Starting to read more traditional books again. For a couple years I had been lazy, by my standards, about reading. For most of my life I always had a book I was reading on or re-reading. I had gotten out of that habit for a little over two years as most of my reading was being done online. I did listen to a few sci-fi audiobooks on youtube. My favorites were Foundation by Issac Asimov and a few of Cory Doctrow’s short stories.
But I have recently rediscovered how much I love laying in bed with a book under my nose. When I was in college, my friends thought I was odd in that I would do most of my homework in bed. In addition to my homework, I was also reading some of the classics of Western literature from the college library. Levitt Library was such a second home for me during my college years that I took a job as a tutor there my senior year. I didn’t really need the money as I lived at home during the summers while working 40 to 50 hours a week and saving my summer money for the school year.
During my ‘self directed study’ program, I sampled philosophy from ancient Greece and Rome, read epic poetry by the ancient masters like Homer and Virgil, read lots of history, sampled some of the philosophy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, read some of the major works of Shakespeare, as well as much of the classic poetry of Europe and 19th and early 20th century America. The works of Emerson and Nietchze resonated with me. I still have some of their works on my book shelf. My favorite classical novelist is probably Alexandre Dumas, I especially loved ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’ One summer I read ‘War and Peace’, and it took the entire summer to read it. The summer after I graduated from college, I managed to slog through ‘The Wealth of Nations’, which is essentially the Bible of free market capitalism.
But my tastes have changed over time, when I was in my late twenties I read all the works of Ayn Rand as well as a lot of military history, namely John Keegan, Victor Davis Hanson, and Barbara Tuchman. In my early thirties, I read many economics and business books. I enjoyed the works of Napoleon Hill, Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar, and Robert Kiyosaki the most. In my mid thirties, I became interested in all things science and future tech. To that end, I read some of the works of Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Eric Drexler, Ronald Bailey, Kevin Kelly, and Peter Diamandis.
After a couple years of letting all this reading ferment, I am ready to dive back into serious reading again. Even though I have spent a great deal of my life reading those famous books everyone has heard of but never actually read, there are still some books I haven’t gotten to yet that are still on my bucket list. There are still major philosophers I haven’t gotten into much yet, namely Marx, Kant, Locke, as well as Lao Tzu and Confucious.
Before the prevalence of the internet, some of the entries on my bucket list were to visit the Library of Congress as well as all of the libraries of Harvard University. But, as it stands now, I can get many of those rare and hard to find works online. I have hundreds of e-books about philosophy and history that I may never get to read. But I have them on my computer and iPod. Kind of mind blowing to think that I have access to the treasure trove of the collected knowledge of civilization available in a manner that would have been impossible even in my childhood and for the price of only one dollar a day in wireless internet connection. I have access to information that scholars were too often tortured, imprisoned, and killed for seeking in past eras and I don’t even have to leave my living room to acquire it. I have access to the wisdom of civilization yet I’ll likely never have the money to buy my own house. Only in the early 21st Century.
Yet, I enjoy living the life of a self taught scholar. I made myself into one primarily because school by itself didn’t completely satisfy my love for reading and learning. Tragically, for some people, their school years stifled their creativity and killed their love of reading and learning. Even though I make poverty level wages, I can get by with my books and writings. I can do this because I have zero debts. I will never go into debt again, not even to learn. I can learn almost anything online anymore.
If there is any one thing I can take away from my years of self study, it is that the path to enlightenment is a never ending one. I don’t want to stop learning, ever. If I make it to my nineties and have to live in a retirement home and not be able to bathe myself, I hope at least I can still read books or online articles. Maybe, by the time I’m ninety anyone will be able to create entire fantasy worlds on hyper powerful computers and share those with other people via powerful virtual reality. I would love to be able to recreate some of the worlds I read about in books. But that is still a long way down the road. Until then, I can visit such worlds by my reading.