Friday, 28 September 2018

On The Art of NOT Reading

When it comes to my reading, I have a rule—I avoid books that are being overhyped by the mainstream media. I never consult the bestseller lists for making my reading choices, and I don’t own any book written by a major politician, bureaucrat, film star or sportsman. My bookrack is a boring place, it is free of bestsellers, but I like it that way.

I am in agreement with the view on the art of not reading that Arthur Schopenhauer offers in his popular essay, “On Books and Writing,” (Arthur Schopenhauer: Essays and Aphorisms; Edited by R. J. Hollingdale; Pages 198–211). Here’s an excerpt:
The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. — A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.
Schopenhauer begins his essay by pointing out that here are three category of writers:
Writers can be divided into meteors, planets, and fixed stars.  The first produce a momentary effect: you gaze up, cry: ‘Look!’—and then they vanish forever.  The second, the moving stars, endure for much longer.  By virtue of their proximity they often shine more brightly than the fixed stars, which the ignorant mistake them for.  But they too must soon vacate their place, they shine moreover only with a borrowed light, and their sphere of influence is limited to their own fellow travelers (their contemporaries).  The third alone are unchanging, stand firm in the firmament, shine by their own light and influence all ages equally.
I would rather read the works of “fixed star” category of writers. But they are usually not to be found in the bestseller lists; you have to do your own research to identify them.


Dan Clinciu said...

It is my take on reading books as well! It is often the problem in scientific research. Many academicians quickly change to a "hot" topic in order to publish and get funding rather than doing the research that interests them most!

Terry said...

Excellent advice - because, yes life is short and we must therefore be highly selective with our endeavors, our relationships, with our possessions and our reading material.