Build a cabin in the woods. Take some books and some tools to grow beans. Then write down what happens. This basically is the recipe Henry David Thoreau follows in his book Walden (1854). He withdrew and then shared his experience, with some expectancy of changing the world.

Walden and many other books involve inspired reading. We genuinely hope that by reading this book, we gain new insights in how the world could and should function. Now seeing every book as an – okay, maybe idealistic – adventure of the mind, fits very well with what pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty writes about books*. According to Rorty we should judge books on how we can use them. We better practise inspired reading: Does a book help you to want something different? Does this book bring you new thoughts, thoughts you didn’t have before?

Many books are so readable that you can’t stop reading, but there is a real danger you stop thinking. With Thoreau, I have this vision of this reader who reads like an athlete, who reads deliberately and passionately in a search for confrontations between his/her own thoughts and a particular text. It’s hard work though, reading like an athlete.

* Richard Rorty in: Umberto Eco’s Interpration and Overinterpretation, Cambridge University Press 1992.