How to Think is a contrarian treatise on why we're not as good at thinking as we assume - but how recovering this lost art can rescue our inner lives from the chaos of modern life.
Most of us don't want to think, writes the American essayist Alan Jacobs. Thinking is trouble. It can force us out of familiar, comforting habits, and it can complicate our relationships with like-minded friends. Finally, thinking is slow, and that's a problem when our habits of consuming information (mostly online) leave us lost in the echo chamber of social media, where speed and factionalism trump accuracy and nuance.
In this clever, witty book, Jacobs diagnoses the many forces that prevent thought - forces that have only worsened in the age of Twitter, such as "alternative facts," and information overload. He also dispels the many myths we hold about what it means to think well. (For example: it's impossible to "think for yourself.")
Drawing on sources as far-flung as the novelist Marilynne Robinson, the basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, the British philosopher John Stuart Mill and the Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, Jacobs digs into the nuts and bolts of the cognitive process, offering hope that each of us can reclaim our mental lives from the whirlpool of what now passes for public debate.
After all, if we can learn to think together, perhaps we can learn to live together.
Alan Jacobs is the Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Baylor University. He has written extensively for The Atlantic, WSJ, The New Atlantis, and Harper's and is the author of several books including a well-received biography of C. S. Lewis and a book on the pleasures of reading.