Do we need only Smart Brevity? Or, do we need some deep dives in a Smart Brevity world? – A case for the occasional deep dive!

• Here’s a question:

What if we live in such a short brevity world that it is hurting our capacity to think deeply?

• Background:

Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of the book Smart Brevity.  (Read my “short” blog post here).  I liked the book.  I agreed with it.

And then…and yet…

But, today, I read this article by Ross Douthat in the New York Times: I’m What’s Wrong with the Humanities.

In it, Mr. Douthat refers to another article dealing with the same issue – an article he admits he did not read thoroughly, at first, which is part of the problem – and then, he acknowledged that he does not read the great novels like he should; like he once did.

• My thinking:

Though my academic work, and my personal reading, have never included enough time in the great novels, I have read nonfiction, philosophy and rhetoric pretty seriously.

For 25 years, I have presented synopses of business books, and books on issues of social justice.

I read these books quite thoroughly.  And, my synopses are not brief.  My synopsis for the book Smart Brevity was not brief:  it lasted just over 30 minutes.  (I record them; and see the actual time).

• So…

Maybe I am simply trying to justify my long presentations, my use of what some would consider way too many words.  But…

For my synopses, I prepare multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handouts.  They are 9-12 pages.  They include quite a few pages of the “best of Randy’s highlighted passages” from the books.  When I make my presentation, I read extensively, directly, from the handout (every participant has a copy; a physical copy).  I read a number of the highlighted passages, almost like a book reading.  Then I present from the rest of my prepared synopsis handout.

People tell me that they really do get the essence of the books I present.  Even when they have read the book on their own, they thank me for what they learned in my synopsis presentation; what they had not quite grasped in their own reading.

If you attend my First Friday Book Synopsis event, you will hear two full synopsis presentations; each about 25 minutes, or so.  In other words, a pretty deep dive in a smart brevity world.

• Deep dive; read a book in its entirety!

Now, I may be fooling myself.  But I might say to Mr. Douthat that the need is not to read the great novels thoroughly, though that would be a good thing indeed.  Maybe the need is to read any kind of book thoroughly.  To read with a deep dive; to focus your thinking; to learn from and argue with the book – the entire book; the book in its entirety – in the way that only a thorough reading makes possible.

Of course my synopses are not as good as reading the book for yourself; not as thorough, not as deep…  But, they are not nothing.  Our monthly sessions provide a rare concentrated moment of something close to depth in our too-busy, too-distracted, too-brief world.

Maybe we all need to take a deep dive in a smart brevity era.

so many books; so little time

Read more books!

• What are you doing to tackle such a need?

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