If You Insist on a Summer Vacation, Bring A Really Good Book

If you have taken Steve’s advice (immediately preceding post) and are taking a Summer break (or, if like me, your only “Summer break” is a stolen hour after lunch on a lonely Tuesday), you might as well make it worthwhile. After all, I know how you think. You might think you can really “keep your head in the game”–being of course the “family game”–but you are going to need a respite from all that lack of intellectual stimulation.

Might I suggest something, well, completely different.

You certainly ought not bring with you anything overtly “legal” in nature (your significant other will likely confiscate it anyway). So try something stimulating, but yet stimulating to parts of your brain that you aren’t accustomed, maybe, to using.

To get right down to it, I’m suggesting you pick up a nice used, dog-eared version of Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. I confess it is not a 2007 thriller. Actually, it’s been out for 25 years–but I was afraid you might have missed it. It is an intriguing book alternately as clear as crystal, and murky as mud.

I love the book because it works on three distinct levels. On the one hand, it is an exposition of the thoughts of three genius: M.C. Escher (you remember, the guy famous for depicting the physically impossible); Kurt Gödel (the famous 20th-century logician); and J. S. Bach (him you know!).

On the next level, Hofstadter tries to communicate a very interesting (and in my book refreshing) concept: that our most treasured beliefs, ideas and constructs are based upon building blocks that cannot be defined, that are self-referential, in short, are “loops in logic.” I think you just might find that your lawyerly brain can relate to that–certainly it ought not be any stranger to “semantics as philosophy as formal logic”. After all, just what were we doing as 1Ls if not getting our brains around that one?

Finally, on the third level, Hofstadter wraps up the whole in fable, in analogy, in poetry and prose. It is a heady mixture of fact, mind-bending “fictional” constructs, and statistics.

Okay, so maybe it’s a tough read. But worth it.

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