I have been waiting for more than a decade to write Waking Up.
I have been waiting for more than a decade to write Waking Up.
Maria Popova has written for amazing outlets like The Atlantic and The New York Times, but I find her most amazing project to be BrainPickings.org. Founded in 2006 as a weekly email to seven friends, BrainPickings now gets more than 5 million readers per month (!).
Maria Popova (@brainpicker) has written for amazing outlets like The Atlantic and The New York Times, but I find her most amazing project to be BrainPickings.org. Founded in 2006 as a weekly email to seven friends, BrainPickings now gets more than 5 million readers per month (!).
"Susan Sontag on Love," a collaboration between Maria Popova (she of brainpickings.org) and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, is a selection of quotes from the second volume of Sontag's published diaries, curated by Maria and illustrated by Wendy, and of course, penned by Susan Sontag herself.
If only. For many of us, there are more things we want to learn than we have time for. And as information becomes more readily accessible online, the number of things we want to learn has only increased. That means that the only variable we can actually control is the time we spend learning them.
The first day I was in second grade, I came to school and noticed that there was a new, very pretty girl in the class—someone who hadn’t been there the previous two years. Her name was Alana and within an hour, she was everything to me.
I have been waiting for more than a decade to write Waking Up.
PDF: We made a fancy PDF of this post for printing and offline viewing. Buy it here. (Or see a preview.) Who would have thought that after decades of struggle with procrastination, the dictionary, of all places, would hold the solution.
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input.
There are many moments throughout my average day that, lacking print reading material in a previous era, were once occupied by thinking or observing my surroundings: walking or waiting somewhere, riding the subway, lying in bed unable to sleep or before mustering the energy to get up.
A couple of years ago, I spent the summer in Portland, Oregon, losing things. I normally live on the East Coast, but that year, unable to face another sweltering August, I decided to temporarily decamp to the West. This turned out to be strangely easy.
You might think someone who gets paid to predict the future would be mad for gadgets and forever spouting off on social media. But you’d be wrong.
There are two paths in life: Should and Must. We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And each time, we get to choose. Over the past year I’ve chosen Must again and again. And it was petrifying. And at times it was dark. But I would never, ever, trade this past year for anything.
The following text is adapted from a keynote address given to the recipients of the 2017 Whiting Awards for emerging writers. When my mother’s mother began to die of a mysterious, undiagnosable neurological illness, the first thing she lost was her sense of taste.
Have you heard the story of the architect from Shiraz who designed the world’s most beautiful mosque? No one had ever conjured up such a design. It was breathtakingly daring yet well-proportioned, divinely sophisticated, yet radiating a distinctly human warmth.
The workplace is where people go to work. But much of the day is increasingly padded out with less productive activities, writes Peter Fleming. The case was unnerving for one reason mainly. People die all the time, but usually we notice.
Our children grow up so fast. Before we know it they’re out there somewhere in the real world, and we’re left hoping that we’ve done enough to prepare them for everything they’ll encounter.
Alvin Toffler, the celebrated author of “Future Shock,” the first in a trilogy of best-selling books that presciently forecast how people and institutions of the late 20th century would contend with the immense strains and soaring opportunities of accelerating change, died on Monday at his home
“Man fucks woman. Man: subject. Woman: object.” The first thing you need to understand about consent is that consent is not, strictly speaking, a thing. Not in the same way that teleportation isn’t a thing. Consent is not a thing because it is not an item, nor a possession.
No matter what stage you’re at in the entrepreneur journey, whether you just launched your first startup or have started several successful businesses, you can always use the advice of people who have "been there, done that.'’ What better way to get advice then from the pages of a book?
Kafka once told a teenage friend. “It’s only there that it can be won or lost.” The great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky believed that what draws us to film is the gift of time — “time lost or spent or not yet had.
You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more. Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.
Madonna, Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump all claim to have thrived on four hours or less of sleep. If it’s good enough for the queen of pop and the Iron Lady, should entrepreneurs be worried about aiming for that magic eight hours a night?
psychologists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon observed in their indispensable A General Theory of Love. “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn wrote.
“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” Elizabeth Gilbert asked in framing her catalyst for creative magic.
One July morning during a research trip to the small New England island of Nantucket, home to pioneering astronomer Maria Mitchell, I had a most unusual experience. Midway through my daily swim in the ocean, my peripheral vision was drawn to what at first appeared to be a snorkel.
The commencement address is a special kind of modern communication art, and its greatest masterpieces tend to either become a book — take, for instance, David Foster Wallace on the meaning of life, Neil Gaiman on the resilience of the creative spirit, Ann Patchett on storytelling and belonging
In 1564, Galileo Galilei was born into a world with no clocks, telescopes, or microscopes — a world that was believed to be the center of the universe, orbited by the sun and the moon and the stars.
Joan Didion observed in her classic meditation on loss. Abraham Lincoln, in his moving letter of consolation to a grief-stricken young woman, wrote of how time transmutes grief into “a sad sweet feeling in your heart.
Categories are how we navigate the world, for better or for worse — this impulse toward organization helps us (to borrow Umberto Eco’s wonderful phrase) make infinity comprehensible, but its perilous flipside is the seedbed of stereotypes.
“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” wrote the thirty-year-old Nietzsche.
This has not been a scientist's war; it has been a war in which all have had a part. The scientists, burying their old professional competition in the demand of a common cause, have shared greatly and learned much. It has been exhilarating to work in effective partnership.
After the best biographies, memoirs, and history books of 2013, the season’s subjective selection of best-of reading lists continue with the most stimulating psychology and philosophy books published this year. (Catch up on the 2012 roundup here and 2011’s here.)
To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We've got it down to four words: "Do what you love." But it's not enough just to tell people that. Doing what you love is complicated. The very idea is foreign to what most of us learn as kids.
If the odds of finding one’s soul mate are so dreadfully dismal and the secret of lasting love is largely a matter of concession, is it any wonder that a growing number of people choose to go solo? The choice of solitude, of active aloneness, has relevance not only to romance but to all human
Although Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940–July 20, 1973) is best known for his legendary legacy in martial arts and film, he was also one of the most underappreciated philosophers of the twentieth century, instrumental in introducing Eastern traditions to Western audiences.
Boredom is one of the most essential yet endangered human capacities, a seedbed of sanity the creative benefits of which have been championed by some of humanity’s most fertile minds.
Annie Dillard memorably wrote in her soul-stretching meditation on the life of presence, “is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Where do we come from? There are many right answers to this question, and the one you get often depends on who you ask.
I have to create a circle of reading for myself: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Pascal, The New Testament. This is also necessary for all people.
“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve,” Debbie Millman counseled in one of the best commencement speeches ever given, urging: “Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timeless reflection on presence over productivity — a timely antidote to the central anxiety of our productivity-obsessed age.
Every year for more than a decade, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman has been asking the era’s greatest thinkers a single annual question, designed to illuminate some important aspect of how we understand the world.
Who are we when we, to borrow Hannah Arendt’s enduring words, “are together with no one but ourselves”? However much we might exert ourselves on learning to stop letting others define us, the definitions continue to be hurled at us — definitions predicated on who we should be in relation
“That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes.
In December of 2011, Neil deGrasse Tyson — champion of science, celebrator of the cosmic perspective, master of the soundbite — participated in Reddit’s Ask Me Anything series of public questions and answers.
Given my soft spot for famous diaries, it should come as no surprise that I keep one myself.
“Someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world,” wrote the poet Mary Ruefle.
Thoreau wrote as he contemplated how silence ennobles speech. In the century and a half since, we have created a culture that equates loudness with leadership, abrasiveness with authority. We mistake shouting for powerful speech much as we mistake force for power itself.
While we appreciate it in the abstract, few of us pause to grasp the miracles of modern life, from artificial light to air conditioning, as Steven Johnson puts it in the excellent How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World (public library), “how amazing it is that we drink w
“Unless we are very, very careful,” wrote psychologist-turned-artist Anne Truitt in contemplating compassion and the cure for our chronic self-righteousness, “we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is
Adrienne Rich, in contemplating how love refines our truths, wrote: “An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths t
At the outset of each new year, humanity sets out to better itself as we resolve to eradicate our unhealthy habits and cultivate healthy ones.
Most people know Tim Ferriss as the amicable, quick-witted, high-energy writer, adventurer, and interviewer, who has devoted his life to optimizing human performance across the full spectrum of physical and mental health.
philosopher Alain de Botton argued in his meditation on sex, “the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human being who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.
“The habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts,” wrote James Webb Young in his famous 1939 5-step technique for creative problem-solving, “becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.
Despite the immense canon of research on creativity — including its four stages, the cognitive science of the ideal creative routine, the role of memory, and the relationship between creativity and mental illness — very little has focused on one of life’s few givens that equally few of us
With his singular blend of physical prowess and metaphysical wisdom, coupled with his tragic untimely death, legendary Chinese-American martial artist, philosopher, and filmmaker Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940–July 20, 1973) is one of those rare cultural icons whose ethos and appeal remain timel
In his meditation on the three ways of writing for children and the key to authenticity in all writing, C.S. Lewis admonished against treating children, in literature or life, as “a strange species whose habits you have ‘made up’ like an anthropologist or a commercial traveller.” J.R.R.
UPDATE: The fine folks of Holstee have turned these seven learnings into a gorgeous letterpress poster inspired by mid-century children’s book illustration.
wrote the great French philosopher Simone Weil shortly before her untimely and patriotic death as she contemplated the crucial difference between our rights and our obligations. “A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds.
What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies
“In both writing and sleeping,” Stephen King observed in his excellent meditation on the art of “creative sleep” and wakeful dreaming, “we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.
UPDATE: These daily routines have now been adapted into a labor-of-love visualization of writers’ sleep habits vs. literary productivity. Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published daily routine made we wonder how other beloved writers organized their days.
Kurt Vonnegut observed in discussing Hamlet during his influential lecture on the shapes of stories.
“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact,” asserted Charles Darwin in one of the eleven rules for critical thinking known as Prospero’s Precepts.
Once again this year, I was delighted to serve on the “Brain Trust” for an annual project by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, New Yorker writer, and Scientific American neuroscience blog editor Gareth Cook, who culls the best, most thoughtful and illuminating infographics published each ye
In the fall of 2013, as Brain Pickings was turning seven, I wrote about the seven most important things I learned in those seven years of reading, writing, and living.
At a recent event from the New York Public Library’s wonderful LIVE from the NYPL series, interviewer extraordinaire Paul Holdengräber sat down with Malcolm Gladwell — author of such bestselling books as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (public library), Blink:
In this short animated excerpt from Susan Cain’s RSA talk, based on her fantastic book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (public library) and illustrated by the darkly delightful Molly Crabapple, Cain explores how modern society evolved to glorify the qualitie
The right workspace can greatly increase employee peace of mind and productivity. But before you panic and install a Google-style indoor go-cart track in your accounting firm's headquarters, relax. All you really need to do to boost your employees productivity is make a few small design tweaks.
“We are what we repeatedly do,” Will Durant observed in summarizing Aristotle. “Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state,” William James wrote.
After the year’s best children’s books, art and design books, photography books, science books, history books, and food books, the 2011 best-of series continues with the most compelling, provocative and thought-provoking psychology and philosophy books featured here this year.
“Show up, show up, show up,” Isabel Allende advised, “and after a while the muse shows up, too.” “Inspiration is for amateurs,” Chuck Close famously proclaimed, “the rest of us just show up and get to work.
To repurpose a handy metaphor, let's call two of the first Homo sapiens Adam and Eve. By the time they welcomed their firstborn, that rascal Cain, into the world, 2 million centuries of evolution had established how his infancy would play out.
Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) endures as one of humanity’s most lucid and luminous minds — an oracle of timeless wisdom on everything from what “the good life” really means to why “fruitful monotony” is essential for happiness to love, sex, and our moral supersti
Susan Sontag wrote in her diary.
“We get such a kick out of looking forward to pleasures and rushing ahead to meet them that we can’t slow down enough to enjoy them when they come,” Alan Watts observed in 1970, aptly declaring us “a civilization which suffers from chronic disappointment.