Brain Pickings

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13 MAY, 2013

Don’t Go Back to School: How to Fuel the Internal Engine of Learning

By:

“When you step away from the prepackaged structure of traditional education, you’ll discover that there are many more ways to learn outside school than within.”

“The present education system is the trampling of the herd,” legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright lamented in 1956. Half a century later, I started Brain Pickings in large part out of frustration and disappointment with my trampling experience of our culturally fetishized “Ivy League education.” I found myself intellectually and creatively unstimulated by the industrialized model of the large lecture hall, the PowerPoint presentations, the standardized tests assessing my rote memorization of facts rather than my ability to transmute that factual knowledge into a pattern-recognition mechanism that connects different disciplines to cultivate wisdom about how the world works and a moral lens on how it should work. So Brain Pickings became the record of my alternative learning, of that cross-disciplinary curiosity that took me from art to psychology to history to science, by way of the myriad pieces of knowledge I discovered — and connected — on my own. I didn’t live up to the entrepreneurial ideal of the college drop-out and begrudgingly graduated “with honors,” but refused to go to my own graduation and decided never to go back to school. Years later, I’ve learned more in the course of writing and researching the thousands of articles to date than in all the years of my formal education combined.

So, in 2012, when I found out that writer Kio Stark was crowdfunding a book that would serve as a manifesto for learning outside formal education, I eagerly chipped in. Now, Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything is out and is everything I could’ve wished for when I was in college, an essential piece of cultural literacy, at once tantalizing and practically grounded assurance that success doesn’t lie at the end of a single highway but is sprinkled along a thousand alternative paths. Stark describes it as “a radical project, the opposite of reform … not about fixing school [but] about transforming learning — and making traditional school one among many options rather than the only option.” Through a series of interviews with independent learners who have reached success and happiness in fields as diverse as journalism, illustration, and molecular biology, Stark — who herself dropped out of a graduate program at Yale, despite being offered a prestigious fellowship — cracks open the secret to defining your own success and finding your purpose outside the factory model of formal education. She notes the patterns that emerge:

People who forgo school build their own infrastructures. They create and borrow and reinvent the best that formal schooling has to offer, and they leave the worst behind. That buys them the freedom to learn on their own terms.

[…]

From their stories, you’ll see that when you step away from the prepackaged structure of traditional education, you’ll discover that there are many more ways to learn outside school than within.

Reflecting on her own exit from academia, Stark articulates a much more broadly applicable insight:

A gracefully executed quit is a beautiful thing, opening up more doors than it closes.

But despite discovering in dismay that “liberal arts graduate school is professional school for professors,” which she had no interest in becoming, Stark did learn something immensely valuable from her third year of independent study, during which she read about 200 books of her own choosing:

I learned how to teach myself. I had to make my own reading lists for the exams, which meant I learned how to take a subject I was interested in and make myself a map for learning it.

The interviews revealed four key common tangents: learning is collaborative rather than done alone; the importance of academic credentials in many professions is declining; the most fulfilling learning tends to take place outside of school; and those happiest about learning are those who learn out of intrinsic motivation rather than in pursuit of extrinsic rewards. The first of these insights, of course, appears on the surface to contradict the very notion of “independent learning,” but Stark offers an eloquent semantic caveat:

Independent learning suggests ideas such as “self-taught,” or “autodidact.” These imply that independence means working solo. But that’s just not how it happens. People don’t learn in isolation. When I talk about independent learners, I don’t mean people learning alone. I’m talking about learning that happens independent of schools.

[…]

Anyone who really wants to learn without school has to find other people to learn with and from. That’s the open secret of learning outside of school. It’s a social act. Learning is something we do together.

Independent learners are interdependent learners.

She critiques the present boom of massive open online classes, or MOOCs, for their tendency to attempt replicating the offline experience online rather than building a new model for learning from the ground up:

Simply put, MOOCs are designed to put teaching online, and that is their mistake. Instead they should start putting learning online. The innovation of MOOCs is to detach the act of teaching from physical classrooms and tuition-based enrollment. But what they should be working toward is much more radical — detaching learning from the linear processes of school.

But that, Stark found, is missing the point. When she interviewed people who did go to school and asked what they most liked about the experience, they “unanimously cited ‘other people’ as the most useful and meaningful part of their school experience.” So, then:

Given the primacy of community in the experience of learning, the question of how to take the auto out of autodidactic is the first and most central question for learners.

Much of the argument for formal education rests on statistics indicating that people with college and graduate degrees earn more. But those statistics, Stark notes, suffer an important and rarely heeded bias:

The problem is that this statistic is based on long-term data, gathered from a period of moderate loan debt, easy employability, and annual increases in the value of a college degree. These conditions have been the case for college grads for decades. Given the dramatically changed circumstances grads today face, we already know that the trends for debt, employability, and the value of a degree have all degraded, and we cannot assume the trend toward greater lifetime earnings will hold true for the current generation. This is a critical omission from media coverage. The fact is we do not know. There’s absolutely no guarantee it will hold true.

Some heartening evidence suggests the blind reliance on degrees might be beginning to change. Stark cites Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh:

I haven’t looked at a résumé in years. I hire people based on their skills and whether or not they are going to fit our culture.

Another common argument for formal education extols the alleged advantages of its structure, proposing that homework assignments, reading schedules, and regular standardized testing would motivate you to learn with greater rigor. But, as Daniel Pink has written about the psychology of motivation, in school, as in work, intrinsic drives far outweigh extrinsic, carrots-and-sticks paradigms of reward and punishment, rendering this argument unsound. Stark writes:

Learning outside school is necessarily driven by an internal engine. … [I]ndependent learners stick with the reading, thinking, making, and experimenting by which they learn because they do it for love, to scratch an itch, to satisfy curiosity, following the compass of passion and wonder about the world.

So how can you best fuel that internal engine of learning outside the depot of formal education? Stark offers an essential insight, which places self-discovery at the heart of acquiring external knowledge:

Learning your own way means finding the methods that work best for you and creating conditions that support sustained motivation. Perseverance, pleasure, and the ability to retain what you learn are among the wonderful byproducts of getting to learn using methods that suit you best and in contexts that keep you going. Figuring out your personal approach to each of these takes trial and error.

[…]

For independent learners, it’s essential to find the process and methods that match your instinctual tendencies as a learner. Everyone I talked to went through a period of experimenting and sorting out what works for them, and they’ve become highly aware of their own preferences. They’re clear that learning by methods that don’t suit them shuts down their drive and diminishes their enjoyment of learning. Independent learners also find that their preferred methods are different for different areas. So one of the keys to success and enjoyment as an independent learner is to discover how you learn.

[…]

School isn’t very good at dealing with the multiplicity of individual learning preferences, and it’s not very good at helping you figure out what works for you.

Echoing Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has argued that “every child is a scientist” since curiosity is coded into our DNA, and Sir Ken Robinson, who has lamented that the industrial model of education schools us out of our inborn curiosity, Stark observes:

Any young child you observe displays these traits. But passion and curiosity can be easily lost. School itself can be a primary cause; arbitrary motivators such as grades leave little room for variation in students’ abilities and interests, and fail to reward curiosity itself. There are also significant social factors working against children’s natural curiosity and capacity for learning, such as family support or the lack of it, or a degree of poverty that puts families in survival mode with little room to nurture curiosity.

Stark returns to the question of motivators that do work, once again calling to mind Pink’s advocacy of autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the trifecta of success. She writes:

[T]hree broadly defined elements of the learning experience support internal motivation and the persistence it enables. Internal motivation relies on learners having autonomy in their learning, a progressing sense of competence in their skills and knowledge, and the ability to learn in a concrete or “real world” context rather than in the abstract. These are mostly absent from classroom learning. Autonomy is rare, useful context is absent, and school’s means for affirming competence often feel so arbitrary as to be almost without use — and are sometimes actively demotivating. . . . [A]utonomy means that you follow your own path. You learn what you want to learn, when and how you want to learn it, for your own reasons. Your impetus to learn comes from within because you control the conditions of your learning rather than working within a structure that’s pre-made and inflexible.

The second thing you need to stick with learning independently is to set your own goals toward an increasing sense of competence. You need to create a feedback loop that confirms your work is worth it and keeps you moving forward. In school this is provided by advancing through the steps of the linear path within an individual class or a set curriculum, as well as from feedback from grades and praise.

But Stark found that outside of school, those most successful at learning sought their sense of competence through alternative sources. Many, like James Mangan advised in his 1936 blueprint to acquiring knowledge, solidified their learning by teaching it to other people, increasing their own sense of mastery and deepening their understanding. Others centered their learning around specific projects, which enabled them to make progress more modular and thus more attainable. Another cohort cited failure as an essential part of the road to mastery. Stark continues:

The third thing [that] can make or break your ability to sustain internal motivation … is to situate what you’re learning in a context that matters to you. In some cases, the context is a specific project you want to accomplish, which … also functions to support your sense of progress.

She sums up the failings of the establishment:

School is not designed to offer these three conditions; autonomy and context are sorely lacking in classrooms. School can provide a sense of increasing mastery, via grades and moving from introductory classes to harder ones. But a sense of true competence is harder to come by in a school environment. Fortunately, there are professors in higher education who are working to change the motivational structures that underlie their curricula.

Stark prefaces the interviews with a clear mission statement:

For those of you who have experience with learning outside of school, this book is a celebration of what you do. For those of you who haven’t, it’s a warm invitation to give it a try.

The interviews, to be sure, offer a remarkably diverse array of callings, underpinned by a number of shared values and common characteristics. Computational biologist Florian Wagner, for instance, echoes Steve Jobs’s famous words on the secret of life in articulating a sentiment shared by many of the other interviewees:

There is something really special about when you first realize you can figure out really cool things completely on your own. That alone is a valuable lesson in life.

Investigative journalist Quinn Norton subscribes to Mangan’s prescription for learning by teaching:

I ended up teaching [my] knowledge to others at the school. That’s one of my most effective ways to learn, by teaching; you just have to stay a week ahead of your students. … Everything I learned, I immediately turned around and taught to others.

She also used the gift of ignorance to proactively drive her knowledge forward:

When I wanted to learn something new as a professional writer, I’d pitch a story on it. I was interested in neurology, and I figured, why don’t I start interviewing neurologists? The great thing about being a journalist is that you can pick up the phone and talk to anybody. It was just like what I found out about learning from experts on mailing lists. People like to talk about what they know.

Norton speaks to the usefulness of useless knowledge, not only in one’s own intellectual development but also as social currency:

I’m stuffed with trivial, useless knowledge, on a panoply of bizarre topics, so I can find something that they’re interested in that I know something about. Being able to do that is tremendously socially valuable. The exchange of knowledge is a very human way to learn. I try never to walk into a room where I want to get information without knowing what I’m bringing to the other person.

[…]

I think part of the problem with the usual mindset of the student is that it’s like being a sponge. It’s passive. It’s not about having something to bring to the interaction. People who are experts in things are experts because they like learning.

The wonderful Rita J. King, whose diverse and prolific career spans investigative journalism in the nuclear industry, a position as Futurist at NASA, and an executive role in Manhattan’s Science House, recalls boldly defying the cult of credentials:

After I graduated, I wondered if I’d be perceived as less capable or desirable because I didn’t have an Ivy League degree. So I tried an experiment. When I looked for work, I didn’t talk about my education at all. I approached my career like an adventure, accepting work that led to other work and built on itself. I could have been a PhD from Harvard, or a high school dropout, nobody knew either way. It was a fun experiment to see the assumptions people made about my level of education, and also to see how much other people rely on having been educated at a prestigious university for social capital. There has never been a situation in which I needed to prove that I have a degree to get work. People never ask. I was a journalist.

She makes a case for context over mere content:

When you’re learning something, it’s really important not only to understand the system and context in which that thing functions, but also to look ahead and imagine what the world would be like with or without this thing.

Ultimately, she sees learning as a continuum rather than a finite progression with a defined beginning and end, something Susan Sontag touched on when she proposed her radical model for remixing education. King observes:

My career now centers completely on science, art, imagination, and business. I’ve learned about these fields through years of immersion. I continue to live and work that way. Life changes constantly, and flexibility is the best path to keeping your skills and perspectives current. Formal education is valuable in the right context but it tends to be rigid, which can put students at a serious disadvantage when they graduate from academia and enter the world. Each person is at a different stage in the learning process. We need to all take a step back and see ourselves on a continuum of the learning experience.

Scientific researcher and Singularity Institute director Luke Muehlhauser prefaces his advice with an important disclaimer:

Skipping school or dropping out of school is obviously a decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis. You want to come out of your education with certain types of competencies and not a lot of debt. But it has never been easier to learn without school. There are so many resources to become a generally capable and smart person and there is no trouble doing it outside of the school system at all. Your education should amplify your curiosity by giving you the opportunity to pursue things that you actually care about, and learning outside of school is ideal for that. Try to learn as many things as possible and not be afraid to fail quickly and keep trying, or switch tracks. You’ll get experience and valuable lessons in a variety of fields, and you’ll occasionally stumble across things that you thought you were going to be bad at, and it turns out you’re pretty good at.

[…]

Most people assume you need a PhD to publish in peer-reviewed books and journals, but it’s not true—I’ve published in peer-reviewed venues without even a bachelor’s degree, because I learned the material well enough on my own to engage at the cutting edge of human knowledge.

Software engineer, artist, and University of Texas molecular biologist Zack Booth Simpson speaks to the value of cultivating what William Gibson has called “a personal micro-culture” and learning from the people with whom you surround yourself:

In a way, the best education you can get is just talking with people who are really smart and interested in things, and you can get that for the cost of lunch.

Artist Molly Crabapple, who inked this beautiful illustration of Salvador Dalí’s creative credo and live-sketched Susan Cain’s talk on the power of introverts, recalls how self-initiated reading shaped her life:

I was … a constant reader. At home, I lived next to this thrift store that sold paperbacks for 10¢ apiece so I would go and buy massive stacks of paperback books on everything. Everything from trashy 1970s romance novels to Plato. When I went to Europe, I brought with me every single book that I didn’t think I would read voluntarily, because I figured if I was on a bus ride, I would read them. So I read Plato and Dante’s Inferno, and all types of literature. I got my education on the bus.

Don’t Go Back to School is a stimulating read in its entirety and a fine addition to these essential books on education.

Public domain images via Flickr Commons

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10 MAY, 2013

From Abigail Adams to Anne Sexton to Maya Angelou, History’s Finest Letters of Motherly Advice

By:

“Live to the HILT!”

Last year, we celebrated Father’s Day with an omnibus of history’s finest letters of fatherly advice, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Jackson Pollock, and Neil Armstrong. Later adding to them was more timeless epistolary advice from notable dads like Ted Hughes, Sherwood Anderson, Richard Dawkins, and Charles Dickens.

There’s no need to wait until Mother’s Day to enjoy a similarly spirited selection of history’s finest motherly advice, spanning nearly half a millennium of poignant and prescient counsel from notable moms.

From Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters (public library), which also gave us the author’s surprising report card, comes this remarkable 1969 missive she penned aboard an airplane for her daughter Linda to revisit later in life:

Dear Linda,

I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her “I know, Mother, I know.” (Found a pen!) And I thought of you — someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.

And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won’t be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) — I want to say back.

1st I love you.

2. You never let me down.

3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 with a dead mother who I needed still. . . .

This is my message to the 40 year old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it — wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I’ve had a good life — I wrote unhappy — but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda — Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you 40 year old, Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are!—Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart — I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her — or she me! Silly Anne! So there!

XOXOXO
Mom

Anne Sexton

In Letter to My Daughter (public library), which also gave us her beautiful meditation on home and belonging, beloved author and reconstructionist Maya Angelou writes to the daughter she never had:

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.

Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.

Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.

Maya Angelou

Clare Boothe Luce was blond, athletic, and good-looking in an age when those attributes came with a set of expectations quite different from who she was. Ambitious and feisty, she emerged as a trailblazing media maven and went on to become the managing editor of Vanity Fair, a celebrated playwright, and a formidable congresswoman. In 1944, she became the first woman ever to deliver the keynote address at a national political convention. Her 1953 appointment as Ambassador to Italy made her the first female American ambassador to major post abroad. On November 24, 1942, Luce penned a letter to her 18-year-old daughter Ann, a sophomore at Stanford, found in Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children (public library) — the same wonderful anthology that gave us Sherwood Anderson’s timelessly poetic advice on the creative life. Amidst counsel on Ann’s first romantic relationship, Luce offers the following advice:

Don’t worry about your studies. When you want to do them well you will do them superbly but for the moment the main thing is to get what little happiness there is out of life in this wartorn world because “these are the good old days” now.

Clare Boothe Luce

The first American female poet, Anne Bradstreet also became the first American in history to have a book of poetry published when her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, printed a selection of her poems in 1650 against her will. The mother of eight children, her poems had been largely a private treat for her family and a great personal joy. In March of 1664, Bradstreet sent her second son, Simon, the following selection of “Meditations” on life, of which she’d go on to produce another seventy-three besides the four included here. The letter, featured in the 1897 tome The Poems of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672): Together with Her Prose Remains (public library), was found after Bradstreet’s death in 1672 at her home in Massachusetts.

For my deare Sonne Simon Bradstreet.

PARENTS perpetuate their lives in their posterity, and their maners in their imitation. Children do natureally rather follow the failings then the vertues of their predecessors, but I am perswaded better things of you. You once desired me to leave something for you in writeing that you might look upon when you should see me no more. I could think of nothing more fit for you, nor of more ease to my self, then these short meditations following. Such as they are I bequeath to you: small legacys are accepted by true friends, much more by duty full children. I have avoyded incroaching upon others conceptions, because I would leave you nothing but myne owne, though in value they fall short of all in this kinde, yet I persume they will be better prif’d by you for the Authors sake. The Lord bless you with grace heer, and crown you with glory heerafter, that I may meet you with rejoycing at that great day of appearing, which is the continuall prayer, of your affectionate mother,

A. B.

Meditations Divine and Morall.

I.

THERE is no object that we see; no action that we doe; no good that we inioy; no evil that we feele, or fear, but we may make some spirituall advantage of all: and he that makes such improvment is wise, as well as pious.

II.

MANY can speak well, but few can do well. We are better scholars in the Theory then the practique part, but he is a true Christian that is a proficient in both.

III.

YOUTH is the time of getting, middle age of improving, and old age of spending; a negligent youth is usually attended by an ignorant middle age, and both by an empty old age. He that hath nothing to seed on but vanity and lyes must needs lye down in the Bed of sorrow.

IV.

A SHIP that beares much saile, and little or no ballast, is easily overset; and that man, whose head hath great abilities, and his heart little or no grace, is in danger of foundering.

Anne Bradstreet

In January of 1780, amidst America’s War of Independence, Abigail Adams wrote to her twelve-year-old son, John Quincy Adams, urging him to follow his father, future American president John Adams, across the Atlantic to France in pursuit of a fine education. The letter, found in Noble Deeds of American Women: With Biographical Sketches of Some of the More Prominent (public domain), examines the foundation of character — a topic particularly fitting for the boy’s formative age, given it would be another four years until Adams would see her son again.

My dear Son

[…]

Some Author that I have met with compares a judicious traveler, to a river that increases its stream the farther it flows from its source, or to certain springs which running through rich veins of minerals improve their qualities as they pass along. It will be expected of you my son that as you are favourd with superiour advantages under the instructive Eye of a tender parent, that your improvements should bear some proportion to your advantages. Nothing is wanting with you, but attention, diligence and steady application. Nature has not been deficient.

These are times in which a Genious would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orater, if he had not been roused, kindled and enflamed by the Tyranny of Catiline, Millo, Verres and Mark Anthony. The Habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All History will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the Lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the Heart, then those qualities which would otherways lay dormant, wake into Life, and form the Character of the Hero and the Statesman.

[…]

The strict and inviolable regard you have ever paid to truth, gives me pleasing hopes that you will not swerve from her dictates, but add justice, fortitude, and every Manly Virtue which can adorn a good citizen, do Honor to your Country, and render your parents supreemly happy, particuliarly your ever affectionate Mother,

AA

Abigail Adams

In another letter found in Posterity and dated December 1, 1872 — nearly half a century before women were legally allowed to vote in America and two centuries before the letters of the second wave of feminism — social justice pioneer and women’s rights champion Elizabeth Cady Stanton gives her twenty-year-old daughter Margaret, at the time a student at Vassar, essential advice on independence as the root of happiness:

I am so glad, dearest, to know that you are happy. Now, improve every hour and every opportunity, and fit yourself for a good teacher or professor, so that you can have money of your own and not be obliged to depend on any man for every breath you draw. The helpless dependence of women generally makes them the narrow, discontented beings so many are.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Pair these timeless words with the letters of the women who ushered in the second wave of modern feminism, raising a generation of sons and daughters with an eye on true equality.

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10 MAY, 2013

Darwin’s Daily Routine

By:

“Darwin made a point of replying to every letter he received, even those from obvious fools or cranks.”

In between weighing the pros and cons of marriage, grumbling to his friends, and changing our understanding of human emotion, Charles Darwin spent a decade perfecting a radical scientific theory of how the world worked. In part because it demanded intense intellectual investment and in part because it challenged the accepted paradigms of the era enough to offend the public eye, Darwin needed a near-monkish environment to develop his framework of evolution. In 1842, he moved from London to the English countryside, where he would spend the next seventeen years working on The Origin of Species — a kind of intellectual endurance that required systematic, daily dedication of unfaltering rhythm.

Illustration from The Smithsonian's graphic biography of Darwin. Click image for more.

From Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (public library) — which previously gave us the routines of Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce — comes this curious chronology of Darwin’s day:

The first, and best, of his work periods began at 8:00 a.m., after Darwin had taken a short walk and had a solitary breakfast. Following ninety minutes of focused work in his study—disrupted only by occasional trips to the snuff jar that he kept on a table in the hallway—Darwin met his wife, Emma, in the drawing room to receive the day’s post. He read his letters, then lay on the sofa to hear Emma read the family letters aloud. When the letters were done, Emma would continue reading aloud, switching to whatever novel she and her husband were currently working their way through.

At 10:30 Darwin returned to his study and did more work until noon or a quarter after. He considered this the end of his workday, and would often remark in a satisfied voice, “I’ve done a good day’s work.”

[...]

Darwin made a point of replying to every letter he received, even those from obvious fools or cranks. If he failed to reply to a single letter, it weighed on his conscience and could even keep him up at night. The letter writing took him until about 3:00 in the afternoon, after which he went upstairs to his bedroom to rest, lying on the sofa with a cigarette while Emma continued to read from the novel-in-progress.

[...]

At 5:30, a half-hour of idleness in the drawing room preceded another period of rest and novel reading, and another cigarette, upstairs. Then he joined the family for dinner, although he did not join them in eating the meal; instead, he would have tea with an egg or a small piece of meat.

[...]

After two games of backgammon, he would read a scientific book and, just before bed, lie on the sofa and listen to Emma play the piano. He left the drawing room at about 10:00 and was in bed within a half-hour, although he generally had trouble getting to sleep and would often lie awake for hours, his mind working at some problem that he had failed to solve during the day.

Darwin's new study at Down House, engraved shortly after his death by Axel Haig. Image courtesy Darwin Online.

Pair with a graphic novel biography of Darwin, a fine addition to these favorite pieces of graphic nonfiction, and the daily routines of famous authors.

Quoted text excerpted from Daily Rituals by Mason Currey by permission of Knopf. Copyright © 2013 by Mason Currey.

Donating = Loving

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