Learning to read (Walden 67)

“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.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Reading,” Walden

Do you know how to read? Or are you still learning how to read? Reading, like living, isn’t just a skill, but an art. It’s a collaboration between author and reader that bridges space and time, and it requires skill on both ends of the bridge. I’m reminded of something a musician friend once told me about the virtuoso guitarist Andrés Segovia, who near the end of his long life remarked that he felt like he was just beginning to understand the instrument. (I’ve been unable to track down the exact quote.)

My own purpose in writing this long series of posts about a single book is that I wanted to practice slow, reflective reading, and selected a text that seemed worthy of such prolonged attention. You might say I’m just learning how to read.

I’ll leave you with a video of Segovia “reading” Bach, by which to ponder Henry’s words:

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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