Should we finish the books we begin? It depends.

In an article published in Friday’s Washington Times, economist Tyler Cowen makes several interesting and provocative arguments about reading and books. “What should you do when, 20, 50 or 100 pages in, you realize you just don’t like a book?” Cowen says: “Give up.” “We should treat books a little more like we treat TV channels,” (Cowen) argues. No one has trouble flipping away from a boring series.”

Recent posts on education at Wide Awake Minds

A few of my recent posts at Wide Awake Minds, in case you missed them: -A few of the things you can do in a great university, in which I argue that if students want to make the most of their school years in general and their college years in particular, they must take ownership of their education and elect to do what is difficult. I propose a few of the ways in which college students can do so.

Quotes from Czeslaw Milosz and Herman Melville

I finished “Moby-Dick” yesterday. It was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read - but also incredibly beautiful and rewarding. The past is inaccurate, because we cannot determine how it was in fact, no matter how hard we try. We must rely on people’s memory, which is treacherous, because memory is constantly juggling and revising the data of experience. …In telling about an event, we ourselves cannot avoid revising it, because our narrative simplifies and composes a whole out of selected components, while omitting others.

Quotes from Kohak's 'The Embers and the Stars'

I recently discovered the work of Erazim Kohak, a Czech philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Boston University who has written extensively on environmental ethics. I am 30 pages into Kohak’s The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature, and it is incredible so far. A few excerpts below, with more to come. Reflection and speculation remain no more than cunningly devised fables if they are not grounded in what, paraphrasing Calvin Schrag, we could call the prephilosophical and prescientific matrix of self-understanding and world-comprehension.

Excerpts from Laxness' 'Independent People'

From Brad Leithauser’s introduction to Halldor Laxness’ novel Independent People: “There are good books and there are great books and there may be a book that is something still more: it is the book of your life. …One looks differently on the book of genius that, even in a long bookworm’s life, one might not have stumbled upon.” Excerpts: But higher than all dealers and societies stand the dreams of the heart, especially in the autumn when dusk is falling and the clouds of the world are full of marvellous pictures….

Quotes from Harrison's 'Returning to Earth'

It was good to finally know that the spirit was everywhere rather than a separate thing. … Clare fed our leftover sandwiches to a stray mutt, who didn’t chew the proper thirty-two times. … All of my jobs had kept me grounded in actual life whereas simply sitting in my room with my studies tended to make me unstable. … In New York City the endless blocks of huge buildings say to us, I’m serious and within me serious people are doing serious things even though five thousand people in a building might only be playing with the market edge.

The science of happiness

Excerpts from Richard Layard’s Happiness: Lessons from a New Science: The extra happiness provided by extra income is greatest when you are poor, and declines steadily as you get richer. … “Required income” varies strongly with the actual income that an individual currently experiences. A dollar rise in experienced income causes a rise of at least a forty cents in “required income.” So when I earn an extra dollar this year, it makes me happier, but next year I shall measure my income from a benchmark that is forty cents higher.

Quotes from the week's reading, part 2

As we would expect, during most wars consumer spending is deliberately held back by heavy taxes to make room for swelling military expenditure. During World War II, for example, consumption was squeezed back by heavy taxes to barely more than half of GDP. …During the Vietnam War military expenses for that conflict were not compensated by taxes to roll back consumption and the excess demand for goods and services ignited a subsequent inflation.

Quotes from the week's reading, part 1

From How It Should Be in Heaven How it should be in Heaven I know, for I was there. By its river. Listening to its birds. In its season: in summer, shortly after sunrise. … Peace eternal Could have no mornings and no evenings, Such a deficiency speaks against it. And that’s too hard a nut for a theologian to crack. –Czeslaw Milosz A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.

Robert Gilpin on the case for free trade

Economists of every persuasion are convinced that free trade is superior to trade protection. In fact, they consider free trade to be the best policy for a country even if all other countries should practice trade protection, arguing that if other countries resort to trade protection, the economy that remained open would still gain more from cheaper imports than it would lose in denied export markets. … Underlying this liberal commitment to free trade is the belief that the purpose of economic activity is to benefit the consumer and maximize global wealth.

Brief readings on home, travel, and finance

A Short History Corn planted us; tamed cattle made us tame. Thence hut and citadel and kingdom came. –Richard Wilbur Let us not fool ourselves. What we knew is dead, and maybe the greatest part of what we were is dead. What’s out there is perhaps good, but it’s nothing we know. –John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it.