COMMENTARY: Living and Reading

One of the most insightful and useful books I’ve ever read is a small volume by Harold Kushner called Living a Life That Matters.

I’ll talk about the content of the book in future commentaries. Today, I want to suggest ways of getting the most out of books, at least non-fiction books, which is about all I read.

Reading shouldn’t be a passive experience. If you allow yourself to be absorbed in the interaction of the author’s thoughts and your reactions it’s like a great conversation. I know lots of people think it’s sin to mark up a book; I think it’s a waste to leave it untouched.

I reread complex, clever and profound passages several times, I underline them, make notes in the margin, fold back pages, do whatever I can to highlight the parts I found useful or inspirational so I can find them again.

When a passage stimulates thoughts, I immediately write them in the margins or on the blank pages in the front or back of the book. A really good book has me thinking as much as reading, and I never read a book in one sitting. When I re-start the book I re-visit my notes like they were old friends.

Both during and after the book I try to communicate what I’ve learned or the new ideas generated in conversations, letters, and even these commentaries. New insights are a great gift and I think we should share them. I liked Kushner’s book so much it so much I bought 30 copies and gave them as gifts.

While writing this piece I realized that the way I approach books also is a decent way to approach life: Live it fully and completely at the time, live it by remembering it and sharing it.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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