From Tolstoy to Rand to Rowling

When two great readers get together to talk abut books and the practice of reading, it’s a roller-coaster ride of recommendations. And that’s just the beginning of what you’ll get from listening to this episode. EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes Tyler Cowen back to the show for this rollicking celebration of readers and reading. How do Roberts and Cowen choose what to read, and how do they actually read once they’ve chosen?

Roberts says late in the conversation that he misses his youth when he would curl up with a good book for a whole day. When’s the last time you did that? (We hope it was recently!) How do you choose, and what books have been added to your stack since listening to this episode? As always, we’d love to hear from you.



1- What are some of the “rules for reading” Roberts and Cowen recommend? What about rules for acquiring books? (We hesitate to even ask this, but in light of Roberts’s admission about his recent move, how do you decide what books to get rid of?)


2- Why does Cowen suggest people should re-read (2-5 times!!!) the classics? (He mentions Plato, Tocqueville, and Adam Smith as examples.) How might books become different upon subsequent readings? Are there any books you have read more than once cover-to-cover? What are they, and why did you reread? Why do longer books (from Tolstoy to Rand to Rowling) seem to have more influence through history?


3- Cowen asks Roberts, “What is the thing you would wish to tell your listeners that you feel you know about books or how to read that maybe they don’t.” How does Roberts answer? How does Cowen? Which piece of advice seems most useful to you, and why?


4- Roberts wonders aloud whether we are living today during the golden age or witnessing the death of books. How would you respond?


5- Is there a book that has changed your life? What was it (or are they) and how?