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Friday, January 20, 2017

On Inauguration Day: A Reminder about the Need to Read

On Inauguration Day in the U.S., when Donald Trump is sworn in as the next president, I thought I’d direct readers to a book excerpt included in The Wall Street Journal back in November.  The book in question is Books for Living by Will Schwalbe.  His thesis is that “Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions.”

He argues that books “demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s” and so “increase our capacity for empathy by engaging our imagination as they introduce us to new perspectives.”  Furthermore, “By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you.”

I love his closing which seems so apt considering who has just become president of the United States:  “Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny—but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books, and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.”

Read the complete excerpt at I’m certainly going to be picking up Schwalbe’s book.

This past Tuesday, Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed Schwalbe on CBC Radio's The Current