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April 16, 2009

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Bill Reads Books

Enjoyed this post from Steven Johnson on two levels: One, his excitement at having Bill Clinton articulately discuss his book, “The Invention of Air,” and two, Clinton’s discussion itself.

This bit, from Clinton, made me laugh:

I’m going to make this point later as I wrap up about the importance of books. But the things books do — I would argue books are more important in the age of blog sites and tweaks and whatever else they call it — I read a bunch of them — because there’s more information than ever before, but you can have all the facts in the world in your head. If you don’t know how to organize and evaluate, construct an argument, get from A to Z, what you know in your head doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

“Tweaks”! Ha!

And the reason I noted the post in the first place is that I myself am about halfway through “The Invention of Air,” and loving it so far. Highly recommended.

Posted April 16, 2009 at 8:07 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


I am listening to it as an audiobook on and off; it's great---I may assign it to my sophomore chemistry students one day as an interdisciplinary assignment in conjunction with the usual 10th grade American history class if I can. That is a delightful post for multiple reasons, not least because there is something validating in knowning that Bill Clinton lies awake at night worrying about the same science fiction solutions that keep me up.

I really, really love Bill Clinton. Especially when he reminds us that he's sixty-two years old. "Tweaks."

I responded the most to the end of the excerpt:

The point I'm making is, you wouldn't even think about that if you never read a book; if you had no sense of history; if you were under the illusion that because you were on the Internet everything about you was new and everything was special and all that mattered was what you blurted out in the moment that was on your mind…

My contention is that we must not let the internet become only that place. It should be the place (or one of the places) where we -- and by we, I mean an increasingly large network of people all over the world -- most consistently enlarge and deepen our sense of history. And that's not going to happen just by throwing the stuff up in a walled-off database or in a crummy text file at Project Gutenberg or even in a well-edited Wikipedia article. We've got to work to keep it churning.

Josh Marshall had a pair of great posts recently at TPM. In one of them, he elegantly outlined the history of piracy, from the ancient Mediterranean world to the present, as a history of flagging empires and failed states. In the other, he talked about getting a review copy of How Rome Fell, but wanting to read it on his Kindle instead.

This is a guy who's clearly informed by history. If he ever wanted to start up a side blog on political history, I'd be there in less than a heartbeat.

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