Why We Must Scribble In Our Books — My Stoic Musings 024

“From Rusticus… I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly…

“From Rusticus… I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.7.3

Ryan Holiday reads hundreds of books in a year. And he re-reads them again and again. He scribbles on the pages. He highlights what he finds important. He writes in the margins of the pages his own thoughts about what he is reading. When most people read books, they are too precious about their books and treat them as something holy that must never be fouled by writing in them. But Ryan Holiday treats his books completely differently. Books are repositories of knowledge and we must use them that way. It is not the physical book itself that is precious but the words and ideas in the pages of the book. Richard Feynman always recommended that when we learn something new, we must understand it so deeply that we could teach it to someone else. In this world of superficiality where everyone claims to be a Guru of something, we must be careful about our own understanding of things. We must understand things deeply because only then can we truly be knowledgeable, instead of acting like we are knowledgeable. The Stoics also remind us to question the things that we hear and read. We should never simply accept opinions as facts just because they were spoken or written by someone famous or successful. Be skeptical. Be curious. Go to the depths of knowledge.


This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.