Rationality by Steven Pinker: New Read

“Rationality: What it is, Why it is Scarce, Why it Matters” by Steven Pinker is my new read of the week and how I got it in my hot little hands is story I have to tell! Get a cup of coffee or a snack. It’s a rambling one!

How many times have I listened to a podcast interview with an author or read an article that suggested a book, jot said book down on my wish list, and then maybe get around to buying and reading it years later, forgetting why I had put it on my list in the first place? At least twice, if not a million times.

I usually love reading the book but can’t for the life of me remember where I heard about it so I get bummed out that I can’t trace it back and thank whoever it was that brought it to my attention. So sad.

These days I have a new system that seems to be working. A card file TBR list! When I get a recommendation, I add it to my Amazon wish list AND write it down on a card with the date and the place I heard about it, maybe a sentence about why I wanted to read it. When I buy a book, I can look it up in that card file and use that info to start a blog post when I start reading it.

This time though was a little different.

I recently added Quillette to my online reading list and found out a few days ago that they also have a podcast. Yay! A new one to add to my playlist! On my way into the city this week, I clicked it open and the latest interview was with Steven Pinker, so I immediately started playing it.

I’ve heard him interviewed before and really enjoyed what he had to say, so I was excited to hear this and I was not disappointed. I took few notes during my drive/listening time. There was so much going on that I couldn’t translate anything into a few simple words I could jot down blindly while I drive. I decided to listen as closely as I could and planned on putting his new book on my wish list when I got home.

Then something amazing happened. I decided to browse Barnes & Noble while I was in the city. I swore I would stop buying books there. I have nothing against the store and, yes, I know “support the brick-and-mortar stores,” but I buy A LOT of books and I can’t afford to pay 30% more for each one. I’m sorry, you guys. Amazon is cheaper and always has the books that I’m looking for. Nothing beats browsing a physical store, but I try to keep my book browsing to used bookstores these days.

But there I was across the street from Barnes & Noble, eating lunch with a friend, just yearning towards getting a cup of coffee and walking among friends, so I went in. What can a girl do?

I came out $84 dollars poorer but only FOUR books richer. THAT’S why I don’t go in there!

Get to your point, Michelle!

Oh, yes! My point!

Well, Steven Pinker was being interviewed because he has a new book, “Rationality,” out, of course. And there it was right at the front of the store. Guess who did a little dance of glee right then and there, to the embarrassment of my poor friend who now thinks I’m more insane than they thought? That’s right! This girl! The best part is that I had just finished a book that morning and was on the hunt for new read.

Yes, I have three shelves full of TBR books at home, but this was FATE people!

I’m loving the book so far, just as I thought I would. His language is complicated (uses long sentences and BIG words), so I’m reading slower than usual, looking up words I don’t know, but it’s worth the effort.

Here’s my first quote.

“A major theme of this book is that none of us, thinking alone, is rational enough to consistently come to sound conclusions; rationality emerges from a community of reasoners who spot each other’s fallacies.”

I’m not the poster child for “logical” or “rational” most of the time. Ask anyone that knows me. I’m naturally reactionary, leaping from one craziness to another in hopes of landing somewhere solid enough to rest a moment. I blame it on the Viking blood and red hair.

Over the years, through meditation and study, I have learned some new tricks to lengthening that time between stimulus and response, but it’s a slow process. There is a lifetime of conditioning to overcome. The progress is there though! Even my children have commented on it.

At the moment, I’m sixty-six pages in and very excited. He’s great at pointing out fallacies but not making the reader feel stupid, much like my sons, so I’m enjoying the anecdotes leading up to how we can become more rational. A BIG plus for this book is that it’s something my son and husband are interested in, so I get to explain what I read in all the detail I want without them trying to back away slowly.

Have you read any of Steven Pinker’s books? Are you going to read “Rationality?” I’d love to hear your thoughts! Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get to read some of my thoughts about as I read.


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