"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting." - Henry David Thoreau
Are books inherently special? Does writing have value simply because it is captured on paper?
I have mixed feelings on the subject. On one hand, books seem like they have more longevity than a blog post or twitter comment (at least at this point in time).
But at the same time, it feels like the bar is too low for getting something published. These days, self-publishing has flooded the market with mediocre works. Although I support the voices of independent writes, I'm also worried about finding quality content among all of these works.
My general heuristic is to read things that have been around for at least a few years. However, this makes me worried that I'm missing out on some zeitgeist or trending phenomenon.
I think a good approach is to seek out recommendations from smart people that you know and trust. For instance, Bill Gates has a reading list that likely helps many people choose their next book. But then again, isn't this just adding to your echo chamber? Maybe I should seek out people that I disagree with and force myself to read their recommendations. Easier said than done. But it could be a good exercise in gaining mental flexibility. I do yoga to stretch out my body, why not read something outside of my comfort zone to stretch out my mind?
I feel a little overwhelmed by how much knowledge there is out there in the world. And I feel nervous at how distracted the average person seems to be these days.
One reason I enjoy things like yoga or going to see a movie in theaters is because I'm not on my phone (you could use it, but the social pressure keeps me from peeking). So maybe we just need the equivalent setting for readers. I think places like quiet coffee shops or public parks are great for reading. But maybe we need to take it a step further and have a formal environment for groups of readers to gather. Maybe that sounds strange, but it could offer a solution for getting us off our phones and into a book.
I'm starting to think that my writing will be more stream-of-consciousness like the essay above. Maybe I'll produce more polished work in the future, but for now I like writing whatever comes into my mind. I try to play devil's advocate when I start to form an opinion, but this can be exhausting - as my mind swings back and forth like a pendulum without finding room to settle.
But just getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the computer helps loosen the load on my mind.