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I like to write. It helps me think. I like to read. It helps me think. We live at a time when we are drowning in information but without the time to drink or swim. How do we drink or swim, rather than drown, in the sea of information that daily swamps us? Part of the answer is to be careful consumers of information, to be discriminating in what we choose to read or watch or listen to or ponder.

In the words of Annie Dillard, “A person is careful of what they read, for that is what they will write. They are careful of what they learn, for that is what they will know.” It is often said that we become like our closest friends. The company we keep shapes us. This is also true of the ideas we imbibe.

Imagine for a moment, that it was possible to read 100 books a year. Imagine that at age 10 we started this practice. Even if we lived to 100, we would read 9,000 books. While that may seem an extraordinary number, it is a drop in a bucket compared to what is published even in one year in English. I love the idea that there was a point in human history where it would have been possible to read everything that had ever been written. Sadly, that day is long past, as is the day when we could read everything worth reading.

Shane Parrish writes, “The opportunity cost of consuming second-rate writing is higher than ever. In a world where more great writing is available than any human could read in a lifetime, it pays to filter ruthlessly. Your attention is a precious resource; invest it wisely.”

“The choice of what to read has never been more important. A diet of intellectual junk food will cause us to ‘sink deeper and deeper into the mire’ of shallow, unoriginal thinking. But if we’re selective in what we read, we can find writing that elevates our minds. In the end, the thoughts we consume determine the ones we produce.”

Part of the work of schools and the school curriculum is to curate worthy ideas, to select and edit the material that we put in front of our students. There are always calls for new and more things to land in the school curriculum. Sometimes there is wisdom in this. More often, there is wisdom in resisting calls to jam more and more into what is already a substantial and considered curriculum. Our vision is Love Learning, and our definition of learning is the ability to make sense of the unknown by connecting it to the known. In doing this, we build a repository of knowledge and of skills that students can use to make sense of what comes next, be it new information, new situations, or new ideas to read and think upon.

In the words of Arthur Schopenhauer, “One can never read too little of bad or too much of good books.” Don’t be afraid to grab a good book.

Recommended Books

The first three are history related and relevant to the topics that my Year 12 Modern History class is studying this year.

  • Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015
  • Apeirogon by Colum McCann about two fathers, one Palestinian, one Israeli, who both lost their daughters in the conflict. Based on a true story.
  • Balcony Over Jerusalem by Australian journalist John Lyons, a memoir of his time as a Middle East correspondent.

Recent work-related reading included Clear Thinking by Shane Parrish, Bad Therapy by Abigail Shrier and The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt.

Finally, I enjoy reading Alice Munro, Hilary Mantel, Tracy Chevalier, Tim Winton, Cormac McCarthy, and Amor Towles, amongst others.

Tim Watson