Basics, Education

Learning to Read

The abysmal truth is that few read before or during college:

“The desire to appeal to incoming students who have rarely if ever read an adult book on their own also leads selection committees to choose low-grade “accessible” works that are presumed to appeal to “book virgins” who will flee actual college-level reading. Since common reading programs are generally either voluntary or mandatory without an enforcement mechanism, such “book virgins” have to be wooed with simple, unchallenging works. This was our conclusion two years ago: the lay of the land is still much the same.”

If you want to get ahead in life, in college, and of yourself, read.

Why Read?

If you read you can:

  1. Get inside the head of somebody smarter than you. (Have you written a whole book?)
  2. You can empathize more effectively.
  3. You can learn new skills.
  4. You can be inspired by the great examples of great men.
  5. You can avoid the brain rot of emotional eating or over watching television.
  6. You can understand the foundations of your culture and find your place within it if you read the great books that helped make your people who they are.

What to read?

  1. Try reading classic fiction. Start easy with the Chronicles of Narnia, then try the Hobbit, A Study in Scarlet, Tarzan of the Apes, etc. Then try some Umberto Eco. Then the Iliad or Beowulf.
  2. Read a self-help classic or two: The Slight Edge and How to Win Friends and Influence People are really helpful.
  3. Read a how-to book for a skill that will help you make money, but as you read it, use the skill. This adds skin in the game of learning and therefore makes the process fell more valuable to you. Here’s one on public speaking. Here’s one on saving money. Here’s one on studying. Here’s one on weight loss.
  4. Read some classic philosophy. Try the meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the Lectures and Sayings of Musonius Rufus. Read the Handbook of Epictetus. Try The Last Days of Socrates by Plato or for something more practical like the Memorabilia of Xenophon, which presents a much more practical version of Socrates.
  5. Try reading about interesting figures in history. I like reading about Jesus, Alexander the Great, George Washinton, Teddy Roosevelt, Jim Bowie, and St. Paul.
  6. Think of a science topic you like (the launching of the moon rocket, the invention of the light bulb, the discovery of gravity, etc), and read a popular book about it.

How to Read

Now, you obvious can read words, but can you read well? Good reading involves several skills:

  1. Understanding what is being said (the point, plot, or core idea).
  2. Observing how it is being said (noticing the evidence, techniques, or tropes the author is using)
  3. Determining whether what you’re reading is true and to what extent (or if a fictional story, internally consistent).
  4. Finally, evaluating how what you have read matters.

These items have been framed as questions to ask when you read.

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