“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones,” said Joseph Joubert. At least that’s what The QI Book of Advanced Banter says, and it was one of the more enjoyable ones I read last year. It is a book of quotations so perhaps it’s not everyone’s cup of tea even though I do believe that reading outside pure technology and business still informs what you do in those spaces. I asked the Radar folks for the best books they read in 2010 and perhaps somewhere in this list of recommendations you’ll find something that tickles your fancy enough to push aside the old books.
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is a masterpiece. I don’t know how I missed it before this year. How can you not love a poem that says things like:
There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been….
Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.