On Democracy by E.B.White
Apparently, crafting prize-winning and universally beloved children's literature was merely a side hustle for E.B. White. His day job saw him whipping up nuanced, passionate, and delightfully urbane political essays for The New Yorker, and boy, could White pack a punch. Written over the fifty-year span of his career from the 1920s to the 70s, our weekend farmer from Maine had plenty to say about the state of our world, the state of our minds, and whether we might figure out a way to survive ourselves. Topics range from the serious to the silly, but all explore our nation's fantastically fragile system of democracy and the glories of individual freedom.
The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker
I wish I had written this book. Simple, satisfying, and always spot on, the author stresses the importance of opening our eyes as we walk about our lives, and yes, quite simply noticing what is happening right in front of our noses. I long to read all the supporting literature he quotes, written by all the other clever people who have found a way to make a living telling other people to set down their bloody phones and simply look about. I regret that I didn't write down my own little exercises of noticing this or that as I go about my dailies, because this slender volume is full of similar suggestions and activities. But I've happily decided to lay all conflicting thoughts aside and simply enjoy this lovely little book.
I make no apology for my wildly eclectic taste in reading. These two books, for example, which I've been reading intermittently and interchangeably over the past few weeks, could not be more different from one another. The first warns that our democracy is in serious peril, and then encourages us to keep on and trust that it will all sort itself out. The second coaches us to look for security cameras and the color yellow as we go about our daily routines, and promises that such observations will affect the way we think. .
Perhaps there is a profound connection between these two ideas; a synchronicity that eludes me. I like to think that maybe there is, and someday soon my brain will light up as it finally comes clear. But for now, all I can see that connects them is that they are both small books, endearing to me as they sit quite comfortably in my hands.
And, interestingly, they are both blue.
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Read more about what I've been reading: