Quotes on the Magical Power of Books

Quotes on the Magical Power of Books

This is a collection of quotes on the magical power of books, from the minds of book-lovers throughout the ages (emphasis mine). There truly is something special about the act of reading. See if you resonate with these thoughts.

 

 

“The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another.”  Rebecca Solnit

“Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest… Without the word, without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.”   – Hermann Hesse

“But surpassing all stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind was his who dreamed of finding means to communicate his deepest thoughts to any other person, though distant by mighty intervals of place and time! Of talking with those who are in India; of speaking to those who are not yet born and will not be born for a thousand or ten thousand years; and with what facility, by the different arrangements of twenty characters upon a page.”   – Galileo Galilei

“…an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.”   – David Foster Wallace

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”   – Carl Sagan

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors… Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”  – C. S. Lewis

P.S. I will be updating this page as I collect wonderful quotes on books and reading. Bookmark the page and check back later!

 

See also The Art of Reading and Reading and the Life of the Mind.

Monday Inspiration: Brené Brown, Derek Sivers, Sheryl Sandberg, and More

Monday Inspiration: Brené Brown, Derek Sivers, Sheryl Sandberg, and More

Happy Monday! Or not so happy Monday. I don’t know about you, but I usually need pick-me-ups on Mondays, something inspiring to boost up the week and get me excited about the possibilities that this week can bring. If you’re feeling kind of “meh” today, here are my Monday inspirations! Links and quotes that will inspire you throughout the week. Bookmark them, or consume them in one sitting, up to you. These are the stuffs that have inspired me recently. Enjoy!

Brené Brown

This is an interview with Brené Brown with Chase Jarvis on his 30 Days of Genius series. Incredible conversation on emotional intelligence.

 

Derek Sivers

On Success Habits and Billionaires with Perfect Abs. An episode from The Tim Ferriss Show where Derek answers questions from fans. The last 3 minutes of this are glorious!

 

 

Sheryl Sandberg

A courageous commencement speech at UC Berkeley by Sheryl Sandberg where she talks about facing griefs after her husband’s death last year and learning gratitude. It’s a tear-jerker.

 

 

Inspiring Quotes

“Finding your calling will not happen without the aid and assistance of others. Every story of success is, in fact, a story of community.”Jeff Goins from The Art of Work

“Stand in your God-given personality. Be no other person’s shadow.”  – Ellen White in Mind, Character, and Personality Vol. 1

“You’re more powerful than you think you are. Act accordingly.”  – Seth Godin

Now have a courageous and inspired week!

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

Reading and the Life of the Mind

Reading and the Life of the Mind

From the stunning last chapter and ending of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, here are inspiring excerpts on reading and the life of the mind:

If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn.

A good book does reward you for trying to read it. The best books reward you most of all. The reward, of course, is of two kinds. First, there is the improvement in your reading skill that occurs when you successfully tackle a good, difficult work. Second–and this in the long run is much more important–a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable–books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life.

There is a strange fact about the human mind, a fact that differentiates the mind sharply from the body. The body is limited in ways that the mind is not. One sign of this is that the body does not continue indefinitely to grow in strength and develop in skill and grace. By the time most people are thirty years old, their bodies are as good as they will ever be; in fact, many persons’ bodies have begun to deteriorate by that time. But there is no limit to the amount of growth and development that the mind can sustain. The mind does not stop growing at any particular age; only when the brain itself loses its vigor, in senescence, does the mind lose its power to increase in skill and understanding.

Then, if we lack resources within ourselves, we cease to grow intellectually, morally, and spiritually. And when we cease to grow, we begin to die.

 

Reading well, which means reading actively, is thus not only a good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. It also serves to keep our minds alive and growing.

 

Read well, friends.

 

See also The Art of Reading and Quotes on the Magical Power of Books.

 

Mortimer Adler: The Art of Reading

Mortimer Adler: The Art of Reading

Without external help of any sort, you go to work on the book. With nothing but the power of your own mind, you operate on the symbols before you in such a way that you gradually lift yourself from a state of understanding less to one of understanding more. Such elevation, accomplished by the mind working on a book, is highly skilled reading, the kind of reading that a book which challenges your understanding deserves.

 

Thus we can roughly define what we mean by the art of reading as follows: the process whereby a mind, with nothing to operate on but the symbols of the readable matter, and with no help from outside, elevates itself by the power of its own operations. The mind passes from understanding less to understanding more. The skilled operations that cause this to happen are the various acts that constitute the art of reading.

– Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book

 

See also Quotes on the Magical Power of Books and Reading and the Life of the Mind.

 

 

Image credit: HDWallpapers

Reading for Wisdom: Going Back to the Basics

Reading for Wisdom: Going Back to the Basics

​​Some years, my goal would be to read a certain number of books by the year’s end. Since I’m motivated (obsessed) with numbers, this target would propel me to read through a variety of materials at a good pace. However, because I’m motivated (obsessed) with numbers, the same target can also drive me a little crazy.

 

For example, if I set a 50-book goal in a year, I’d be calculating the number of books to read per month (4.167), week (0.962), and day (0.137, assuming a non-leap year), and constantly evaluating myself each day/week/month on whether I’m behind, ahead, or on target. It becomes a continual chase where once I get behind, the accumulated numbers (and adjusted daily targets) would haunt me every day.

 

Last year, I started without a book goal and enjoyed a variety of quality books at a leisurely pace. Whoever whispered in my ear that I should start calculating towards the end of the year was a true disruptor. I could hardly resist the temptation to calculate, so I did and discovered that I was consuming books at a pretty good speed. Naturally, what followed was to set a target for the year’s end. Lo and behold, my reading then turned into a bit of a chaos. I noticed I was choosing books less carefully, reading those I otherwise wouldn’t just because they were shorter or easier. You see, if you have a speed-related goal, then reading a long book would be detrimental to that goal. Yet many of the best publications, those with substance that can enhance understanding are lengthy and should be consumed at a slower rate.

 

In “The Paradise of the Library“, James Salter wrote of Jacques Bonnet (writer of Phantoms on the Bookshelves),
One often hears the expression “I couldn’t put it down,” but there are books that you have to put down. Books should be read at the speed they deserve, he properly notes. There are books that can be skimmed and fully grasped and others that only yield themselves, so to speak, on the second or even third reading.
There is much wisdom in this. While I practice a form of variable-speed reading already, this quote insinuates of a much slower pace and of repeat reading that would yield a full grasp of the subject material. I don’t usually do this except for a very select few.

 

Based on that wisdom, I’m abandoning a book goal this year. I want to be free from chasing numbers, to take my time, enjoy, and digest what I read.

 

Instead of a number, my reading goal this year would be of a different focus. It is to internalize the subject material by practicing and incorporating them in real life, and to synthesize knowledge into its larger context. I’d like to work on my mental models; where do books and thinkers align with respect to each other, what is the appropriate context in which the suggested thoughts apply or don’t apply, etc. All of these would require a slower pace of reading and thinking, including re-visitations to the books I’ve read in the past.

 

In short, I want to not only gain knowledge, but also wisdom, the ability to contextualize knowledge and use them in a practical sense.

 

To this effect, my first book in 2016 is How to Read a Book, a classic guide from 1940 by Mortimer Adler that outlines the principles of reading books intelligently. Incidentally, Adler also wrote in the preface,
One constant is that, to achieve all the purposes of reading, the desideratum must be the ability to read different things at different–appropriate–speeds, not everything at the greatest possible speed… [This book] deals with the problem and proposes variable-speed-reading as the solution, the aim being to read better, always better, but sometimes slower, sometimes faster.
The preface promises a great deal more, the many ways readers can enhance their art of reading books. From reading the first few pages, I can tell the book will deliver. You’ll hear more about this book in future posts, I’m sure.

 

What are your 2016 reading goals? Share and comment below! 

 

 Photo credit: Johnny Loi Photography