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Friday, May 7, 2021

A writer reveals that she never reads books

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In an essay on the website Medium, author Claire Messud, a staff writer for The New Yorker, shared the secret to a successful career in writing: She never read a book.

Writing, Messud wrote, has been “an ill-advised hobby,” while reading “is ingrained in my DNA.”

“My basic rule is: Until I am compelled by something, I won’t read it,” she continued. “It used to work for me, but I realize now that, sadly, it’s neither healthy nor wise to preserve a career through such self-protective measures.”

Plus, “I don’t think I’m a particularly good reader.”

Messud began her essay by recalling her childhood friendship with Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president and a prominent dissident. “He would take me to the secret police station, where he would calmly share his opinion on the newest books he was reading,” she wrote. “For six hours. Alone.”

She recalled being “somewhat incensed,” but also taken with the socialist rebel’s “budding list of ideas.” Afterward, she wrote, Havel “cozied up with his younger self” and began to take her seriously as a journalist.

Read the full essay here.

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