Apr 28

Books are the training weights of the mind

April 28 - Books That's not my quote. It was written by Epictetus sometime around the year 99AD.

Thanks to a suggestion by RepMan, Jr., I just read 'The Art of Living,' a summary of the words and writings of Epictetus, a long forgotten, but highly influential Stoic. Ho hum, right? Wrong. While he may have been waxing poetic some 2,000 years ago, the Stoic's words are spot on for dealing with the oh-so-many nightmares of modern-day living. I won't belabor his many and most excellent points, but Epictetus is all about understanding what's important in life and what isn't. He's also all about dealing with life's many curveballs in a, well, stoical, kind of way. He's also all about happiness, the pursuit of which seems further away than ever. Get the book. It'll change the way you look at things.

Here are some other quick recommendations:

'The Thunderbolt Kid,' by Bill Bryson (one of my favorite authors). This is laugh out loud grist for any Baby Boomer who grew up with the Dick and Jane reading books, 'Father knows best' and grammar school janitors who looked like Richard Speck (Bryson's words, not mine. And shame on you if you don't know who Speck was or what he did).

'1453' is a Zara Lintin-recommended book that, in the re-telling the story of the fall of Constantinople also provides perspective on the ageless war between fundamental Christianity and its doppelganger, fundamental Islam. It also depicts torture tactics that make waterboarding seem like a walk in the park.

Outliers'  is another Malcolm Gladwell home run. I loved it. In essence, it explains why people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the Beatles became successful. Success, says Gladwell, goes far beyond talent and perspiration and can be ascribed to everything from the month of the year in which one is born, the year in which one is born, the amount of hours one is able to commit to becoming proficient in one's future craft, and stuff like that. The book also gave me a whole new way of looking at brainstorming which we've begun to incorporate at Peppercom.

I love reading, and typically I read three or four books at a time. But, lest that sound boastful, allow me to end with a quote from Epictetus on the subject of reading: 'Don't just say you've read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. (They) are the training weights of the mind.'

Ya gotta love it.