How to Read Dangerously - Part I

I was with a friend who was notably hangry yesterday and she suggested getting something to eat. We were out running errands and I had already eaten my emergency packet of honey peanut butter so I wasn’t terribly hungry at this point. Still, the suggestion of In-N-Out Burger was enough to get me in the car. After 30 mins of trying to maintain an engaged conversation while simultaneously listening for our number being shouted across the room. We obtain the object of our salivation.

I received the holy In-N-Out double double.

The ceremonial carb cutting requires taking the top bun off the burger and leaving the bottom bun glued to the cheese. Because somehow doing this tricks my brain into thinking that I’m healthier than the other people in the room sitting here with me on plastic furniture.

I eat the burger, and the moment food hits tongue the unconscious parts of my body take over. As humans we possess some degree of control over our skeletal muscles, we control what we choose to eat, but the digestive system is out of our hands. Muscles in the stomach contract to move the burger through the digestive tract, then the body breaks it down into the parts that are useful and the parts that are waste.

This is the mentality you should have when you read.

People say you are what you eat. But who has ever told you, you are what you read?

Like food, we all have different reading preferences, there are books that taste good and books that are good for us. Food, energy, and nutrients are basic biological needs. But humans can’t live on bread alone. People need an identity, skills, and virtue. Books are a source of developing those values.

The ideas you consume through television, social media, lectures, and audiobooks provide the fundamental nutrients of your mind and the ideas that build your character. TV is designed to be passive, social media is reactive, and reading is proactive. Reading prepares you for life. TV is a sure way to waste your life, and social media is a tool to distract yourself from it.

Reading rewires the parts of the brain that are responsable for language, while TV thins your frontal lobe and reduces your capacity for it. That being said, the relative benefit of books over television doesn’t mean that all books are created equally. As there is an obvious difference between listening to a Joe Rogan Podcast and watching the Jersey Shore.

I wasn’t hungry when I indulged in that momentary weakness of the In-N-Out burger, but I’m hungry now. We’re all hungry for something more than junk food values.

We live in a junk food nation. We’ve built a culture of distraction, on top of a fragmented history. If you are going to choose a healthy life, that of financial independence, of a self-created identity, and the capacity for creativity you have to prepare for it.

It is the most valuable skill in the world to know how to read dangerously, a power that should not be taken lightly. It is too easy to read one book by Ayn Rand or Karl Marx and think you understand the entire world. Reading dangerously is not for a weak mind; it’s for the courageous mind in training. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Don’t read books because they’re popular or because they were pushed in front of you. Read books that are dangerous.

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

Oscar Wilde

The Dangerous Reading Challenge:

  1. Read the books of people you admire, learn their arguments, then critique them.
    • Knock your heroes off their pedestal and compete with them as an equal.
  2. Read the people you hate and find the weakness in their ideology.
  3. Read the most dangerous books you can find, confront evil, and elevate to the status of the hero.

Politically Incorrect Disclaimer: If you think reading a book is an endorsement you are not ready for the Dangerous Reading challenge. “You are what you read,” does not mean reading Karl Marx transforms you into a memeber of the proletariat class, any more than eating a steak turns you into a cow.

These are the books I’ve invested in. Make your own list, and share it.


  • Demons, by Fyodor Dostoevsky



Jordan Peterson is responsible for my Carl Jung phase.



The French Revloution: Because I’m interested in better understanding how Nietzsche’s “death of God” and the notion of human rights came out of this time period.



Western Civilization

Selections from The Most Destructive Books

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.

Carl Jung

Because it’s coming, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson.