books finished, jan 2024
I’ve been reading a lot; here’s a ranked list of books I finished in January, with one pertient highlight pulled from each. Thank God for Readwise or I probably wouldn’t remember a thing.
The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality, by William Eggington
The soul or consciousness, in fact, is nothing but the unity of a sense of self over time, the bare fact that to perceive and then to articulate our perceptions something must connect from this very instant to another, and another after that. This connecting of disparate slices of space-time is a necessary condition of the possibility of knowing anything at all, but it is not itself a thing in space and time, a thing that survives our existence on Earth.
You are this body, and you are these molecules, and you are these atoms, and you are these quantum entities, and you are the quantum foam, and you are the energetic field of space-time, and, ultimately, you are the fundamental awareness out of which all these emerge, Planck moment by Planck moment. This very body and mind, this very heart and soul is the transcendent reality. It was never somewhere else, something we had to reach for or travel to; it was just this body in just this moment.
The Lights: Poems by Ben Lerner
Stop, I interrupted, just stop for a second, John, and listen. Listen to the wind in the birches, a stream of alephs, the room tone of the forest, sirens in the distance, folk music, unnecessary but sufficient. I personally need cities at night, clear glass pavement, impurities, writing paper, all forming together an immense patchwork curtain. I’m listening now, John, Jack, Josh, Josiah, James. Tell me what you need.
Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond Productivity Culture, by Jenny Odell
The world is ending – but which world? Consider that many worlds have ended, just as many worlds have been born and are about to be born. Consider that there is nothing a priori about any of them. Just as a thought experiment, imagine that you were not born at the end of time, but actually at the exact right time, that you might grow up to be, as the poet Chen Chen writes, “a season from the planet / of planet-sized storms.” Hallucinate a scenario, hallucinate yourself in it. Then tell me what you see.
Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America, by Heather Cox Richardson
The fundamental story of America is the constant struggle of all Americans, from all races, ethnicities, genders, and abilities, to make the belief that we are all created equal and have a right to have a say in our democracy come true. We are always in the process of creating “a more perfect union.”
Psych: The Story of the Human Mind, by Paul Bloom
Why would language make us better at thinking about other minds? The obvious theory is that engaging in linguistic communication conveys more and more information about the minds of other people. But a more radical theory is that it’s the structure of language that does the trick.70 The syntax of language allows for a superior understanding of how the world is seen by others.
The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism, by Kyle Chayka
How do you find a way to live the life that you are born with and stake out a space for yourself in the tumultuous present?