If you follow my Instagram feed you might notice I post a lot of pictures of books. I guess I got the idea from some other person’s page, but I’ve found the practice to be helpful in reminding me what I’ve read. I cruise through at least a book a week (I’d love to do more, but you know, work, marriage). It’s fun to look back and see where my curiosity took me and what I managed to get through.
For the past few years I’ve put quite a bit of attention on business and marketing books. I can’t say it was time misspent, but I can say the quality of the writing is abysmal and I can track my absorption of these crude pamphlets with a decline in my own writing style and thought. These are books designed by focus groups and assembled by charlatans. I always find one or two ideas that help me in my career, but the cost is very high.
Recently I’ve moved back into reading philosophic manifestos. This is a genre I really enjoy, especially when the authors are writing about dangerous or unpopular ideas. It’s informative to see where my own thoughts line up with fringe thinkers and where they diverge.
It’s so easy to find yourself reading the same articles, watching the same shows, and thinking the same thoughts as the people around you. This is comfortable death. This is how you end up talking about the weather or having serious opinions about movies made for dumb children.
Just like you have to make yourself uncomfortable at the gym for physical progress, you have to make yourself uncomfortable in your mind for mental progress. This is why I read Glenn Greenwald and Ann Coulter. This is why William S. Burroughs always fascinates me. This is why I look at Social Justice Warrior forums and Breitbart. I’m always looking for some kind of line of thought that pulls me out of my own perspective.
I don’t know if it has made me a better person or a better writer, but I know I don’t think like other people do. And that’s something in this age of withering homogeneity.