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Books in Brief: How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

I wish I had read this as an undergraduate. It breaks apart why the method of note-taking seen in schools is terrible and only reinforces the departmentalized structure that philosophy of education seeks to recapitulate into its students. Basically: take literature notes while reading, translating what you read into your own words. Then take permanent notes on those notes, abstracting out those ideas from their context in the work while trying to connect one atomic idea with another. Books in Brief: How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens full article

Books in Brief: A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

I love this book. The trilogy chronicles the adventures of the author walking from England to Istanbul starting in 1934. This represents his travels up to Hungary. It’s a time capsule of a Europe trying to understand the consequences of the Great War and weary of the rumblings in Germany. There’s not really a narrative, which is kind of the point. It’s more of a suite of adolescent impressions of humanity as filtered through the author looking back at them, someone who has been through the worst humanity has to offer, but only after the events described. Books in Brief: A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor full article

Books in Brief: Ducks, Newburyport

I finished Ducks, Newburyport. I started in September 2019 and finished today, four months later. It’s a singular, unique, and amazing work that shows a whole human being in the right now. Thinking Through the Clutter, a book review by Levi Stahl I’ve never read anything like it. A lot of the time when I began reading it on a given day, I would get overwhelmed in the way the narrator felt overwhelmed, which is why I think it took me four months to read. Books in Brief: Ducks, Newburyport full article

The Scope of the Night

Night time is for narrowing my scope. It’s for closing the horizon, for donning blinders, for setting the limits of my suite of concerns to fit between the walls of my bedroom. That is the only danger the phone poses; it can punch holes through space-time. It’s no different from a wandering thought that nags and scrapes at a sleeping mind. But focus on breath. Focus on the body. It’s here, so you’re here. The Scope of the Night full article

Fiction in the Morning

Something in me has become somewhat cattywampus because I cannot decide between writing or reading in the morning, and am starting to prefer to read, over nonfiction—usually depressing or at least soberly descriptive of the world and currently Surveillance Capitalism—the fiction I usually read before bed, currently Within a Budding Grove. Reading the fiction over the nonfiction starts the day with a dreamy context. I think it goes back to what I wrote above, where what I’m interested in is the removal from time. Fiction in the Morning full article

MACK Photography Books

This publisher does something I haven’t seen before: they show most of the book. You can read it. You can look at most of the pictures. The value of a book of photography comes from the physicality, the quality of the print, the presence of the artifact in the hand. Flipping through blurry non-retina images is not the same. But it does let potential buyers shop as they would in a bookstore. MACK Photography Books full article

Books in Brief: The Nocilla Trilogy

Get the books. The Nocilla trilogy is strange. It feels familiar in the way the internet does. The first two books are told in a similar style: they present about a page of text in the third person about a person struggling with their relationship to something or someone—typically something, manifested through their relationship with someone. I can’t claim to understand them in any overarching or systematic way. They seem like they present a vision of our relationship to allegory and metaphor while playing in a space that feels similar to 2666, in the sense that if we can’t have a coherent narrative or present a singular story we all rally behind we can still have something. Books in Brief: The Nocilla Trilogy full article

Books in Brief: Kafka on the Shore

Get the book. “Magical Realism” is a frustrating category to slot something into, because it’s never clear what that means in the context of the book. Does that mean that our grip on inductive inference and causality slips a little bit and has some slack to flap around in the wind? Or does it mean that descriptions of things are to be taken more as metaphor and less as objective truth? Books in Brief: Kafka on the Shore full article

A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros

This is another entry in what I’ve come to think of as “Craig Mod books,” reflections on walking and what that activity does to thought through the body. I initially read Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust on his recommendation from that essay and loved it. It treated walking as something with a history, with many purposes in time and in different cultures, and treated those purposes with respect and a genuine criticality that reflected the impossibility of covering as broad a concept as “walking” in a book only a couple hundred pages long.

A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros full article

Books in Brief: On the Abolition of All Political Parties

Simone Weil’s On the Abolition of All Political Parties talks about how people are pulled either into the light of truth through a sense of unbiased reason, or away into the darkness through the bouts and vicissitudes of passionate desire. But each person’s pull away from the light is in a different direct, and each person’s pull towards it is in the same direction. This is a basic assumption of the goodness of democracy. Books in Brief: On the Abolition of All Political Parties full article

Books in Brief: Authority

I started reading Authority by Nathan Barry. It’s one of those cheap e-books that’s motivational. But it does get at a point I’ve sucked at: I should teach what I know, and teach what I learn. I’m starting to feel selfish keeping knowledge to myself, as though I’m hoarding it, or when I learn something and don’t share it, or specifically when I don’t reinterpret it through my own lens, that’s when I’m most vulnerable to a kind of guild the educated privileged feel when they encounter someone who doesn’t know that what they do even is something one could do, let alone the specifics of what it is that you do. Books in Brief: Authority full article

Books in Brief: The Oresteian Trilogy

Get the book. The Oresteian Trilogy is the foundation of tragedy. You need to read it just like you need to read The Odyssey. This was my first time through even though I was familiar with the tropes and scenes through references from other works. The plays are a lot of things, but at its root it’s a metaphor for the ascension of society’s motivation for good from fear of reprisal as embodied in the Furies, to duty (and fear of its retribution) as embodied by Apollo, to a kind of holy rationality, as embodied by Athene and her counsel. Books in Brief: The Oresteian Trilogy full article

Books in Brief: The Lichtenberg Figures by Ben Lerner

Get the book. The stars will be adjusted for inflation so that the dead can continue living in the manner to which they’ve grown accustomed. – p. 18 Perhaps what remains of innovation is a conservatism at peace with contradiction. as the sky transgresses its frame but obeys the museum. – p. 22 Ben Lerner’s The Lichtenberg Figures is a bit of a tough book of poetry. It’s a sonnet sequence ostensibly about growing up in the midwest, but it’s frustrated, as many of us were in the early 2000s, with the way the world seemed to work. Books in Brief: The Lichtenberg Figures by Ben Lerner full article

Books in Brief: The Peregrine

Read The Peregrine. This book is unique; I have never read anything like it before. The way Baker uses english is beyond poetic. At first it seems like a put-on: is this book really a journal, without plot or direction, and full of this absurd writing? Slowly my requirement for structure fades in his descriptions of the English countryside, until I am with him under every tree, gazing through the same binoculars, sharing the same hill. Books in Brief: The Peregrine full article

Books in Brief: I Love This Part

Get the book. Like most poems, describing this doesn’t exactly work. Just get it. It’s beautiful and captures very well something very important. This interview is a good place to go after you read the book. Read the book first. Tillie Walden’s other graphic novel, The End of Summer, is on its way to me now. She has another coming out in May. When I first heard about this book on tumblr it was out of stock on Amazon. Books in Brief: I Love This Part full article

Books in Brief: If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

Get the book. Lucy Worsley wrote If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home after doing a television program on the history of what it was like to live in the past in Britain. She’s the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the caretaker of many castles and relics of noblesse gone by. She covers the history of bedroom, the bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen, starting from the 11th century and ending in the now. Books in Brief: If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home full article

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