lifelong learning


Show Notes and Outline

Why should we want to be lifelong learners?

  • It cultivates virtue, curiosity, and empathy.
  • It’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself and those around you.
  • It reassures us we are not alone!
  • It strengthens our ability to think for ourselves amid a world of chaos and distraction.

Neil Postman is a critic of modern culture with its endless quest for entertainment and distraction.  He makes a compelling case for finding ways to swim against the grain and continue reading and learning.

He says that George Orwell taught us to fear the tyranny from without with his chilling, dark vision in the book 1984.  He claimed that the roots of liberal democracy would be overcome by an external force and terror.    But 1984 came and went and our way of life had survived.  Neil Postman  points out that perhaps we had forgotten another,  no-less chilling,  prediction by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.  Postman says, ” Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”  His book Amusing Ourselves to Death  is hard to read without seeing the writing on the wall.  We are being weakened by our constant desire for entertainment.

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”  In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.” (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death)

The statistics are pretty staggering.  The average American, over the age of 2, watches around 40 hours of  TV per week That’s a full time job.  And if I’m not guilty of the TV portion, then certainly my “screen time” is no less staggering.  We have shifted from an word centered to an image centered culture and the only way I know to protect my self and my family from the tyranny of constant entertainment is to instill in them (and myself) a love for the written word.  As Ray Bradbury says, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Books are powerful and life-changing, but they are demanding and require more from us than we’ve been accustomed to giving.  Developing a life-long habit of reading will not be easy and you will most certainly swim upstream in our culture to do it. But it’s worth it.  There is no better gift that you can give yourself and your children than the desire and ability to read great books.

How can we become lifelong learners?

Here’s a few tips on how to start.

  1. Start with Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.  I don’t know if I’ve ever read a more compelling book on the state of our current culture and its obsession with entertainment.  You will be inspired to turn off the TV and the computer and pick up a book.
  2. Begin a reading plan that is doable.  Commit to 15 minutes a day and do it at the start of your day.  I try to start and end my day with books, even if it’s only a few minutes.  When I first began a serious reading program, I followed Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had.  It gives suggestions on a reading plan, with  specific classic books, that all educated adults should read.
  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Reading is a serious, demanding endeavor.  It’s like exercise, but for your mind.  You won’t be able to run a marathon the first six months.  Start our slow, but keep going.  Consider starting a book club with a few like-minded folks. And remember, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”  (Mortimer Adler)
  4. I don’t agree that it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read.  It does.  A lifetime of romance novels will likely not change your life.  But, Plato and Homer and Faulkner and C.S. Lewis might.  Here’s some inspiration to get your started.  Also, try this list of the 10 Books Every Christian Should Read. And remember, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” (Oscar Wilde)
  5. Start a reading group (even if it’s just one other person) so you can discuss what you’re reading.  I also LOVE to listen to free lectures on books I’ve read or am reading.

There are countless lists of the must read books.  I decided to view as if I were gonna be stranded on a deserted island.  So, here’s the 25 books I would choose if I could only read 25 for the rest of my life.

25 Must Read Books

  1. Lutheran Study Bible
  2. The Odyssey, Homer
  3. The Aeneid, Virgil
  4. Mere Christianity , C.S. Lewis
  5. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  6. The Divine Comedy, Dante
  7. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  8. The Brothers KaramazovFyodor Dostoevsky
  9. Paradise Lost, John Milton
  10. Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
  11. Lilith, George MacDonald
  12. Candide, Voltaire
  13. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein
  14. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  15. Beloved, Tony Morrison
  16. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
  17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  18. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  19. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  20. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  21. That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis
  22. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  23. Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
  24. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
  25. Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

Links and Resources

This is the 2nd part of a 7 part series on creating a life you love.  You can listen to part 1 on Calling and Vocation and then tune in next week for part 3!



Now, it’s your turn!

I’d love to know how you incorporate reading and lifelong learning into your schedule?

What are the barriers for you?
What questions do you have?

What are a few titles that would make your top 25 books list?

(I know, I forgot poetry.  This list totally stressed me out!)

31 comments on “02: The Life You Love Manifesto|A Life of Learning [Podcast]”

  1. I read at the beginning and end of the day too. And every afternoon during my family’s one hour quiet time. I have found myself reading less after getting an iPhone two years ago.

    I find that going to the library regularly keeps me inspired in my reading. I love it when bloggers or IGers list their current reads…I immediately go reserve them on my library website.

    A few books that I love are Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson. I need to read Jayber Crow! I loved Hannah Coulter.

  2. Thanks…this is so interesting to me as a SAHM these last few years. I have taught AP English to high school students the last 16 years and getting them to sit and read is a job in itself. I think it has always been hard to communicate the benefit of reading until you get converted;) but this day and age full of quick fixes, short cuts, and the easy way out( and I would argue in every category of life…)has done our kids in. I also think people don’t want to sit still bc they are scared of what they may find and reading is a quiet, solitary pursuit. I could go on and on and on…but I will just thank you for encouraging folks to read. All we can do is model, encourage, and share our love of the most basic of human past times that has stood the test of time;) Porch sitting is reading’s BFF….Mandy

  3. I have to say that I love reading and so do my girls. Being in college right now, I have no extra time to read other than the assigned reading (which is a ton). Last semester, I took a Literature class which is taxing, but fascinating. I read things I had never read before which was great. Also, in our family, on holidays and vacations, we make a point to read and being active verses watching tv. Great post! Thanks 🙂

  4. Hi Edie,
    I am so enjoying your blog. Glad I happened upon it! In fact, your reading posts have inspired me to get back to my reading! Do you read what you can on your kindle or do you still prefer “the real thing” with actual books? I love books themselves. Maybe I’m an old soul?

    Anyway, thanks again and please keep up the great posts!

    Jamestown, NC

  5. I joined a book club on the radio. Moody radio’s Midday Connection book club with Rosie de Rosset has really expanded my reading list. (Cry, the Beloved Country and Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton, East of Eden, My Antonia by Willa Cather, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson to name a few.). The deadlines help me push past the distractions and keep reading a priority.

  6. Thank you for another thoughtful podcast, and for encouraging us to expand our hearts and minds. A book recently published titled The Shallows by Nicholas G. Carr, reports that the internet is changing our brain. I had noticed that since I had gotten my i pad that my reading had declined. It seemed that I could just not pay attention long enough to finish a book- especially fiction. I am now disciplining myself to read again and have thoroughly loved the last two books I have read. They are both historical fiction and touched me deeply. Although, they are not classics they are definitely worthy. One is The Aviator’s Wife, the story of Charles Lindbergh’s wife, and Orphan Train, based on the orphan trains that brought New York orphans to the Midwest in the 1930’s. Enjoy!

  7. Hi Edie,

    This is so timely once again! My 14 year old freshman daughter was beginning to read the Odyssey with her English class. We were so excited for her and I said I would love to read along. Well, her classmates complained so vehemently to the teacher, that he agreed to let them stop reading it! They replaced that project with reading individual books and my daughter was assigned a modern, poorly written book, way below her reading level and desire to read the classics. My husband and I were appalled. Our solution was to set up our summer reading plan with me reading the Odyssey aloud to her and her eleven-year-old sister. Yippee! Win-win.

    Love the pod-casts! I look forward to each one and my housekeeping in the kitchen where my Mac lives is greatly improved with each session! 🙂

  8. Yesterday I went along with my son’s 5th grade field trip to the library. We were given a tour of the teen sceen’ section of the library because of course if you are 11/entering 6th grade you get to move up and hang out with the teens. But I digress. The bulk of the time was spent showing them all the electronics. The wii, Xbox, ipads. All the rest of the day I struggled to articulate why this bothered me so much. I haven’t yet listened to the podcast, but its all the things you’ve written here in the outline. Even the library has fallen into the traps of the culture. I find that very sad.

  9. I love this post. I’m a high school English teacher who just last week had her students read the very Postman excerpt you have above. (We’d just wrapped up reading Brave New World). We had a fascinating discussion about how smartphones are the soma for modern life. We never have to feel bored or blue; we can always distract ourselves with the little rectangular device in our pockets, for good and for bad.

    Big yes to “Jane Eyre”! I’d add “Grapes of Wrath” to the reading list, too. “The Great Gatsby,” too.

  10. Thank you for this, Edie! I just finished listening (while multi-tasking as you suggested!) and then clicked on your hyperlink and ordered Postman’s book from Amazon. I hardly watch any tv, but spend way too much time in front of screens. I’ve already been convicted of this and have been trying to think of ways to cut out screen time. I’m currently reading Mere Christianity for the first time and loving it. Your podcast just encouraged me to carve out more time today for reading and less time for my smart phone 🙂

  11. I’m really enjoying your podcasts! I am looking forward to your post about what books you’re reading with your girls this summer. I want to read with my kids this summer because they love it when I read to them, but it’s hard to please all 3 (11 year old boy, 8 year old boy who thinks he’s 11, and 4 year old girl). So, I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

  12. Hi, I enjoyed your article in the Lutheran Witness Edie- I’m so glad “vocation” is being taught again!
    I also read The Well Educated Mind and have been rediscovering the classics- wonderful books!
    Hillsdale College (a private, conservative, highly recommended college) in Michigan offers an online course called Great Books 101-Ancient To Medieval. It’s a great course- The Iliad, The Odyssey, Inferno, ten great works in all, with lectures, study guide, and even a test if you want to take! They really help to understand these great works of literature. It’s free, however, donations gladly accepted.
    (I don’t have any affiliation, I should probably add)

  13. I am most definitely a life-long learner. It’s toward the top of the list of things we want to instill in our kids…

    Being a learner is a beautiful quality!

    I love to read…I go in and out of seasons where I’m totally committed to it. There have been years when I’ve read 15-20 books in a year and other years when I’ve only managed to get 5-10 under my belt. My soul feels rested when I’m reading faithfully.

    I miss my book club in Orlando…we read only classics or books about classical was glorious..those books teach you and urge you to ask deeper questions. I particularly loved Anne of Green Gables and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    I also read Postman’s book….very enlightening and challenging!

  14. This is the first podcast series I have ever listened to and I am really enjoying it! I downloaded the audio version of the Postman book and started listening to it while cleaning the kitchen tonight. I was so excited to see that I could slow the reading down 50% because I was having a hard time keeping up, which reinforced for me the fact that I need to bring my brain back from the dead!

  15. I LOVE to read, but the hardest thing for me is that I love to read in bed to wind up my day, while Dave wants to lay down and turn the lights off…….Propped up in bed is the most comfortable, least distracting place for me to read. I’m working on trying to get to bed earlier so that I can, but then he stays up later than he wants to because he doesn’t want to come to bed because he knows I’m reading…….ACK! Working on finding balance in our relationship with that! It’s been a tough one. (He’s not a reader)

  16. My list: Night by Elie Wiesel, The Grapes of Wrath, Game of Thrones series, Outlander series, Unbroken, anything by Kate Morton and Phillipa Gregory, Harrison Bergeron, Atlas Shrugged, Treasure Island, The Old Man and the Sea, and the series that made me the bibliophile I am today: Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Thanks to her books, I fell in love with reading and turned my hobby into a career of teaching literature to 9th graders.

  17. I’m really enjoying this and the challenge. I feel as though you are teaching us as your own personal “homeschooling” which I love. I’m new to podcasts, but loving having them on my phone now. Can you provide a list of podcasts that you regularly listen to? You may have done this before, but I can’t seem to find it. Thanks again for the posts!

  18. Enjoyed this podcast too…have to say that I think reading classic books also improves ones writing ability. The rich vocabulary and imagery certainly influenced my own writing. Have been lax in recent years though and read too many shallow quick reads…thanks for the challenge back to classic reading. Blessings.

  19. Love the second podcast, Edie! And ruh roh. There are still 9 books on that list I haven’t read. You reminded me that I want to re-read Candide, though. That was highly amusing to me back in college and want to see my take on it 24 years later!! Going to pick up Postman’s book too.
    Thanks, friend and Happy Summer!! xoxo
    (PS: re: read alouds – my kids LOVE that and PSS: CONGRATS on your upcoming book!!)

  20. This was very inspiring for me to read more. I had a head injury 4 years ago and I really haven’t been able to read since this happened to me. I love to read and I have been slowly trying to incorporate it back into my life, but it does get very frustrating for me. I will try to start slow and be patient. Thank you! xo

  21. Thank you so much for this! It has helped to inspire and encourage me – mostly to get my kids to read more (I work at a library for a bible college – my reading list is really long! and we get new books in all the time!). Thanks for all your great teaching!
    I do have one caution. It is very important to make sure we have silence in our lives – time when we are not filling our minds – even if they are good things. We need time to pray and listen to God throughout the day. Carpool wait times, etc. are great times for this. We need silence, resting time for our brains and for Jesus to speak.
    I have thanked God for you over and over. Has used you and this blog in numerous ways in my life. More than you may immagine. Thank you so much!

  22. I loved… LOVED this podcast.

    This is my list:

    Books to read
    Walden – Henry David Thoreau
    Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
    One True Thing – Anna Quindlen
    You Learn By Living – Eleanor Roosevelt

    • I know, I want to do it again so bad!! It was so hard to keep up last time b/c I would was SO crazy about wanting to make it good that I try to study way too much for it. Let me think on it.

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