What Book Changed Your Mind?

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The Chronicle Review asked 12 scholars what nonfiction book published in the last 30 years has most changed their minds—not merely inspired or influenced their thinking, but profoundly altered the way they regard themselves, their work, the world.

Take a look. I haven’t come to a conclusion on which books “changed my mind.” Although I have favorite non-fiction books that were highly educational and rewarding, becoming more knowledgeable about a subject isn’t quite the same as altering one’s  worldview, e.g. reading Christopher Hitchens, who I’ve enjoyed very much, didn’t make me an atheist.

A Meditation on the Art of Not Trying

From The New York Times—the introductory paragraphs:

The advice is as maddening as it is inescapable. It’s the default prescription for any tense situation: a blind date, a speech, a job interview, the first dinner with the potential in-laws. Relax. Act natural. Just be yourself. 

But when you’re nervous, how can you be yourself? How you can force yourself to relax? How can you try not to try?

It makes no sense, but the paradox is essential to civilization, according to Edward Slingerland. He has developed, quite deliberately, a theory of spontaneity based on millenniums of Asian philosophy and decades of research by psychologists and neuroscientists.

He calls it the paradox of wu wei, the Chinese term for “effortless action.”

Finding your ‘Voice’ Isn’t the Point of Writing

From  Atlantic—the main point of the article:

Because the truth is, if you want to get paid as a writer, finding your own voice can be a distraction—even a hindrance. The bulk of writing opportunities that will actually provide you with a living wage are work-for-hire—writing textbook entries, or exam questions, or website content boilerplate. And when you’re doing work-for-hire, no one cares about your voice. Or rather, they do care, in that they actively don’t want anything to do with it. The point of work-for-hire is to make your voice disappear into the house style.

‘Off switch’ for pain discovered

From Science Daily—”A way to block a pain pathway in animal models of chronic neuropathic pain has been discovered by researchers, suggesting a promising new approach to pain relief.”

Something better than narcotics to control chronic pain could be a huge medical discovery. Faster please.

The odd joys of government lunacy

From the New York Post, an opinion piece by George Will, pointing out ridiculous endeavors by some people in government. It’s almost funny if it weren’t so sad.

The Birth of the Novel

From The Daily Beast—the opening paragraph about a very large undertaking:

On the second of the 1,106 pages in his new book, The Novel: A Biography, Michael Schmidt claims without apparent irony that he is writing “what sets out to be a brief life of the novel in English.” Since the hero of his biography has lived for over 600 years in the works of thousands of practitioners, a mere 1,106 pages might be excused as a brief life. But any biographer of the novel faces a problem more fundamental than compressing between two covers a vast and unwieldy subject. It’s also essential—and surprisingly difficult—to articulate what exactly defines a novel.

The writer who foresaw the rise of the totalitarian state

From BBC News Magazine:

The 19th Century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote about characters who justified murder in the name of their ideological beliefs. For this reason, John Gray argues, he’s remained relevant ever since, through the rise of the totalitarian states of the 20th Century, to the “war against terror”.

Why Read New Books?

From The New York Review of Books:

Hasn’t it all been done before? Perhaps better than anyone today could ever do it? If so, why read contemporary novels, especially when so many of the classics are available at knockdown prices and for the most part absolutely free as e-books?

Interesting answers in the article…

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