(1) Black Lives Matter: David Blight's Open Yale History course on the American Civil War has nothing directly to do with last summer's protests, but it helped put them in historical perspective and--more than anything else I've read in the last two years--it explained why the protests matter. Sometimes the best way to learn about the present is to study the past.
(2) Covid-19: Judging from the place of privilege it occupies in my mental furniture, Alan Jacobs's musings on the problem of "scale" are among the most significant I've read on Covid-19. They are developed in detail in Alan's essay in the Hedgehog Review, though I expect I first encountered it on his blog, which I read assiduously, and you should too.
(3) On Reading: The main thrust of Alastair Fowler's fascinating essay, "C. S. Lewis: Supervisor" (available in full here and here), is to define education as reading--and remembering what you read. A few excerpts:
"The flow of Lewis’s writing and speaking had much to do with this remarkable memory. .... It was not principally memoria ad verba but rather ad res – memory of the substance, aimed at grasp of contents through their structure. ... Lewis’s innate memorial powers were developed by education, first at school and then with his private tutor William Kirkpatrick. At Oxford they were strengthened by having to depend on the Bodleian Library rather than on his own books. .... Later ... his reading habits had become ingrained, and he continued to rely on memory. Often he used books almost in the medieval way, as memory prompts. Literary memory depends on use: it must be frequently refreshed. .... Lewis had almost total recall of words (he remembered new vocabulary after once looking it up in the dictionary), yet he had to go over texts frequently – sometimes immediately before a tutorial. Consequently his reading and re-reading were astonishingly copious. Reading habits, of course, were different in the fifties; I used then to read ten hours a day. Lewis, who read far faster, read with surer grasp, and read whenever commitments allowed – read even at mealtimes – read prodigiously."
Alan Jacobs explains why this matters:
"[A] book becomes more fully itself when we see both how it resembles and how is differs from other books; one discipline of study takes on its proper hues only when we see its relations to other disciplines that stand close to it or very far away. My repertoire of analogies is my toolbox, or my console of instruments, by which I comprehend and navigate the world. It can’t be too large; every addition helps, at least a bit."
Which reminds me, there are some books I should be reading ....
*Not that impressing anyone is the point. ... right?