The Importance of Reflecting on Literature – Or, More Thoroughly Chewing My Mental Food

by Dan Walsh

I just finished reading “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day” by Arnold Bennett. It was a fun read about time management (sort of), but much more profound than just that. “You wake up in th emorning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life!” Given that no man is richer or poorer in time than any other, the book was really a philosophy for living as meaningful a life as possible. There was a point Bennett made toward the end that I feel is worth repeating, even dwelling on.

“…think as well as to read. I know people who read and read, and for all the good it does them they might just as well cut bread-and-butter. They take to reading as better men take to drink. They fly through the shires of literature on a motor-car, their sole object being motion. They will tell you how many books they have read in a year.

Unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of [reading] a night are chiefly wasted. This means that your pace will be slow.”

This passage spoke pointedly to me, as I am very cognizantly counting the number of books I read this year. I would do well to better savor the tomes I devour. Chew my food more thoroughly, if you will.


Notes & Quotes


This book also introduced me to the works of Herbert Spencer, Epictetus, Pascal, La Bruyere, and E.B. Browning. I’ve added them to my queue.


“You are not the Shah of time.”

“…the chief beauty about the constant supply of time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoilt, as if you had never wasted of misapplied a single moment in all your career.”

“The path to Mecca is extremely hard and stony, and the worst of it is that you never quite get there after all.”

“…conduct can only be made to accord with principles by means of daily examination, reflection, and resolution.”