Twelve Rules for the Bookish Life

(Of course, the bookish life needs no rules.)

Let books flood your home and wash ashore on coffee tables, dressers, and nightstands. Your kids and grandkids will, one day, thank you (even if your spouse, in the present, does not).


With gratitude for half a decade of service alongside the Comment team, and in particular for the mentorship and friendship of Brian Dijkema and Jamie Smith, two of the most bookish men I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. May your tribes increase!

  1. Read widely. If it be strange, bid it welcome. Your hopes of becoming more capacious and hospitable will depend less on the depth than the breadth of your “to-read” list.
  2. Always have a “to-read” list on the go. Even one that’s absurdly, impossibly long. If you believe in heaven: there’ll be time.
  3. That said: life is short. If you don’t want to finish a book: don’t. You may not be ready for it. (Or the book is rubbish. There’s always that possibility.)
  4. Readymade lists of “Great Texts” are guides for the wise, and absolutes for fools. Don’t sweat your ability as a judge. You’ll know a good book after one read. You’ll know a great work by patience and perseverance and the joys they produce after a lifetime of rereading.
  5. Sorry, but reading books—even great ones—will not make you a better person. If that were the case, there’d be fewer illiterate saints and well-read assholes. (Remember, they found great books in Nazi trenches.) So read, and with fear and trembling ask the Spirit to use even this to your edification.

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