Book Review: "Daily Rituals" by Mason Currey

This is an interesting book, worth a casual recommendation, although it will by no means change your life.

The author read biographies and news clippings of hundreds of artists and intellectuals, mostly writers, and distills them into the basic habits that each of them pursued on a daily basis.

Upon reading this book, I had hoped to identify a distinct pattern that all these great individuals demonstrated and that I could incorporate into my own routine, but to my disappointment there was great disparity among them.

The book recounts what time of day the writers woke up and went to sleep, how much they wrote and where, what they ate and drank, including drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and amphetamines. Perhaps I should not have been too surprised that many of these individuals were unhealthy and driven to extremes.

I did glean something very useful from this book, which was William James’ take on habit, one of his favorite subjects. He advocated that we spend a certain portion of our lives on automatic, which he believed would free the mind for higher purposes.

In other words, if your routines are not structured, if you spend a large portion of your of your day contemplating what you are going to eat and what clothes you are going to wear, then how much time will you really have for creative and intellectual purposes?