Recommended to me by my brother-in-law (the polymath), an old* piece from Nick Carr on the values of reading:
In our day-to-day routines, we are always trying to manipulate or otherwise act on our surroundings, whether it’s by turning a car’s steering wheel or frying an egg or tapping a button on a smartphone. But when we open a book, our expectations and attitudes change. Because we understand that “we cannot or will not change the work of art by our actions,” we are relieved of our desire to exert an influence over objects and people and hence can “disengage our [cognitive] systems for initiating actions.” That frees us to become absorbed in the imaginary world of the literary work.
Nicholas Carr, “The Dreams of Readers” Rough Type (Jan. 9, 2014) [link] (Carr is quoting Norman Holland in the internal quotations.)
That seems to me to be exactly right. If we read properly, we are not immediately arguing with everything. We can listen to an author in a way that we too seldom listen to the people in the room with us. This is easier with novels than with history and easier with either than with newspaper editorials, but (I think) always easier with the written than the spoken word.
*Obviously, if I am just now reading blog posts from 2014, I am never going to catch up. Fortunately, this piece seems to be included in Carr’s new book, Utopia is Creepy and Other Provocations (2017) [link]. That can be my next book of essays after The View from the Cheap Seats, which I continue to dip into when I am between books.