If a man wants to read good books, he must make a point of avoiding bad ones (Schopenhauer)

As regards reading, to require that a man shall retain everything he has ever read, is like asking him to carry about with him all he has ever eaten. The one kind of food has given him bodily, and the other mental, nourishment; and it is through these two means that he has grown to be what he is. The body assimilates only that which is like it; and so a man retains in his mind only that which interests him, in other words, that which suits his system of thought or his purposes in life.

If a man wants to read good books, he must make a point of avoiding bad ones; for life is short, and time and energy limited.

Repetitio est mater studiorum. Any book that is at all important ought to be at once read through twice; partly because, on a second reading, the connection of the different portions of the book will be better understood, and the beginning comprehended only when the end is known; and partly because we are not in the same temper and disposition on both readings. On the second perusal we get a new view of every passage and a different impression of the whole book, which then appears in another light.

A man’s works are the quintessence of his mind, and even though he may possess very great capacity, they will always be incomparably more valuable than his conversation. Nay, in all essential matters his works will not only make up for the lack of personal intercourse with him, but they will far surpass it in solid advantages. The writings even of a man of moderate genius may be edifying, worth reading and instructive, because they are his quintessence—the result and fruit of all his thought and study; whilst conversation with him may be unsatisfactory.

So it is that we can read books by men in whose company we find nothing to please, and that a high degree of culture leads us to seek entertainment almost wholly from books and not from men.

From The Art of Literature by Arthur Schopenhauer.

5 thoughts on “If a man wants to read good books, he must make a point of avoiding bad ones (Schopenhauer)”

  1. I always love quotes about books/reading, but don’t necessarily agree with Schopenhauer’s point about avoiding bad books. In order to understand what constitutes a good book, I think you have to read some rubbish. Like so many areas of life, how can you appreciate the good if you’ve never experienced the bad?


  2. Reblogged this on OTΛKTΛNGΛN and commented:
    Life is short, time and energy are limited. Choose your read carefully.

    Dari dulu aku selalu membayangkan diriku sebagai orang yang serba bisa, yang menguasai banyak hal dan memiliki pengetahuan yang luas dan dalam. Menjadi seorang polymath. Berharap dengan membangun knowledge base yang besar akan menghasilkan pemikiran yang hebat dan matang dalam memecahkan solusi. Tetapi semakin aku bertumbuh, aku merasa tersedak, karena rasanya terlalu banyak. Too much information to track. Mungkin mulai sekarang aku harus mulai memilih-milih, for the sake of its effectiveness in my life.


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