reading.

Here’s a few of my favourite ones …

“You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader.”
—J.K. Rowling

“Read, read, read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!”
—William Faulkner

“When I’m reading, I’m looking for something to steal. Readers ask me all the time the traditional question ‘Where do you get your ideas from?” I reply: ‘We are all having ideas all the time. But I’m on the lookout for them. You’re not.’”
—Philip Pullman

Go, read.

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Why You Need a Reading Plan

Jeremy Andenberg, on the importance of Reading Plans:

Creates room for mastery of a subject.

This is perhaps my favorite part of having a reading plan. We’ve made the case multiple times here on Art of Manliness that everyone should strive to be “T-shaped”; that is, you should have a breadth of general knowledge, but also mastery in a single topic or subject or skill. Such mastery provides satisfaction and self-confidence in spades.

So how do you achieve mastery?
One way is certainly by reading deeply into a single subject.
Whether driven by your career or your personal passions, having a reading plan is a surefire way to deepen your knowledge base.

Read more over at the Art of Manliness.
They also have a helpful list of several reading plans if you need inspiration.

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English is a “Phunnny” language (or When I Fell in Love with English and Reading)

As a kid, I read a lot of books above my level of comprehension.
More to show off and show folks my “smartness” and give off that snooty “I am a well read boy” air1 than from any sense of love or learning.

I know better now (I hope, I do) :)

But two books from those days will always stay with me.

One was my father’s science textbook, which I no longer have or remember the title of. I used it for four years in high school to understand what I was learning. The book was my secret weapon :)
The language in that old textbook was far more engaging and lively than the teachers in class. And it was beautiful with all those black and white line drawings, and anecdotes of the folks who made those amazing discoveries. (Faraday and Tesla and Watts and Madam Curie). It actually was a textbook from before science became “Science”; when it was Natural Philosophy
Despite years of searching, I haven’t found it again.
The closest textbook of that style I could point you to, would be Thompson’s Calculus.

The other book was a tattered copy of The Complete Yes Minister.2 I thought then, that the book was the real deal, an actual tell all, with its newspaper clippings and copies of memos. It took me a couple more years to realise what satire was. And it was a line in there, a really obtuse, verbose line that took my young brain a couple of days to “get”, that made me realise that reading was a dialogue, that a good book was not something to be just “read”. A good book is friend telling you jokes, a prankster scaring you, a father figure consoling you, a friend giving you advice and in this case a master exposing that language in general (and English in particular) was not something to be scared of, but just tools of expression, toys to be played with and enjoyed, and tools that could be expertly wielded.

It was this line and the delight I got in deciphering it, that turned me into a lifelong bookworm. You can see Nigel Hawthorne’s brilliant rendition, here.

This is what he said. “The identity of this official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight has been the subject of recent speculation is not shrouded in quite such impenetrable obscurity as certain previous disclosures may have led you to assume, and, in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, the individual in question was, it may surprise you to learn, the one to whom your present interlocutor is in the habit of identifying by means of the perpendicular pronoun.”

“I beg your pardon?’ I said.
There was an anguished pause.
‘It was I,’ he said.”

Like our grand old thespian says, “English is a very phunnny language.”


  1. Aah, vanity! :) 

  2. Yes, I read the book first and discovered the show much later.