It's almost like reading has been elevated to a kind of rare alchemy, whereby you can unlock secret cheat codes to life. The feeling that you're in rareified air to actually read books. I think anyone who regularly reads books for pleasure should easily see through this - reading is just a hobby. It's a fun, intellectually challenging, infinitely variable hobby with a very long and distinguished history. But ultimately you could learn just as much about yourself and the world by doing pottery, woodworking, kayaking, knitting or whatever else you like to do with your spare time. Making it into such a self-serious pursuit kills most of the joy (and value, for that matter).
Let's try to make reading commonplace, something we almost take for granted. Of course I read books, you read books, we all read books. Everybody poops, and everybody reads books. Wouldn't that be great? In that world, a Youtube commercial or Medium article promising that you can unlock secret lamborghinis on the moon by reading exactly 18.75 books a week would suddenly be absurdly transparent in setting off everyone's bullshit meters. The question "read any good books lately?" could take on less of a challenging air and more conversational, the way so many people can casually drop 10 quotes from their favorite Netflix show they've been binge watching during their commute to work.
Longform reading is magic because it's rarer than ever - it's an art now, according to people like this author. That's why we have so much performative reading, a cheap replacement for the real thing. I'd rather reading be boring and commonplace, something we do as easily as breathing.
I agree with the rest of your post, but this sentence is a hard disagree. Books let you live a version of the lives of other more intelligent people from almost any point in history. How can pottery and kayaking do that?
The idea that you can "learn just as much about [...] the world" from things other than what, until very recently, has been the primary mode of inter-generational human communication is pure absurdity. An idea whose absurdity is illustrated by all of human history. The fact that this requires explanation or demonstration is the reason that the current "trend" of elevating reading to a "rare alchemy" exists, because it essentially is if you're coming from a place of treating all activities as equal methods of learning.
This isn't some "gotcha." I addressed the parts of your comment that I disagreed with, and didn't address the other parts...
As with most things in life, a good balance is needed.
Edit: and not everything can be learnt from books
I have a whole long piece I want to write about this some day but physical experience is about 100x richer than reading. If you read about the best restaurant in some place, and tell me it, your ability to convince me it’s good is very weak. Whereas someone who ate at a hundred places in that cuisine could write a book about it. They could convince me only because they have first hand knowledge.
It’s funny in that way: the best writing comes from people who experienced the most, and yet people get attached to reading as the best way to learn!
And if we for a moment ignore the fact that reading about food is one of the most boring things I can imagine, reading about someone else's experience of food let you see aspects you aren't aware of which your own experiences richer.
People don't read as a substitute for living their own life. People read because it enriches the life they live. Not only in the moment of reading, but also in everything else they do.
UFC and boxing are certainly life and death and I'm sure you'd have quite a similar feeling to going to battle. Though again this really misses the point: going to battle is a great example, in fact, not replicable through reading in a million important ways.
No one who has only read about war will ever be in the room deciding important things about war, nor will their stories about war (reciting from a book) ever be quite as interesting or well-said. Of course it's a spectrum, and someone who has read and experienced it first-hand can be better, but the point stands.
I'd argue empathy manifests in real life experience more than reading, but it's hard to convey in writing.
And most people, not only 4 of the 5 last US presidents, who decides important things about wars, have in the best case read about wars, rarely fought in any themselves.
While in general I agree with you that experience is the best way to gain understanding, there are rather a lot of topics that are hard to get experience with.
I'd argue that you can't actually learn anything from reading. Mortimer Adler argues in "How to Read a Book" that you can only actually learn by action, which means doing something with what you read.
The only way to test it is to not put it into action, then see if you learned it, but then ... that process of testing it is an action, so... ???
I applaud your meta-inquiry.
I do agree with your statement about books, because I personally love reading. Henry David Thoreau wrote a chapter of Walden called "Reading", and put it way better than I ever could:
> "To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written."
But pottery, kayaking, or a number of other hobbies can also make you a better person.
Pottery can teach you patience, flow, adapting to mistakes, and turning an idea into something real. It exercises your creative muscles. Kayaking gets you in touch with nature, and gets you physically active (both of which have proven cognitive benefits). You can learn about your local geography and history by exploring waterways. Being on the water all day without a watch can give you a new perspective on time and the natural rhythms of a day in your own life.
The best part is that, if you are a curious type, those activities will probably lead you to reading anyway. You spend a whole day doing pottery - then go read up on the history of pottery. You confront the amazing fact that you are learning the same technology with your hands that allowed humans 8,000 years ago to invent the brewing of wine, to efficiently carry water to their fixed settlements, even to make primitive batteries which served as the centerpieces of religious shrines. Your hands are following after Og, the neighborhood potter from Babylon, who erected human civilization from scratch out of the literal dirt a few thousand years before God breathed life into Adam from a pile of dust (what's that line about "life imitating art" again?). That's infinitely more intellectually engaging than just reading a book in a vacuum. It's the kind of practical insight that is almost life-affirming.
During your weekend kayaking trip you paddle by the ruins of an old textile mill on the banks of the river. Your interest is piqued, you go home and read about that textile mill, the history of textile production, you learn about the fact that they named your hometown after a silk-producing region in China when some eccentric entrepreneur made a failed attempt to import silkworms and start a silk industry there. And you got to be right there in the flesh where it happened. You are now a better person; you have a sense of being grounded in your local community, a sense of place, a sense of history derived from something you have directly experienced with your 5 senses.
But most importantly, all three activities (pottery, kayaking, books) give you access to a community of other people who are also interested in them. Learning from intelligent dead and/or inaccessible people from books is a great pursuit. But exchanging thoughts, connecting, and learning from a community of real, everyday, stupid, in-the-weeds people just like you and me is arguably just as valuable, if not more.
On the other hand, you don't need a thousand other lives to live one good one. As Thoreau wrote, "It takes more than one day to extract the wealth of a day." And as a Buddhist saying goes, "You can learn everything about the entire universe from the head of a pin".
This is just not true haha.
If I read a book on pottery, but I never apply those concepts, it doesn't do me much good. Furthermore, refining one's craft is almost always much more time consuming than reading alone. Reading is necessary but not sufficient to thrive and be at one's best.
Or do successful people tend to read because successful people don't tend to get dragged into shallow activities. The reading didn't make them successful- the reading is a side affect of already having that trait.
I dislike the article's take on reading for pleasure with a goofy emoji. It mentions reading to broaden your world and make connections between disparate things. Reading for pleasure also accomplishes this.
Many professions require reading to be successful, but it's more the case that getting the necessary information would not be realistically possible without reading at some point. People in that position don't read for its own sake in their work life (whether they read for pleasure is another story), they go find the information they need in the format it exists in. This is then confused as "reading makes you successful" but it is as trivial a statement as "having the right information makes you successful"
There are also people like myself for whom "success" means getting to read everything that we want. Well, not everything, because at some point in life one gets to acknowledge that death is a thing that actually happens and that will interrupt said reading, but other than that reading and the thought that there will always be interesting books for us to read is one of the main thing that keeps us (as I think I'm not the only one thinking like that) feeling alive.
"Looking at creativity as something that’s much less precious will help you stick with it long-term. Along with that, people around you will be a lot more supportive if you’re a bit more flexible and a bit less douchey about it. Like you’re not so pretentious in terms of, 'I’m an artist, I need to blah blah blah.' If you take it down a notch and just look at it as something you have to do today, just like taking a dump or eating supper, then it will be more sustainable in the long run."
Nobody who reads 100 books a year (or even 50 as the author cops to) is reading anything particularly difficult. It's either fluff self-help, or fiction that vacuums your attention in, or a medium article by some MBA blown up to 250 pages by a publisher, or something you should be listening to as an audiobook on your commute. Look at what the author of the article is reading! Come on, this stuff is embarrassingly easy. It sure as hell ain't Knuth.
I'm an advocate of reading about 6-8 books per-year, and it is miserable. About 300 pages into a nonfiction technical book and I'm pacing around the kitchen island, djent in the headphones cranked up to 1,000, jaw clenched on my nicotine gum, 12 cups of coffee playing chicken with my guts, muttering to myself, scribbling nonsensical notes in the margin. Miserable.
It sucks. I absolutely hate it. I don't understand 30% of the goddamn thing. But, I learn a hell of a lot.
So, I strongly distrust anyone who brags about reading, and I listen closely to anyone who bitches and moans and complains, but slogs their way through a small number of serious, technical, nonfiction books per-year. The difference between reading SICP and reading Simon Sinek is immeasurable.
Internet comments take ~5 minutes to write, 30s to read (6x ROI).
Blog posts are ~4 hours to write, 10m to read (24x).
Magazine articles are ~3 months to write, 30m to read (960x).
Books are ~5 years to write, 8h to read (1300x).
Obviously, books are one of the best reading ROIs. Now, of course, you've got to balance the book quality, your interests, the thesis, the author's biases, etc. But as a rule of thumb, books are good investments of time. I think that's why they are this 'rare alchemy'. It's not that you unlock cheat codes to life, it's that they offer some of the best kismet to doing so.
All this has nothing to do ROI, which measures the return that a single entity gets from an investment they make. If you want to make the ROI analogy work (which I don't think you should) one way to do it would perhaps be to compare the time invested with the amount of people the writer reaches. In that case the "ROI" of any method of writing could be super low (if nobody reads it) or super high (if everyone reads it).
Another way to look at it would be that the time to read something you cite is actually the amount of "investment" by a reader. In that case I expect that many readers experience zero return (or even negative return) on their investment of 30s to read an internet post, while they may experience incalculable, life-changing return from 8 hours spent reading a book. Or, probably less often, vice versa.
If I want to learn about, I dunno, the ancient Maya, I can go ahead, book a trip to Mexico, go to all the museums, get my hands on the primary sources, etc. This process will take some amount of time, likely years. Im not talking about the knock-on effects, very great as they are, just the pure knowledge.
Or I can grab a few books and use the authors' time and effort. This will take some number of hours, maybe days. But not years.
Such books are a much better use of my time to learn about the Maya than reading NatGeo articles (though still good), or some blog posts (alright in quality) or a bunch of internet comments (still, maybe good here and there). Yes, of course it's a mesh of all these things. But I believe that well researched content (mostly that still means a book) is the best 'bang for your minute' that you can get.
I'll put it this way: I'm trying to invest some limited amount of time in learning more about something or enjoying my time fruitfully. With what little time I have, the best way to learn more about something is (typically) via a book. Enjoyment, sure, it varies more, but books tend to be more, I dunno, rich (?) in a way.
Blog posts give you 4 hours to write, backed by years of life experience, probably based on things you've had on your mind for a while.
Magazine articles pay you to write what the audience/advertisers want to see. They've got to be a net negative, convincing someone to write when they didn't necessarily want to, to say something they didn't necessarily want to say.
Books are an item for a CV or resume, and a status symbol. Sure there are respected textbooks, but there are a lot of worse books out there than respected textbooks. Look at "Why we sleep" recently - years to write, torn apart by one blog post. Look at bestseller lists rigged by false purchases. Look at tech books where writing a book on a language or tech stack is almost more of a status grab, or at worst a "teach myself $thing by writing a book about it" than a long standing tome.
(Also, 8 hours to read a book??)
An expert can take 5 minutes to write something that is far more valuable than an amateur can write in years. I'd also argue that it's much easier and common for amateurs to write books nowadays, so it's becoming less and less good of a heuristic to say "books > blogs, articles, etc"
I will agree with you that the temptation was there just to read fluff. I think having the list effectively mitigated that. The only downside is that many books reference other books so the list would just expand exponentially.
Am I magically able to access the secrets of universe just because I read a lot? No. But when people ask me “read any good books lately” I can talk about the new Brandon Sanderson book, neuroscience of aging, or the art of non violent communication and the interesting parallels between all three of them.
Reading does make you more interesting but so does watching Sundance film festival movies or listening to obscure podcasts. Anything off the beaten path is interesting by definition.
After reading two of these larger books in 2021, I feel like (and this is nothing new or profound) that concentration really is a lost art and it just takes practice. I also feel like these large books probably help with retaining info because you spend so much time in them, being inculcated on the subject. It's kinda like a giant monthly experiment in SRS.
As for the type of people that do not typically read, I would encourage them to read what they would love reading (even if its NYT Best sellers) until they love reading.
Anyway, if it's gatekeeping to suggest that people should pursue personal growth through their own authentic interests rather than reading as a chore to be "more efficient", then call me president of the gatekeeping club for all I care.
If someone reads short, easy to read books for any reason, that's dandy. I'm sure they'll get something useful out of it.
On the other hand, are you reading The Art of Computer Programming? (Oddly enough, I can currently answer yes, since I've been playing around with the section in Seminumerical Algorithms on testing random number sources. :-) )
Also, is it actually "gatekeeping" to say that arbitrary numeric goals optimize for a different kind of reading than what you'd get with different kinds of goals?
> That clearly optimises for short, easy to read books (eg New York Times Best Sellers) and avoids more technical and difficult books (eg Art of Computer Programming)
Some will "cheat", but most won't. Even if you cheat, is reading 15 short, bad books better or worse than reading 0?
If it's done as a chore to hit a certain number, or in a performative spirit to show others how much one has read, I think that person would get more value spending those hours doing something in which they have an authentic interest.
Also, it's not an all-or-nothing prospect. A better question might be, "Is it better to read 15 short, bad books or 3 longer, more challenging books that one may not even fully understand on the first reading?"
I think whatever special value books used to represent in our society from before the internet is long gone. I remember the pre-internet times when the information world you had access to was small. You could consume silly low-information things on the tv or radio or you could read a book on the topic, which had a much higher information density and chance of being correct. There was no one you could talk with about a detailed topic unless you had maybe built up a professional circle you met with regularly, so a book was your only opportunity to "converse" with an expert. If you paid thousands of dollars, you could take a class on the topic and have an knowledgeable person take you on a basic guided tour of some of the good books on the topic. You would never have been able to get Warren Buffet's detailed thoughts on the economy without reading his book.
In the post-internet world, information is cheap and plentiful. Endless hours of talks and interviews by major thinkers are available to all. With a quick Google, you can find people discussing any topic under the sun. Micro-niche content on all topics are being produced for YouTube, the likes of which you would have never seen on the Discovery Channel. Dozens of free courses are available on all major topics and you can cherry pick just the pieces you are most interested in. Most information can be just-in-time delivered to you at just the moment you need it. Books are not obsolete in this environment, but just another one of the dozens of formats through which you could consume detailed information on a topic.
And finally, our collective societal values change slowly in comparison to the pace of technological change. Books were far and away the best way to access information for so long that it has a sticky association with class, intelligence, wealth and wit. But really, if you are getting all your information from books, you are an anachronism and definitively behind the curve. Sometimes I think of Raphael's School of Athens and think that the conversions I've been privy to for the past 10 years on HN must far surpass anything they might have said to each other.
The rigor of longform reading is still something special. I know I am prone to over-quoting from Thoreau, but as he said, "What is taken as argument in the auditorium is too often later found to be rhetoric in the study."
The micro-niche aspect of the internet is unrivaled for straightforward, practical information. I won't question that. That said, if you want the detailed thoughts of an expert on some topic, they will by definition be in a book or book-analog online format since no other medium allows for this sort of efficient and unforgiving long-form development of thoughts. Online courses and blog posts tend to refer to books anyway, or to summarize them. Videos can offer information as well but the format itself constrains the amount of information you can cram into the work, and the incentive to editorialize is greater.
But in a deeper sense it's not even about the books but the applicability and context of the information that is gleaned regardless of the format. Ten year's worth of HN can be impressive, but it mostly gives you perspective on HN users and which topics interest them to begin with. Just like the School of Athens gave a specific perspective, HN will give you a specific framework from which you may or may not have to escape eventually. To name another example, if you start reading non-popular history books it becomes clear that different experts can have radically different views of the same events. In turn you start to realize that the pop-history books you've read are so distorted as to be almost useless. Similarly, the internet can yield astounding quantities of information, but if they are optimized for views, reinforce an echo chamber, or are repeating ideas as a secondary source, it won't matter. It's seductive to feel this power at our fingertips but the end practical result tends to be the same, since developing thoughts takes effort. More importantly, time remains the true barrier.
I like the knowledge I've gained from reading lots of articles. The problem comes up because I have to very intentionally choose to read a long book instead of defaulting to many short articles. Over time and in large enough quantity, this feels subjectively bad. Like I'm overloaded with information and lots of different perspectives, but without much of the depth, nuance, or understanding that can come from really sitting with one topic, world, story, or point of view in a deep and extended way.
I think the internet is amazing for providing the torrent of information it does. I just found that, for me, I was drawn to the bright, shiny, always-new, always-now nature of it at the expense of reading books. As I've made more of an effort to read lately, books feel like a different kind of information intake, and I like diversifying in that way.
I don't think books are dead. I read books. I just think they are no longer the only game in town. For example, it was often said that through a book, you could step into someone else's experience. I had a great time reading Red Mars. Now we have VR and I have come closer to standing on the surface of Mars than anyone else in history; far better than imagining Kim Stanley imagining it. The huge expansion of new digital and interactive media is a lasting win for education and human knowledge. I think we all need a reminder of that in the trough of tech disillusionment.
A quick question: Is the plot summary on the Wikipedia page for Hamlet equivalent to watching the play, or to reading the play with timeouts to look up the references?
Medical staff, obviously in COVID times, basically any retail worker, basically any callcenter worker, anyone in an Enterprise company as per the film Office Space, people working anything from agriculture to factory work to Amazon warehouses, to delivery drivers timed for the amount of seconds they can step out of the van at each stop, to developers hating on unreasonable expectations of delivery time and price, to takeovers and downsizing leaving fewer people with more work, to individual craftspeople expected to compete on price with mass manufacture, to ridiculous job hopping advice (change jobs every 18 months, never don't be applying for jobs!) to decreases in loyalty and trust.
The aspirational messages have shifted from "thank God you have food for the day" to "own a home" to "get a stable job" to "a gold watch for long service and a pension" to "flip houses for money or rental income" to "desperately try to get rich quick and get out". And then what else is there but escapism with Lamborghinis and stories?
The concept of "wage slavery" was coined back in ancient Greece (i.e. the people who had to work for a living were not considered really free). The Puritanian work ethics, which consider work to be a virtue and something of innate value, are more a weird quirk of some Western countries rather than an universal stance. Basically, through all times and places, most people dreamt of being wealthy, so that their needs would be met and they wouldn't have to work. BTW now this dream is monetized in the form of various national lotteries.
There will always be someone who wants the credit without the effort (I read x books a month, look at me) — the looks without the substance — and yes, it is annoying, but at least we have books :)
Agree! I admittedly put on my "critic hat" writing that post so maybe it came off a bit contrarian.
But you're absolutely right. If it's a choice between dealing with some shallowness, or not having books in the public consciousness at all? I'll gladly tolerate the self-help crowd slightly overselling the promise of reading.
>imagine yourself rich, happy, driving a Lamborghini, living off dividends from your stonks, and reading books.
This is bill gates, warren buffet. He says this is his secret, who am I to question someone who has actually done it.
"Whether you’re looking for a distraction or just spending a lot more time at home, you can’t beat reading a book. "
He did many many times.
"Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently. I was lucky to have parents who encouraged me to read. Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career and in the work that I do now with my foundation."
Warren Buffett famously said to some students, "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it."
Charlie Munger is as much of a reader as Buffett. He's especially fond of biographies, according to the book The Joy of Compounding. His children call him "a book with legs." https://fs.blog/2013/05/the-buffett-formula/
From googling these guys just now, I found there are a lot of other examples. Mark Cuban is one, crediting a lot of his early success to reading and saying he still reads over three hours a day: https://blogmaverick.com/2011/04/07/shark-tank-success-motiv...
I'm not going to deny that reading more effectively & efficiently can be desirable in certain technical reading where the aim is to absorb, digest & learn the material. But in the general sense its kind of the antithesis of why I would read anything. I don't want to knock off as many paper backs as quickly as I can so that I can rattle off a meaningless number and increase my cultural capital.
I also find it weird and slightly creepy that people elevate book reading to this almost infinite pedestal. If people get more enjoyment and fulfilment out of playing video games, for example, then that's an equally valid use of time. More so if they're not interested in reading.
For me it comes down to if you enjoy reading in and of itself as a hobby then you'll hopefully find time to do it and be enriched because of it. But just trying to force yourself to blitz through as "effectively" as possible loses the magic. Especially when you consider how much time and thought the very best writers put into every single construction.
I owe my career and livelihood to my ability to study, learn and retain information, and manipulate words and abstract symbols. In other words, to reading. Reading well, and quickly, is a magic superpower with practical benefits.
We don't "review" and discuss blog posts for years on end, the way you can read and discuss books, and books from other countries, in other languages, from previous centuries.
I joke that most parties devolve into a discussion about "what have you watched lately?" and where that discussion used to include movies and films, people at parties mostly talk about TV shows.
So books, for those who are still fitting them into their lifestyle, even after work and family and internet, are slightly more rarefied than they used to be. Moreso than we probably need.
I was immediately reminded of Lambo Tai. I still think it's a parody of something...
Adler wrote "How to Read a Book" (which this article is about) originally in 1940, I wouldn't call that "now".
HTRAB is a bit dry and over-analytical, but it's definitely practical. It enumerates all questions that you should ask yourself while reading analytically, and while this may sound like an overkill, unless you're paying attention, you'll likely skip some of the steps. I read many great books only to find that they completely evaporated from my head in a week or two.
Isn't it a waste of time to spend months reading Brothers Karamazov, and not be changed by that experience?
Reading for entertainment and information already is easy as breathing for most people, but for reading for understanding to be as easy as breathing, you need to deliberately practice it.
While Adler's advice is valid, it lacks another important component, and that's discussion. A good book club (reading the great books, not whatever's on top of the NYT bestseller list) will change the entire experience and increase knowledge retention.
Definitely, but reading is easier :)
Getting people amped up about things they're gonna do feels good (so good, in fact, they forget to do them).
I think all of these sometimes play the role of “premium mediocre” virtue signaling.
I read a lot of biographies of legendary figures. Whether its Stalin, Oppenheimer, Teddy Roosevelt or Robert Moses, they are nearly always big readers. They tend to treat it quite seriously too. Not a few books per year, but 50-100+.. Teddy Roosevelt had 4 hours~ of his days' schedule blocked off for reading particular books, during an election campaign!
For me (and I believe, for them too), reading is serious business and the rewards really are great. This is not 'curl up by the fire with a nice story' and I will suddenly incur some magical benefits. Rather there are some things that are not easily achieved otherwise. Books allow you to efficiently deep dive and when you dedicate lots of hours to it, you can really make staggering progress. Reading all of the books on a particular topic becomes an achievable task. I could spend some hours scouring the internet trying to learn about a particular topic, or I could blast through a 200-300 page book on the topic. When you start treating books as your primary source of learning about new topics, and you build up a sort of grit for getting through books, you become a bit of an information processing machine and it is a bit magical.
I nearly always have a stack of books on my desk now and I just plow through them one after another. I would never absorb so much useful information reading articles on the internet or watching videos. Books are #1 for efficiency..
Right now I'm primarily reading Shirer's The Rise And Fall of The Third Reich.. It's a massive book (1100+ pages) and will take me over 2 weeks. It's hard to imagine how I could possibly get this much information on the same topic any other way. Try and find some documentary series? Follow my nose on wikipedia clicking around? Crap options, mostly. If I do this with two or three more books, by almost any measure, I have become somebody who knows a lot about WW2 and nazi germany. Now follow process with many other topics..
“Look at them reading! How sad! A completely linear storyline! Never changes with a re-do, not even a bit. Sitting there, in silence! No social interaction. That can’t be good for their brains. Why don’t they play video games instead?”
> "...more and more moralizing and virtue signaling. So much ... "motivation porn"..."
> "..aspirational message - imagine yourself rich, happy, driving a Lamborghini.."
> "...too many people have come to see reading as a lofty..."
> "reading is just a hobby"
> "Making it into such a self-serious pursuit kills most of the joy."
> "...you read books, we all read books. Everybody poops, and everybody reads books."
WHAT?? This comment is apoplectic with contradictory statements and false beliefs. What could possibly be accomplished by it? It's an unapologetic rant on reading and writing on, of all places, one of the most text focused news and discussion sites on internet. Sheesh!
Clearly, for some people reading is not just for entertainment, or 'joy'. And, clearly, for some of these people, their joy is also writing about reading (hence the OP).
I do agree on one thing suggested by the response, though not said directly. Reading and Writing may converge into a bizarre infinite loop. If you find this maddening, rage inducing, then consider yourself warned! There is one book which you must not read. Dare I say it's name? YES! I DARE!
Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter . It is not an easy read for the shitter. You may even need the assistance of this MIT Open CourseWare video series on YouTube  about the book.
Read this book at your own PERIL! Extreme brain expansion may occur. WHEW. (Now I'm going to site quietly and meditate.)