Tidbits

I read a lot. And I come across many interesting things that I eventually, and invariably, lose track of. To change this unfortunate fact, from now on I am going to ‘bookmark’ interesting tidbits from my readings here so I never lose them, ever again. This is not just for me, though. And I sincerely hope you find these tidbits interesting and helpful in your search – be it for meaning in life or simply for the ‘next book’ to read.

One clarification before we start: do consider all the books mentioned on this page ‘recommended’. Some of them will have made it onto my ‘favourite books’ page, but most won’t have (competition is fierce). This doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading in any way, and if you like the tidbits I’ve posted here, chances are you’ll enjoy the books from which they’re taken! So do have a read around. 🙂

Interesting tidbit No. 1

Incentives do matter. This is the one great insight into human behaviour which economics provides, an insight which is supported by an enormous amount of empirical evidence.

Paul Ormerod in Positive Linking: How Networks are Revolutionising Your World (faber and faber, 2012, page 36)
I submit this as evidence that I'm not making this up. Also. Pictures are pretty.
I submit this as evidence that I’m not making this up. Also. Pictures are pretty.

Interesting tidbit No. 2

“Chinese is not actually difficult,” says O’Kane. “All you need is five years and a high level of focus. You have to be prepared for the fact that at the end of one year you’re not going to be very good, and at the end of two to three years you will be slightly better but still not good.” Or, as Moser puts it: “Chinese is a five-year lesson in humility. And after five years, you’ve learnt humility and you still haven’t learned Chinese.”

From: Why Mandarin is tougher than David Cameron thinks on theguardian.com

Interesting tidbit No. 3

When one of my children asked me ‘How can I know that I am not still dreaming’, I was delighted by this early interest in the area of philosophy known as ‘epistemology’, and when one of them asked: ‘Why don’t I get a bigger share of that cake, since I helped to bake it?’, I was equally pleased by this precocious interest in distributive justice. (In fact, professional philosophers are just people who go on asking the same questions as children do, but with the aid of a long training in how to avoid answering them.)

Wilfred Beckerman in Economics as Applied Ethics: Value Judgements in Welfare Economics (palgrave macmillan, 2011, page 1)

Interesting tidbit No. 4

Buddhists believe that our troubles generally come from attempting to defend or promote our “self”, not realising that our life can run in many different channels and that we are not the centre of the universe. Things may not be exactly as we would want them, but we can survive and experience great happiness, provided we do not insist on having life continuously on our terms. The goal is not self-realisation but a harmonious relation to the world about us, and above all inner strength and equanimity. In the last resort, as the Buddha said, you should “take refuge in yourself and not in anything else”.

Richard Layard in Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (penguin books, 2011, page 192)

Interesting tidbit No. 5

Words from the wise-cracking Holden:

A lot of people, especially this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I’m going to apply myself when I go back to school next September. It’s such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it’s a stupid question.

J. D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye (little, brown and company; 1991; page 213)

Interesting tidbit No. 6

“Who knows who you are… A person is a novel: you don’t know how it will end until the very last page. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth reading to the very end…”

Yevgeny Zamyatin in We (vintage; 2007; page 141)

Interesting tidbit No. 7

A passage that brought tears to my eyes (but then again, many things bring tears to my eyes…):

Everything you do, everything you are, everything you care about is a reflection of this choice: your relationships, your health, your results at work, your emotional stability, your integrity, your engagement with your community, the breadth of your life experiences, the depth of your self-confidence and courage, your ability to respect and trust and forgive and appreciate and listen and learn and have compassion.

Mark Manson in Everything Is F*cked: A Book about Hope (harper collins; 2019; page TBC as I didn’t note it down! Hint: it’s in the latter half of the book)
Mark is one of my favourite authors – not for the expletives, but for the simple way he writes complex thoughts

Interesting tidbit No. 8

Then maybe when you get to be my age and the dearth of things life has to offer becomes more evident by the day, maybe then you can start noticing those tiny accidents that turn out to be miracles and that can redefine our lives and cast an incandescent luster over things that, in the great scheme of things, could easily be meaningless. But this is not meaningless.

André Aciman in Find Me (farrar, straus and giroux; 2019; page 197)
The first page of the book. If you’ve read and liked Call Me By Your Name, this sequel is highly recommended!

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