Saturday, February 25, 2012

Five best books on bad habits

Emrys Westacott is a Professor of Philosophy at Alfred University.

His latest book is The Virtues of Our Vices: A Modest Defense of Gossip, Rudeness, and Other Bad Habits.

One of his five best books about bad habits, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
by Ivan Goncharov (1859)

Goncharov's masterpiece has been translated into English six times yet remains relatively obscure outside Russia. The protagonist, a young nobleman named Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, exemplifies an entire family of bad habits: lethargy, indolence, procrastination, indecisiveness, apathy, escapism, resistance to change, and a refusal to take responsibility or give life a direction. Oblomovshchina is now a Russian word that means something like Oblomov syndrome—a debilitating lack of get up and go. The strange thing is that, for all his many and obvious failings, Oblomov is rather lovable. Maybe that's because most of us are familiar with the feeling, upon waking, that we'd like to stay in bed and let the busy world leave us alone in our comfortable hobbit holes. Oblomov also represents a leisured way of life that was endangered even in the mid-19th century by looming modernity. The trend was welcome insofar as that way of life was based on parasitism and exploitation, but it also has a sad aspect. As Oblomov might have attested, a lack of ambition allows you to enjoy simple things and savor the passing moment.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov.

Learn about Westacott's five top books on philosophy & everyday living.

See: The Page 99 Test: Emrys Westacott's The Virtues of Our Vices.

--Marshal Zeringue