We Learn Nothing
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

We Learn Nothing

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  907 ratings  ·  184 reviews
In We Learn Nothing, satirical cartoonist Tim Kreider turns his funny, brutally honest eye to the dark truths of the human condition, asking big questions about human-sized problems: What if you survive a brush with death and it doesn’t change you? Why do we fall in love with people we don’t even like? What do you do when a friend becomes obsessed with a political movement...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Free Press
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about We Learn Nothing, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about We Learn Nothing

Steal Like an Artist by Austin KleonShow Your Work! by Austin KleonNewspaper Blackout by Austin KleonRework by Jason FriedWe Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider
Show Your Work reading list!
5th out of 19 books — 9 voters
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOutliers by Malcolm GladwellThe Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
Radiolab Suggested Readings
53rd out of 173 books — 175 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Cheryl
"Fourteen years ago, I was stabbed in the throat. This is kind of a long story and less interesting than it sounds....After my unsuccessful murder I wasn't unhappy for an entire year."
This first essay, Reprieve, is a short reflection on how his outlook on life changed afterward. His first year was a feeling of euphoric escape from death, but this becomes submerged by the everydayness of life. That one was my favourite.
Family relationships, friendships with current friends, defriended friends, lo...more
Kirsti
I was asking myself, Who is Tim Kreider, and why did I order this book? Then I read the beginning of the first essay, "Reprieve": "Fourteen years ago, I was stabbed in the throat. This is kind of a long story and less interesting than it sounds. . . . After my unsuccessful murder I wasn't unhappy for an entire year."

And I thought, Oh yeah, THIS guy!

Here is what else Mr. Kreider had to say in essays about politics, friendship, "outrage porn," human fallibility, and discovering in his early 40s th...more
Heidi
Fabulously irreverent...
“Most of my married friends now have children, the rewards of which appear to be exclusively intangible and, like the mysteries of some gnostic sect, incommunicable to outsiders. In fact it seems from the outside as if these people have joined a dubious cult: they claim to be much happier and more fulfilled than ever before, even though they live in conditions of appalling filth and degradation, deprived of the most basic freedoms and dignity, and owe unquestioning obedie...more
Margie
Dec 31, 2012 Margie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Margie by: Nancy
Sister Nancy gave me a copy of Nancy Pearl's review along with this book for Christmas. The review sounded so good that although I was still mid-Plutocrats I thought I'd read one of these essays and then get back to my "real" reading.

I read it straight through.

The joy of this book is, in part, that the topics into which Kreider delves are largely mundane and easy to relate to. He takes events and experiences which are remarkable (like being stabbed in the neck, meeting his half-sisters when he...more
Kerri Anne Stebbins
Some of these were really good: interesting and thought-provoking and discussion-inducing. Some of them were immature and uninteresting, and read like weak arguments made by a seemingly insecure man.



[Three stars for thoughtful insights amidst shallow word fights.]
Vaidya
First came across Tim Kreider's writing through the NYTimes blog post: The Referendum. I've usually followed his blog posts accidentally. The really good ones that stayed in my mind longer turned out to be by him (I barely notice the author's name most times).

'We learn nothing' is a superb collection of essays. He writes mostly about things that are common, that we observe and experience in our lives. Parents growing old, 'defriending', the eternal seeking of happiness, different kinds of frien...more
Paula Johnson
I found Tim Kreider through his NY Times essay on busyness, which was just perfect. I did a little digging around the web, found his cartoons, and thought: "Oh, Wow. This guy is way to the left of me politically. And he seems rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth angry, to boot." I almost didn't buy the book, expecting a screed. And yet, that essay . . .

So I took the plunge and I'm so glad I did. The essays are funny and sad at the same time, and in the best way possible. Many of them have to deal with t...more
Paul
Awash on the great social, political and scientific tides of the last three decades, Kreider's essays remain deeply personal. Relationships trump all "larger" issues and Kreider explores his own with lovers, friends, and family in unsparing clear-eyed detail leavened by a dose of self-deprecating humor. How does one deal with broken love affairs? No-good friends? A psychotic criminal uncle? A friend who changes gender? A dying mother? A birth family discovered in middle age? Kreider deconstructs...more
Hilary
Copy received through Goodreads’ First Reads program.

Although autobiographical essays often fall prey to one of several problems - bad writing, very limited life experience (tell me more about your freshman writing seminar, 22-year-old author, as it is an excellent and relatable metaphor for life!), and an inability to overcome the basic question of “who cares?” - Tim Kreider avoids all of these potential pitfalls in this thought-provoking and compelling collection. Kreider is a cartoonist (his...more
Bill Breedlove
This is an interesting collection of "essays" and cartoons related to the topics covered. I do not think I have ever seen any of Mr. Krieder's cartoons before reading this book. The back cover has some impressive star-power blurbage--Judd Apatow, Richard Russo, etc.--to help convince skeptical browsers of the greatness within. The reason I put quotation marks around "essays" is I am not entirely certain what these selections would qualify as technically, but I guess "essays" is close enough. To...more
Christine
This is a collection of personal essays and cartoons by NY Times columnist Tim Kreider. I really loved this book and not just for its use of em dashes and colons. I thought Kreider was completely unique, profound, darkly funny, and incisive. It is the only book for a long time where I have read passages to my husband. It isn't for everyone, but I'm pretty sure that if I met Kreider in person, I would follow him around like a groupie, which would really bug and fascinate him at the same time.

Here...more
Davida Gypsy
Tim Kreider spent years (decades) as a barroom philosopher. He has come out on the other side as something of a barstool sage. The debauchery and fecklessness is still there, but it is tempered with wisdom and a touch of weariness. I inadvertently conjured images of Denholm Elliott in Scorchers. Kreider has reached a place where he has learned something, despite the title, and wants to share his truths. He knows that they may not be your truths, but this was hard-earned wisdom and he wants to im...more
Nari
Full of essays I wish I'd written, _We Learn Nothing_ is one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've ever had. Its essays are truly essays, not arguments or journalism or anything else that masquerades as essays in so many collections and anthologies. Through his honesty and humor and meandering, Kreider convinces me that he's using his words to try to make sense of life's weirdness, and he does it in a way that evokes the important moods of existence. This collection's best essays are th...more
Caroline Barron
Tim Kreider is damn funny. I get the feeling he might have been a bit of a pain in the butt in his younger years, but age and experience bring with them wisdom. He's looking down the barrel of his life and taking stock of the 'big' questions: Why doesn't being stabbed in the throat change me more? Why did Felix stop returning my calls? And how do I break up with a mate? Is it ok to pretend my friend Skelly is lying about a made up life?

And then there are the endless and very funny anecdotes on...more
Meghan
3.5. A man in his forties, a political cartoonist who lives in New York and has never married, tells stories about his friends and his life. The writing in this is equal to the best of David Sedaris, although his style is a little more verbose, a little less punchline. But I didn't care for the cartoons at the end of each chapter or his newspaper editorial page drawing style.

I loved the essay about getting stabbed, the essay about losing touch with his Peak Oil obsessive friend, as well as his...more
Lisa
Do you have one of those books where just from reading the first few lines, you decide to buy the book. Where after a few pages, you know you’ll read it a second time. Where halfway through, you fall in love with it. Where you become desperate for it not to end, and even before it does, you vow to recommend it to everyone you know?

We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider is that book for me.

Whenever I tell my well-read friend S, who studied Lit and is the most bookish person I know, that I don’t read too...more
Molly
Nov 11, 2013 Molly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Molly by: book club - Leslie
I had zero interest in reading this book. I'm so glad I did.
I don't usually care for books of essays by people I've never heard of, but I read this in two days and was laughing out loud by page 12. (It was a really good chapter about love. "Often you don't know whether you're the hero of a romantic comedy or the villain on a Lifetime special until the restraining order arrives.")
I also especially enjoyed his chapters on defriending and on how old friends eventually turn out as adults diverge...more
James
This is one of those books I read from time to time, where I start it one night and finish it the next day.

But this is also one of the very few books I can think of that will make you a better person for having read it. Not that I think I'm a better person.

Oh, hell. Just read this book. Tim Kreider draws the way I wish I could draw, but he writes even better than that.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT: I just read it again. I honestly wish I could put this book into the hands of every single person I love. It'...more
Rick Patterson
Because there seems to be an ever-increasing number of people who feel obligated to unload every tidbit of information that has ever fascinated or entertained or perplexed them, and because the Internet has provided way too many opportunities for them to get an audience through blogs or tweets or whatever the next onomatopoetic channels might be, you may be forgiven for not expecting great things from Tim Kreider's collection. And you would be pleasantly surprised at how great this is. I lost co...more
Steve
Not at all what I had expected, anticipating perhaps mainly more of "The Pain..." from the City Paper. This was much more, a deeply insightful look into himself, drawn with words rather than with the pen. The illustrations were still the same, requiring a magnifying glass for full enjoyment. But the most evocative lessons were the stories of his friends, his parents, his siblings. I finished the book in two sittings - sorry to see it end.
Roxanne
I'm awfully biased because I'm friends with Tim. But I loved his writing and drawing from afar long before we became acquainted, so there's that.

Tim's writing is ruminative. It's not snappy. It puts down roots. And it grows. Stuff builds and you can't help but be entranced by things unfolding. And there's a deep and abiding tenderness at the core.

I like the "owl/polar bear" essay the best, but they're all lovely.
Priyanka
To sample some of Tim Kreider's writing, check out his column in NY Times. If you like it, pick up this book. Just his notion of happiness, which appears at the very end of the last essay, is worth it. Kreider has a way of writing about profound things in disarmingly simple terms. this book has entertained me and triggered lots and lots of reflection upon my own life. A wonderful Sunday read.
April Bednarski
I heard the story about Skelly on NPR which made me want to get this book. I ended up loving the other stories just as much. He's funny but also very good at saying many things I have been feeling the last few years. I kept wanting to say,"yes! I think that too!" I now want to buy this book for everyone I know.
Matt
Hit or miss. So juvenile in spots - a forty-something trapped at the maturity of twelve, or maybe sixteen - and yet insightful in others. Give it a go if you're prepared to give up on the essays that drag?

[3.5 stars, but mostly because I'll be thinking about bits and pieces of his writing for a long time.]
Andrew
I much enjoyed Tim's essays and more and more the essay format in general. His voice is a nice combination of the sharpness found in someone like Chuck Klosterman and a warmer human touch. Definitely would like to read again.
Darcy
Jan 27, 2014 Darcy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: i-own
I know I've read a good book when I catch myself bringing it up repeatedly in conversations. We Learn Nothing is a book that made me think and one that made me laugh, and there is truly no better combination. Normally when I read Essays I can only read one or two at a time before reaching for a novel, but Tim Kreider's stories were so rich and fully realized that I read this book as quickly as I would a novel. Tim Kreider is a fantastic storyteller with a rich vocabulary and great life experienc...more
Tin
We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider is one unexpected surprise. Largely in part because when I picked up this book I was thinking that a great percentage of it would be ha-ha-funny, or poke-fun-at-stuff funny. It turned out to be something deeply personal and very reflective. He writes with an x-ray vision like perceptiveness that I felt a little bit unraveled. There are certain events and actions in these essays that I recognized to have happened to me, or that I did at one point in my life. Grante...more
Bad-at-reading
These essays are the perfect antidote to the kind of pathetically defensive, smarmy, self-pitying self-help articles chronicling various spiritual malaises that make their way around Facebook a few times a week. I was introduced to Kreider's work through his cartoons, and while I think they're hilarious, they have a very different vibe than his writing, and I'm inclined to agree with people put off by the juxtaposition. But this is still a great book. The unabashed emotional life he lives is som...more
Lexie
"Fourteen years ago, I was stabbed in the throat." So begins Tim Kreider's astonishing book of essays and cartoons. Over time, Tim found himself feeling both buoyant with fabulous luck -- the blade missed his carotid artery by two millimetres -- and "a lightening, an amused indifference to the nonsense that the rest of us think of the serious business of the world" -- similar to how his father felt during the course of a terminal illness. Tim also notes that he felt "more of an existential turn...more
Erin Sterling
There are very few books where I want to underline passages--I'm just not that type of reader. This is one of those few books where I would (if it weren't a library book) because it is smart, witty, sometimes poignant, and the kind of pretentiousness I actually enjoy because he is aware of it. A book of essays and cartoons that makes me feel more intelligent upon reading and has me envy his thrilling life while simultaneously make me treasure mine, a rare feat.

"I have known some friends who sel...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • What I Hate
  • The Towers of Trebizond
  • This Is Running for Your Life: Essays
  • Us: Americans Talk About Love
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture
  • America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation
  • The Use and Abuse of Literature
  • Meaty: Essays
  • Men Explain Things to Me
  • Farther Away
  • The Way the World Works
  • Highs in the Low Fifties: How I Stumbled through the Joys of Single Living
  • Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude
  • Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me
  • Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
  • Several Short Sentences About Writing
  • The Library Book
  • Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil
571327
Tim Kreider is an essayist and cartoonist. His comic "The Pain--When Will It End?" ran in the Baltimore City Paper for 12 years and was collected in three books by Fantagraphics. His first collection of essays, "We Learn Nothing," was published by Free Press in 2012. He has written for The New York Times, The Men's Journal, Nerve.com, The Comics Journal, and Film Quarterly. He is at work on a new...more
More about Tim Kreider...
Why Do They Kill Me? The Pain—When Will it End? Twilight of the Assholes Introducing Sociology:  A Review of Eyes Wide Shut

Share This Book

“One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfactions of judgment, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is that it spares us from the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.” 33 likes
“Often you don’t know whether you’re the hero of a romantic comedy or the villain on a Lifetime special until the restraining order arrives.” 19 likes
More quotes…