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We Learn Nothing

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,981 ratings  ·  500 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
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  3,981 ratings  ·  500 reviews


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Heidi
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kirsti
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Kristin, Jan McGill
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
Matt
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, shorts
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.]
Kerri Anne
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.]
Dov Zeller
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Though it was uneven at times, I am not sure how it is possible to not love a book in which a sentence begins "German humorist Friedrich Nietzsche..."

This happens on the second page of "An Insult To the Brain," the essay I most appreciated in this collection. It's an address of time spent with his mother in the hospital while she recovers from a serious illness. He goes to see her with Tristam Shandy in his bag because he's been trying (and failing) to read it. He decides to read it out loud to
...more
Davida Gypsy
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Conor Ahern
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tim Kreider seems kind of like that charming ass we all know, the one who uses only the barest minimum of the fantastic potential he has been given, who I assume goes about his life crashing on the couches of a motley group of dear friends, perpetually moving between hungover and blotto, smirking, making mischief and nonsense, engendering endearment and headscratches from all who know him. I think I would really like Tim Kreider.

I really only stumbled upon him because of this NYT op-ed about the
...more
Cheryl
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
Margie
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

This is a perfectly respectable essay collection; I bounced off of it when trying to read it straight through, but when I started skipping around reading whatever appealed most at the moment, I wound up enjoying it. Kreider has a lot of thoughts about life, family, friends, lies people tell themselves, and what’s really important, and shares them through a series of thoughtful and well-written (if slightly wordy) personal essays. Standouts for me were “Sister World” (in which Kreider, a
...more
Christine
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
M. Sarki
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/169844...

Tim Kreider’s latest book, I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays, was my first introduction to him. I had never consciously seen the cartoons he was previously well-known for or even remotely interested in cartoons anyway. That title at first sounded silly to me but I went ahead and read the book for review based on David Foster Wallace’s blurb that “Kreider Rules!” I have considered Wallace one of my favorite essayists and decided I would be thrill
...more
Paula Johnson
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Hanan AL-Raddadi
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can’t remember where exactly I knew about this book. I think someone mentioned it in an article but I am not sure. I am just grateful that this book found its way to me.
The book is a collection of essays talking about a number of mundane topics you think you have read everything that’s ever written about them. How wrong you would be. I felt sad reading about friendship and we all now what a positively happy topic friendship is.
It is the kind of books that one can’t simply be finished with. Y
...more
Jared Lipof
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After having stumbled upon cartoonist/essayist Tim Kreider's collection by chance, wandering down a random Amazon rabbit-hole, I'll be honest and say that it was the "Kreider rules" blurb left by DFW that made me buy it. He really does, though. While on the surface these essays seem like humorous bits of business, the world seen through the eyes of a forty-something problem drinker, single, childless, perhaps emotionally stunted, every one of them, in the end, reveals keen insight and a throbbin ...more
AJ
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-stuff
This book is a kind of a personal narrative, autobiographical in some ways and philosophically inclined in others, but it's full of hilarious anecdotes from a self-proclaimed liberal – “a term used almost exclusively by conservatives, and is loosely synonymous with queerbait; progressives are what liberals call themselves now that liberal is a slur (it’s what developmentally delayed is to retarded); and as far as I can tell leftists are liberals who get mad if you call them liberals because libe ...more
Renata
I read this because I was so taken with an older piece of his that got sort of meme-ified recently ("if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known") and overall, I really enjoyed it. He's a sharp, insightful writer with a lot of humor but also, in general, compassion.

However. This collection came out in 2012, and some of the essays collected within are older than that. And some of them have simply not aged well. There's plenty of George W. Bush
...more
Amanda
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading Kreider is a bit like reading a parallel universe version of David Foster Wallace, where DFW gives fewer fucks in general, writes more directly about his personal life, and uses words solely found in the dictionary. I guess what reminded me of DFW is the honesty, perceptivity, and ability to make the specific feel extremely universal. The writing often made me smirk and even sometimes laugh out loud and several times I had that similar-to- reading-DFW-sensation of 'hot damn, yes, you jus ...more
Laura
Mar 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Funny. Insightful. A little depressing. As a midwestern housewife, I don’t have a lot in common with an older single man from the east coast who can’t seem to decide if he’s proud of his life choices (and all the stories they’ve produced) or beginning to regret the road to loneliness he’s paved. I enjoyed bits but realized I wasn’t the audience most of the time.
Lisa
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Peter
May 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Whoever wrote the blurb for this book is a genius. They somehow managed to convey the gist of the book in an enticing way while hiding in plain sight the mundanity of the content. "It's not what you say; It's how you say it". This really is more a series of essays based on a bunch of not-so-uncommon experiences told from the viewpoint of someone who's secretly very normal but wants you to think otherwise.

I'm not really sure what to write for this review though. It's such a bland book that I'm a
...more
Peter Beck
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
"We Learn Nothing" is a delightful collection of humorous and poignant stories about Tim Kreider's family and friends. Kreider is a recovering cartoonist undergoing a mid-life crisis. Turning 40 seems to trigger two primal questions in Kreider: Who Am I? What am I trying to accomplish? He previously published three collections of his cartoons. Most of the chapters of this book contain his work, but he seems to have forgotten that us middle-aged types (turns out we were born several months apart) ...more
Vaidya
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Helen Driver
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't begin to explain how much I enjoyed this book; it might sound corny, but I think I needed to read it, and it came into my life at just the right time. Tim Kreider's writing is funny, intelligent, enthralling, it's just everything. So many of his essays struck a chord with me and I know I'm going to revisit the book again and again. I took to reading this on the train home from work, and it was like having a really smart, funny friend tell you things you never knew you needed to know; I f ...more
James
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Frode Bjerke
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Frode by: Ken Gronnbeck
Likely the most honest book I will ever read.

A collection of short stories derived from the rough edges of humanity salted with the insights and reflections of the author himself. Kreider diligently explains from a humane perspective both absurd and common situations from his own life. Throughout, Kreider is brutally honest both about his relationships and thoughts on life in general.

I could personally relate to many of the stories, and found many nuggets of wisdom I wish to keep close for the
...more
John Kruse
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks for the laughs, Tim.

“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 don’t know why we take our worst moods so much more seriously than our best, crediting depression with more clarity than euphoria. We dismiss peak moments and passionate love affairs as an ephemeral chemical buzz, just endorphins or hormones, but accept those 3 A.M. bouts of despair as unsentimental insights into the truth abo
...more
Junemarie Brandt
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
At times Kreider's language is so beautiful, and his stories so poignant. At others, I am just baffled or rolling my eyes at learning way too much information. And I really do not get the humor or any insight from his cartoons, although I know from hearing Kreider at an event that those are what gives him the most pleasure. Maybe the book layout just made them too difficult to read? Several of the pieces are filled with memorable characters and quirky incidents in his life that you want to hear ...more
Rachel
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first book I’ve read maybe ever that had at least one word (in English) that I didn’t know on almost every page, which was welcome intellectual stimulation. I would never have chosen this book on my own, but it came highly recommended by a friend (well, my inamorata, as it were), so I had literally no choice but to read it. Essays were painful, honest, funny.. a great summary of the human condition through Kreider’s eyes and experiences. Never read anything quite like it before! I’d recommen ...more
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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

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