Have you forgotten how to read?


Online reading is different than experience than reading a book.

For one, the digital experience is stickier because of its dopamine-hitting bells and whistles. We are constantly shifting between articles, apps, and text messages, hijacked by the latest gaze of entertainment. It’s the equivalent of flipping TV channels.

Writes Canadian author and journalist Michael Harris:

“Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.”

Since physical books lack the immediate stimuli, reading requires an entirely different mindset. It enforces focus and patience. Said Harris: “I do think old, book-oriented styles of reading opened the world to me – by closing it. And new, screen-oriented styles of reading seem to have the opposite effect: They close the world to me, by opening it.”

Screens are for short-term readers; book heads play the long-game. The latter know that great moments in novels are as scarce a goal in a soccer game, but they can also be more exciting.

Books test our attentiveness while creating anticipation. Perhaps they are the only escape we have left from our distracted world. Constricted to one tangible novel of a screen, a paperback can help recalibrate the imagination and slow down time.

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The self promotion dilemma

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By all means, show your work. The internet is a great place to get feedback and build up your confidence. Just keep in mind, it’s all about you until it isn’t.

“It’s a total catch-22: if you don’t self-promote, you won’t be known to those who hold the keys to whatever kingdom you’re interested in unlocking. If you do self-promote, you might catch the gatekeepers’ attention, but pray they don’t read your self-promotion as needy or navel-gazing. Pray you don’t violate some unwritten code of class conduct or seem too eager. You have to appear to have a lot to offer without appearing to need anyone to take it. What a strange psychic and social predicament we’ve put ourselves in.”

Read The Case for Self-Promotion

The simple technique that boosts your short and long-term memory

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Want to remember more of what you read? Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest. No phones, no distractions, just pure boredom, a quiet room and dimmed lights.

Why do we need to reduce interference?

It takes longer for new information to encode and simply consuming more or squandering time on social media will make it even hard to remember.

When we let the mind wander, the brain works backward and connects the dots, cementing those memories that were previously unlinked.

So stop chasing extra stimulation and let your brain rest in its own presence. Your memory will thank you for it.

Read An effortless way to improve your memory



Coping with the maelstrom of news


It’s hard enough to cultivate awareness. We drown in our own ineptitude to sort and curate the noise. Spiralling out of control, we gravitate to the bite-sized headline.

Lacking interest in context, we are too impatient to go deeper. Like fast food, we consume information and move on, having forgotten what crap we engulfed.

The internet can make your brain swell so big that it squeezes out the need for interpretation. Nothing sticks nor lasts longer than a Twitter trend. Consuming less and understanding more seems to be the only antidote.

A return to trusted sources

In a time of chaos, those that provide structure and synthesis re-emerge. Trusted publications like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal become bulwarks of fact-checked news where we can believe what we read. Meanwhile, confidence in social media sources is sinking.

We can’t call ‘fake news’ to everything we disagree with. Such criticism undermines the credibility of opposing viewpoints that help weed out bias. Curation is still human and analytical; beware the bots.


Low brain activities

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  • TV
  • YouTube
  • Social media

People enjoy low brain activities because it gives them the option to unthink. Whether it’s movies or endless Instagram scrolling, the images are there telling us what to think.

Reading or listening to music, on the other hand, may take your mind places. As Ray Bradbury once put it, books create a ‘theater inside your head.’

When you pursue the answers out of passiveness, the mind takes a seat. Idleness is ok in moderation.

No one’s waiting for you to get off the couch and exercise your imagination. The door to exceptional wonder is open at all times.

Applying the facts

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They once said that you could increase your wealth just by reading The Economist. What they didn’t say was that you still needed to apply what you learned to real life.

Gobbling facts increase your knowledge and at the same time, deaden your ability to think for yourself.

You can make a living off of other people’s opinions, but you’re more likely to be remembered if you can originate something on your own.

Knowledge multiplies in power when it’s chewed over multiple times, actuated, and then retested.

Support the blog…

I spend hours each day digging the web for interesting gems and remixing them here. If you enjoy reading wellsbaum.blog, please consider becoming a patron or making a donation. You can also contribute as little as $1 below with just a couple clicks. Thank you.

Make a one-time donation

Contributing to the blog would help me immensely. For every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.


Ray Bradbury: Reading creates a ‘theater inside your head’

A book triggers the imagination. A movie tells all.

A book can change your life. A film can change your perception, but only momentarily.

Reading creates a theater inside your ahead.

When it comes to reading versus watching a screen, it’s all about mind control. You can either make your own mental movie or acquiesce to the images fed on a wall. Said Ray Bradbury in an interview with Bradbury scholar Sam Weller:

It’s different because when you read it, you’re creating it in your own theater inside your head. But a film is total realism. You can’t change it, it’s right there, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can change a book in your mind. Every book is like Japanese flowers that go into your head and they sink down through the water inside your head, and then open out. The difference between books and film is books are unreality. They open up inside the head. They become yours. They’re more personal. Films are immediate and insistent. They’re like a bully. They bully you with their brilliance and you can’t turn away from them. Later you may, in remembrance, change them, but you can’t have the immediate thing that the book does where it fantasizes in the head. After all, it’s only print, it doesn’t mean anything. You have to learn at a certain age how to read those symbols and turn them into paper flowers that open in the mind. A film makes you think you know everything — you don’t. You can’t escape film.

Read an excerpt from Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews

Newsletter: ‘Find the torture you’re comfortable with’

Harper’s: July Edward Penfield (1866–1925): The MET

web gems


Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination

Procrastination is the purest form of idleness. Our brain’s neurons ultimately dictate what we decide to do. “Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” writes David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

We are stuck between thinking and action, for which we have little choice but to finish what we conjure up in our minds or actualize in real life. “The procrastinator is both contemplator and man of action, which is the worst thing to be, and which is tearing him apart.” Humanities professor and author Costica Bradatan explains why procrastination is more than doing nothing.



From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps

One of the oldest surviving maps (the Babylonian Map of the World) is “about the size and shape of an early iPhone.” While maps continue to guide us, they also exploited to drive conquest, gentrification, taxes, and voting polls.also have always lied. To quote the author Mark Monmonier of How to Lie With Map, “No map entirely tells the truth. There’s always some distortion, some point of view.”



How to Live With Critics (Whether You’re an Artist or the President)

Criticism is democratic, integral to an informed democracy. Argues literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch: “Everyone brings his or her own values and standards to the work of judging. This means that it is also, essentially, democratic. No canon of taste or critical authority can compel people to like what they don’t like.”



Schedule Nothing

“We like lists because we don’t want to die,” said Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. But in the age of digital distraction, we make records of things we’ll simply never complete. This cartoon explains why.




Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: ‘The End of Advertising’

“Devoid of advertising, television was elevated to arguably the world’s most relevant mass art form.” Former advertising executive Andrew Essex tells the story about the dual nature of today’s ads, following the example of Bayer which developed both aspirin and heroin in 1898.


quote of the week

“Your blessing in life is when you find the torture you’re comfortable with.”

Jerry Seinfeld

digging in the crates

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  1. Laurence Guy – Wichita Falls
  2. Laurence Guy – Drum Is A Woman (feat. Steve Spacek)
  3. Rothadam – I Was Born To Be A Rebel
  4. Bruce – Before You Sleep
  5. Sudan Archives – Come Meh Way


I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing it here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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Taking an inner evaluation


Photo by Wells Baum


We communicate through smartphones incessantly because we can’t stand the thought of talking to ourselves. We reserve all our inner chatter for an outer narrative.  Technology critic Sven Birkerts wrote in his 1994 book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age:

Everything in contemporary society discourages interiority. More and more of our exchanges take place via circuits, and in their very nature those interactions are such as to keep us hovering in the virtual now, a place away from ourselves.

On top of this, we hire and create our own bots to inflate our ego. The President is perhaps the most guilty of this.

Social media is a chaotic popularity contest where we forfeit authenticity and opt instead for the curated life. We keep our ailments offline, with exception to Google where we always admit our fears. Anyone who shares anything is considered an extrovert by default.

Anyone who shares anything online is viewed as an extrovert by default. In fact, inwardness is the impetus for even more sharing. We replace loneliness with tweets and Instagrams to get others to confirm that we exist.

The second we put the phone away boredom and loneliness strike us hard. The best we can do is embrace these moments to remind what was, a knowledge of self.


One page at a time

Reading a book, preferably a physical one, is a good way to get your attention back.

The problem in reading on smartphones is distractibility. You’re a notification away from checking Instagram, email, or a text.

If you’re going to read on a digital device, make it a Kindle. Its lack of functionality — just try web browsing on it — is its best feature.

Reading is an escape from the endless buzz of the digital world. It builds focus. In today’s world, single-tasking is more important than ever.

Things fall apart


The default state of humanity is to do nothing but compete. The world is both territorial and disorderly.

‘Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial.’ It takes energy to turn individuals into niches that make peace. It’s even harder to sustain it. Things collapse when they don’t cooperate, a psychological practice just as much as a scientific one.

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”

Carl Jung

More things go wrong than right, especially when we stop trying to keep them all together. The only way to decrease entropy is to apply some communal effort.

Read The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

Keep them guessing

What does it all mean? (Image via James Douglas)

They say write to be understood. But what’s the point in spelling it all out?

It doesn’t hurt to make an obscure reference here and there to keep the reader guessing. Said author Jonathan Franzen in lunch with the Financial Times:

“I think you have to have a few things that you have to kind of chew on to get.”

When you first listen to a new Radiohead song, something about it sounds off. But after a few listens, the sounds in between become just as important as Thom Yorke’s lyrics. Nothing makes sense, but the emotional tug works.

It shouldn’t be the author or musicians goal to demystify everything. The maker is often still figuring it out himself, going against their own interpretation.

Reading into book statistics 


Back in the 1830s, ten thousand people bought Harriet Martineau’s book Illustrations of Political Economy. It’s a remarkable statistic that one hundred and forty thousand read it. Each family owned a copy and passed it around.

Each of those one hundred forty thousand readers in 1950 went on to own their own copy. Fast-forward to today and one copy of the book can sell that many times over.

But despite infinite shelf-space, fewer people are reading novels. Our attention clings to news with little substance. As a result, we fatten our minds with misinformation that has no utility. Instead, its serves as fodder for banter within our worlds of influence.

Technology eases distribution, yet it doesn’t guarantee people will read in depth.

“We’re spending ten times as much time with a device, and one-tenth as much time reading a book.” — Seth Godin