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Some Words on Reading

Books
image courtesy, Suzy Hazelwood


Austin Kleon, quoting Octavia Butler on reading more than a book at a time.

I generally have four or five books open around the house—I live alone; I can do this—and they are not books on the same subject. They don’t relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect. I also listen to audio-books, and I’ll go out for my morning walk with tapes from two very different audio-books, and let those ideas bounce off each other, simmer, reproduce in some odd way, so that I come up with ideas that I might not have come up with if I had simply stuck to one book until I was done with it and then gone and picked up another.

Ryan Holiday meanwhile, extols the virtues of reading a page a day, books.

Although I certainly read on some days more than others, I work hard to make sure I read something everyday.

That means I am spending time each day with whatever book I am trying to get through, but it means I spend time, daily, with a few specific books (and authors) that I benefit from each time I pick them up. Which is why I am sending this special Reading List Email with some recommendations of books (and sites) I try to look at every single morning.

A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy believed his most essential work was not his novels but his daily read, A Calendar of Wisdom. As Tolstoy wrote in his diary, the continual study of one text, reading one page at the start of each day, was critical to personal growth. “Daily study,” Tolstoy wrote in 1884, is “necessary for all people.” So Tolstoy dreamed of creating a book comprised of “a wise thought for every day of the year, from the greatest philosophers of all times and all people…Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Pascal.” As he wrote to his assistant, “I know that it gives one great inner force, calmness, and happiness to communicate with such great thinkers as Socrates, Epictetus, Arnold, Parker… They tell us about what is most important for humanity, about the meaning of life and about virtue.” It would take seventeen years for this book to be published, then ninety-three more for the English translation, titled A Calendar of Wisdom.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Of course, I don’t actually read my own book each morning, but I did design that book to mimic a ritual I have, which is to pick up and read one passage from the Stoics each morning. Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, I want to put something from them in my brain each morning. Unfortunately, there was no book that put them all together until we made The Daily Stoic (which has now sold 500,000 copies and is translated in more than 30 languages). We also put out an email version (and a podcast) for DailyStoic.com that has continued the same service. More than 250,000 people check in with these texts this morning because it’s important. You want to start your day off with wisdom and when it comes to wisdom, there is nobody better than the Stoics.

Amongst other things Ryan also recommends James Clear’s, 3-2-1 Thursday & Maria Popova’s, Brain Pickings.


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