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Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  425 ratings  ·  68 reviews

An invitation to readers from every walk of life to rediscover the impractical splendors of a life of learning

In an overloaded, superficial, technological world, in which almost everything and everybody is judged by its usefulness, where can we turn for escape, lasting pleasure, contemplation, or connection to others? While many forms of leisure meet these needs, Zena

Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published May 26th 2020 by Princeton University Press (first published 2020)
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Glenn Russell

One of the great joys in life - the simple pleasure of reading and reflecting and learning for its own sake.

But how much time and space does our modern world provide women and men to engage in such practice?

More dramatically, what happens when many within a society view careful thinking and contemplation, imagination and poetic flights of fancy as useless, freakish or even threatening?

These are among the questions Zena Hitz considers in her recently published book, Lost in Thought: The Hidden
Prerna (on semi-hiatus)
This is going to be one of those boring "I wanted to like this book, I was supposed to like this book, but..." reviews. The book begins well enough. Hitz recounts her own experience in academia - how her fascination for learning and its pursuit as an activity of leisure warped into another ugly step to ascend over in the social order of academia.

It did not help that the academic world is famously, and truly, insular. Events and ideas from outside it enter through a narrow and peculiarly shaped g
"Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. A thinking reed.—It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from the government of my thought. I ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
There are some things to enjoy in this book, but I take issue with most of it, beginning with the elitist premise, the supposed necessary «uselessness» of living an «intellectual life». Poverty here always seems like a temporary state or something to be visited, only to return to one’s «proper place» as a middle-class intellectual. The idea that the inner space of reflection Zena Hitz sees as the locus of learning is a place detached from the concerns of «the world», politics and projected resul ...more
Michael Knolla
On one of my arms is a pair of tattoos, each depicting a labyrinth. At the center of one is a precious stone representing intellectual life and in the other is a flower representing the spiritual life. Separately there are several paths to the center symbolic of the many paths available to one pursuing either individually. But when overlaid there is only one long and difficult path, symbolizing the difficulty of pursuing both at the same time.

This is prologue to say that going into this book my
We like gossip. We love indulging in other's successes and stories, and act like we are part of them. When intellectual life represents themselves as sadism and self-denial, the inbuild suffering from their work seems done a big job for us. Overpass money and constant seeking of alternative knowledge might sound like what the book analogy as athlete training: no pain no gain.

But what caught my attention is the attitude and intention of these intellects, not only their humility to test hypothesi
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An essential read for anyone who desires an intellectual life. Lively and engaging, Zena Hitz persuasively argues for the value of intellectual inquiry and learning for its own sake. Rather than floating by on the surface of things, inebriated by Netflix and Facebook, she challenges us to go deeper into reflection on human nature, the natural world and spiritual reality.

The intellectual life is not merely for the student and the professor (or the childless), but something that each of us can eng

I got the chance to chat with the amiable, learned, careful, and nuanced author viz Zoom and then extended the conversation in written form. She's a great thinker, don't always necessarily agree with her all the time, but her writing and conversation are a tonic of rational and learned perspective in a world gone fucking mad.

Jae Tak
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A good reminder of what's important in life. Makes a case as to why intellectual life isn't confined to the "elites," and the failure of higher education in reflecting the intrinsic value of learning. Highly recommend. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this, though I'm not sure I understood it.

That's not entirely true but Zena does make lots of different arguments throughout the 3 long chapters and doesn't always see to connect them all. However, I don't think this is necessarily a fault, given she is a philosopher and the book is about thinking so I suppose it's fair enough to get the reader to do some for themselves.

Didn't necessarily agree with all the stark dichotomies drawn, but really liked some of the points raised:
- The link
Juan Duarte
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bookbinding and odd chapter layout aside, this is a great book that will sadly escape the attention it deserves. From the prologue to the epilogue, Zena Hitz forms a compelling reason why we should cultivate a life of the mind. She warns against the pursuit of learning to further social standing and career ambitions. Some practical guidance is given on what and how one can go about cultivating the inner life. Excellent notes and index are included.
Important and timely for both my personal life, the state of education, and human flourishing. Received for a conference on faith and science.
Thai Dang
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: liberté
The book started promisingly enough, only to lose its steam in meandering and marginalising thought, ending on an elitist (when she ponders on intellectual vs. ordinary life without discussing that the very real existence of anti-intellectual intellectual) and useless note (calling on universities to value teachers instead of researchers - that is not going to happen).

One of my biggest problem lies in the author's contradictory thinking. These quotes are on the same page:
“For intellectual life t
Oct 14, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book seems tailor made for me, with so much of my days filled with learning for its own sake as opposed to increasing my wealth or status. It is natural that, at some point, one will question what's the point of it? Why bother reading, say, a history of the 2,500 year old Peloponnesian War or a detailed history of the Chinese revolution in the years 1945-1957. I can honestly say that nothing from either of them has ever come up at any point in my life.

Zena Hitz's book alleges that it will n
Andrew Carr
If this book was a dish, I would say it needs some lemon juice. All the ingredients are there. Sweet, savoury, richness, but no acid. It lacks a certain 'oomff', a spark that brings it all together.

I had looked forward to this book for a while, but I found the actual text somewhat disappointing. It's less a rallying call for intellectual life for its own sake, and more for the value it can bring in terms of service to other values and other people. I may be over-reading the authors own biograph
Joel Zartman
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It usually takes a few decades (ten, perhaps) till a book can be declared a classic. No doubt any rule about waiting to declare a book a classic is routinely violated. If I had to pick one book to risk premature declaration about, it would be this one. I think Zena Hitz has written classic.

Lost in Thought is a book about the intellectual life. There are many such books. Hitz’s book is not just another one, except that it is in the long honorable tradition of fresh statements of a classic thing.
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tonic and energizing book like few I have read in recent years. I would give it to all my friends who love what Hitz loves, the life of the mind, the freedom borne of reading, ideas, and conversation; I would give the book to them and say: Here is a friend and a champion of our way of life.

My only quibble is a confusion I see in the book's ideal audience. Hitz exposits her chosen books as though the reader has little or no prior familiarity with them, yet supposes, evidently, that her readers
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected this book to be similar to Alan Jacob's The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (one of my favorites from recent years). It is instead more like Paul Griffith's Intellectual Appetite (also a good book), although written on a more popular level and aimed at a different goal. With guides and examples as diverse as Aristophanes, Simone Weil, Plato, Goethe, St. Augustine, Albert Einstein, Pascal, Dorothy Day, Jack London, John of the Cross, and Ellena Farrante, Hitz discusses th ...more
James Lang
I enjoyed this thoughtful book about learning and the intellectual life, especially when it dug into texts of literature and philosophy to help illustrate its arguments. The problem for me was when it strayed away from textual analysis, it frequently took an aphoristic turn that I found less convincing. The final pages on the state of the university today were the most intense example of this, and for me the most disappointing aspect of the book. Still, definitely worth reading, and it introduce ...more
John Crippen
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lured to this book by an engaging EconTalk interview with the author, the material turned out to be very challenging. Both in the sense that I need to study it more and in the sense that I felt called to be a better person. Her own path to an intellectual life and her criticisms of the current state of the American university system bookend very heavy chapters about the nature of intellectual life, the temptations of learning only for wealth and/or social ambition, and the dynamic between the in ...more
Matt Pitts
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was not what I expected, but I loved it all the same. Part memoir, part philosophy, part rebuke to corrupted universities, part warning against the vices and temptations common to intellectuals, part wrestling with religion, all honoring the good of the intellectual life and calling for its celebration and restoration.
Rula Dashwali
I certainly enjoyed this book. It was like having a prolonged conversation with its author. If you’re a bookworm, a lover of learning, or an educator, you might want to read this one.. you will probably relate to some experiences in it, or feel “understood”, in some way or another..
Jeff Samuelson
I had such high hopes for this after reading about the premise. Ultimately disappointing, with lengthy discussions about texts I haven’t read and don’t particularly want to.
Joe A
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In what I hope is the planting of the seed of a new springtime in what learning is and how it should be approached in the future, Zena Hitz has sought to encapsulate the image of what learning, and in a more basic way, intellectual curiosity, is and revisit it in a way that is reminiscent of Petrarch's climb of Mount Ventoux, ushering in what was to become the Renaissance.

I urge anyone else who wants to read this, to be encouraged in their pursuit of knowledge and truth, and to make for yoursel
I would have thought that I was the ideal audience for this book. As a child I used to annoy friends and family by intentionally getting tagged out in games of Steal the Rocks so I could sit in jail and spread out my books and read. As an adult I similarly rent an "introvert cabin" on family vacations so that I can escape to solitude and writing.

Hitz does passionately and eloquently argue for the beauty of these retreats, and the importance of intellectual pursuits for the sake of knowledge and
Jerry Wall
How to expose ourselves to thought through examples in the accessible past.
Some interesting ways of putting the usefulness of thinking problems or situations through
. . . leisure can in principle be found and used anywhere, but it thrives only under certain conditions: free time, exposure to the outdoors, and a certain mental emptiness. p. 42
[problem is] the destruction of leisure in the lives of modern workers, the diminishment of their humanity. p. 45
. . . the philosopher . . . is satisfied if
Simon Dobson
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clear and quite moving paean to academic life – as it was, and perhaps should be.

The author's short history possibly applies to a lot of people. Hitz studied at a small liberal arts college in the US which emphasised small-group, open-ended discussions. This is a poor preparation for "real" academia, with larger classes and a rather cut-throat "publish or perish" culture. It's enough to drive her out of academia and into a religious retreat.

These are common concerns amongst academics, especial
1.5 stars. This book seemed like it was written to help the author convince herself that learning for its own sake should be a viable way to make a living. I don’t think the argument was quite there. I love learning, but this author’s line of reasoning didn’t convince me. It could have been great. I felt like the author was so close to something, but I never got what it was, and she never made the final connections. In the introduction she said her ideas were “half-baked.” I think that was the p ...more
Zak Schmoll
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
As a lover of the Humanities, I found this book encouraging. I have been asked what I want to do with my degree in the Humanities many times. Part of my motivation is indeed professional; I want to become a professor. However, as most of you know, my educational track did not begin in the Humanities. My undergraduate work was in Accounting and Statistics. I could have stayed on that track, but I didn't, and I came to Humanities by way of Apologetics ironically enough.

So, why Humanities?

I was att
Paul Womack
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a good read, although sources to lay out the boundaries of the intellectual life are primarily from the Western Canon. I especially appreciated the initial chapter. The author’s challenges to a life of spectacle have me wondering how much my life was wasted (even in reading). Her final chapter left me a bit puzzled. If the intellectual life pursuit can fall prey to ambition and ideology, for knowledge as the absoprtion of correct opinions, and for that corretness to embody itself in politi ...more
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