Reading Wars – Philip Yancey

Source: Reading Wars – Philip Yancey

Don’t you love the always candid Philip Yancey? I really do.

This is an article everybody should read. Please find below a few excerpts:

‘ I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (OK, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.

The internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around.  When I read an online article from The Atlantic or The New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links. Soon I’m over at reading Donald Trump’s latest Tweets and details of the latest terrorist attack, or perhaps checking tomorrow’s weather.’

‘Neuroscientists have an explanation for this phenomenon. When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush; functional-MRI brain scans show the brain’s pleasure centers lighting up. In a famous experiment, rats keep pressing a lever to get that dopamine rush, choosing it over food or sex. In humans, emails also satisfy that pleasure center, as do Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.

Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows analyzes the phenomenon, and its subtitle says it all: “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” Carr spells out that most Americans, and young people especially, are showing a precipitous decline in the amount of time spent reading. He says, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” A 2016 Nielsen report calculates that the average American devotes more than ten hours per day to consuming media—including radio, TV, and all electronic devices. That constitutes 65 percent of waking hours, leaving little time for the much harder work of focused concentration on reading.’

‘I’ve concluded that a commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish. Christians especially need that sheltering space, for quiet meditation is one of the most important spiritual disciplines.’

‘Boredom, say the researchers, is when creativity happens. A wandering mind wanders into new, unexpected places. When I retire to the mountains and unplug for a few days, something magical takes place. I’ll go to bed puzzling over a roadblock in my writing, and the next morning wake up with the solution crystal-clear—something that never happens when I spend my spare time cruising social media and the internet.

I find that poetry helps. You can’t zoom through poetry; it forces you to slow down, think, concentrate, relish words and phrases. I now try to begin each day with a selection from George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, or R. S. Thomas.

For deep reading, I’m searching for an hour a day when mental energy is at a peak, not a scrap of time salvaged from other tasks. I put on headphones and listen to soothing music, shutting out distractions.’

‘We’re engaged in a war, and technology wields the heavy weapons. Rod Dreher published a bestseller called The Benedict Option, in which he urged people of faith to retreat behind monastic walls as the Benedictines did—after all, they preserved literacy and culture during one of the darkest eras of human history. I don’t completely agree with Dreher, though I’m convinced that the preservation of reading will require something akin to the Benedict option.

I’m still working on that fortress of habit, trying to resurrect the rich nourishment that reading has long provided for me.’

Đoàn Thanh Liêm – My Two Passions in Life

Đoàn Thanh Liêm

Here is another text I have just received from my Vietnamese friend, dissident Đoàn Thanh Liêm.

* * *

My Two Passions in Life

I used to tell my friends: “I have only two simple passions in life, that’s books and friends.” Now, let me elaborate on that.

1 – My grandpa was a teacher of Chinese characters in the early 20th century. He passed away when I was only 6 years old, and I never had the chance to learn Chinese from him. Instead, I studied French, Latin and English as foreign languages. As a young boy from a peasant family in the rural area of North Vietnam, I was much encouraged by elders to pursue studies consistently and for as long as possible. They used to remind me of this saying: “Biển học mênh mông” (The learning is like a limitless ocean). Unfortunately, due to the war erupting at the end of 1946, my schooling was interrupted as I moved around at least three different localities in the Red River Delta. I only started attending regular classes in the 1950’s and finally completed high school in Hanoi during June 1954. Continue reading “Đoàn Thanh Liêm – My Two Passions in Life”

Maria Popova – What Books Do for the Human Soul

brain pickings

Brain Pickings is an amazing web site created by Maria Popova. It deals merely with books. Good books.

One of her latest posts is about the effect on (good) books on the human soul. She mentions four of these:

  1. It saves you time
  2. It makes you nicer
  3. It’s a cure for loneliness
  4. It prepares you for failure.

And here is a conclusion:

Literature deserves its prestige for one reason above all others — because it’s a tool to help us live and die with a little bit more wisdom, goodness, and sanity.

You may agree more or less with the first three, but you may wonder what’s with the fourth one. If you do, you have to read the article. You can find it HERE. Enjoy!

Number of Book Published Yearly per 1 mln People in Europe

books-published-per-capita map

(Source, HERE. Thanks to Celina Petrescu for the link.)

Rachel’s Summer Reading Spectacular

Rachel’s Summer Reading Spectacular.

Some suggestions from Rachel Held Evans for your summer reading.


Cel mai ambiţios colecţionar de cărţi « Methoughts, mefeats and medefeats

Cel mai ambiţios colecţionar de cărţi « Methoughts, mefeats and medefeats.

Indeed, a very interesting story. Thanks, Manu.

My Ten Favourite Books by John Stott

The list I submit here, at the request of RomGabe, is highly subjective and does not involve any hierarchy. It is somewhat random in terms of order and may also exclude some valuable titles that did not necessarily resonate with me.

I have to also say that I do not particularly like John Stott’s writings. They seem somewhat dry to me (this may simply be because of the editors he used), especially when compared with the warmth of his live messages.

So, here are my favourites, for what it matters: Continue reading “My Ten Favourite Books by John Stott”

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