Sowell on book reviews

Over the years, I have come to find writing book reviews even more distasteful than reading them. Part of this is my own fault, for being one of those old-fashioned holdouts who still believes that you should actually read the book before reviewing it.

Sometimes I am only into the first 20 pages of a 500-page book when it becomes painfully clear that this one is a real dog. The rest of the ordeal is like crossing the Sahara Desert—except that often there are no oases. True, the reviewer gets to slaughter the author in print at the end of it all, but this merely appeases the desire for revenge, which only real blood would satisfy.

—Thomas Sowell, ‘Some Thoughts about Writing’

Sowell on editors

If there is any rhyme or reason to the way editing varies from one editor to another, it seems to be this: The less the editor has written under his own name, the more he wants to write under someone else’s name.

—Thomas Sowell, ‘Some Thoughts about Writing’

Thomas Sowell on writing methods

My own writing practices are the direct opposite of that followed by these prolific and renowned writers. I write only when I have something to say.

—Thomas Sowell, ‘Some Thoughts about Writing’

The quality of not thinking

When people do not stop and think through certain issues, it does not matter whether those people are geniuses or morons, because the quality of the thinking that they would have done is a moot point.

—Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics (4th ed.)

One definition of knowledge

The way the word knowledge is used by many intellectuals often arbitrarily limits what verified information is to be considered knowledge. This arbitrary limitation of the scope of the word was expressed in a parody verse about Benjamin Jowett, master of Balliol College at Oxford University:

First come I; my name is Jowett.
There’s no knowledge but I know it.
I am master of this college:
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

—Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society

(The ‘parody verse’ is generally attributed to Henry Beeching. I have here substituted the original for Sowell’s paraphrase, because the original scans better.)

Johnny can’t

The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.

—Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell on honesty

When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.

—Thomas Sowell