The Covid 19 crisis has forced millions of Americans to remain in their homes. This situation is new, unique, and provides both opportunities and pitfalls. The pitfall is that it is incredibly easy to allow your mind to deteriorate into a puddle of sludge while you binge watch The Office for the fifteenth time. We all love watching Dwight, but perhaps there is more to life? On the other hand, all of the time spent running errands or commuting in the car is free time to be seized, used, and enjoyed. I recommend a good book. Here are a few suggestions and different ways to read a book.
There are several different ways to read a book:
- The first is to thoroughly grasp the argument and supporting points of the author. This requires reading the work slowly, outline the main points, annotating in the margin as you read, and often re-reading difficult passages.
- A second way to read a work is for information but without the necessity of understanding it in detail. We often approach history books this way-we read for the narrative, to gain a sense of the key characters, and for the big picture. Skimming chapters, reading the first and last paragraphs of a chapter, and closely reading the introduction and conclusion are the techniques for this type of reading.
- A third and easiest option is to read for leisure and to pass the time. This requires simply the ability to avoid checking your phone every fifteen seconds and allowing yourself to become absorbed in the setting, characters, and the situation they are in.
Having briefly covered how to read we must decide what to read. I humbly submit the following works for each category.
The Age of Entitlement: America since the Sixties, by Christopher Caldwell. Christopher Caldwell concisely covers what happened in the 1960’s and how the programs created during this period created the structure within which government has had to operate. The effects for the American regime of limited government and ordered liberty have been deleterious.
An excellent companion to The Age of Entitlement is Great Society: A New History by Amity Schlaes. In simple yet clear prose she brings to life the high hopes of those who created our entitlement programs and the difficulties they soon confronted.
For those interested in one of the finished histories of the American Civil War (and prepared to lose themselves in Foote’s beautiful and moving prose)I highly recommend Shelby Foote’s magisterial The Civil War. Almost every library has a copy and you can easily buy or download a volume for yourself from Amazon. Foote helps to bring alive the men we think of as marble men and the events we assume were inevitable. He reminds us that effort, skill, and Providence were involved.
I cannot praise P.G. Wodehouse’s novels enough for their wit and whimsy. His Wooster and Jeeves novels will provide you hours of enjoyment. Wooster is a scion of the aristocracy while Jeeves is his ever proper butler who assists the rather dimwitted Wooster out of his many troubles. Anyone who enjoyed Downton Abbey will enjoy this as well. Finally, his writing his superb and his turn of phrase excellent.
Well, with these suggestions I hope you make the use of your time while you are quarantined at home.