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What to read instead of news?

by ekritose1 min read6th Oct 20219 comments

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I often read the news to take a break from work. Maybe this isn't such a good idea. (https://www.gwern.net/docs/culture/2010-dobelli.pdf).

What should I read instead? Ideally it should be interesting but not impenetrable, finished in less than half an hour, and easily available from my browser. I'm happy to pay for good content.

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Books. Always have a current book and progress through it day by day. Maybe get an e-reader, so your eyes don't get tired and there's no temptation to jump to social media. All classical books are available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Lesswrong. I've made it a habit to check lw before reddit, and while I don't always find something interesting, that's usually because I've been to the site already that day.

First have a better idea of what you want to get out of reading. Entertainment: fictions. Knowledge: non-fictions. Current event update: news. Social discussions: social media (e.g. LW, Reddit, Facebook, etc.). Once you know what you are looking for exactly, or what kind of experience you are looking for, then you don't end up wasting your time on doing things that you don't consider productive.

When you take a break, I assume you just want some bite-sized, easily digestible content. News aren't really good with that stuff since it's mostly repetitive and mostly inconsequential in your own daily life.

A fun thing to do is to come up with questions yourself. What do you really want to learn about? What are you interested in finding out? Then come up with an approach to answering those questions for yourself or at least a guideline for how you want to look for information. This will make your break from work reading more fulfilling.

Before the internet, people are pretty much limited to whatever is available in their local libraries and more. With internet, we are still only looking around places that are more easily accessible, but other sources and sites are only a few clicks and searches away.

Mindless indulgence is never as satisfying as mindful indulgence, but there is nothing wrong with mindless indulgence if you don't really have anything to look for. It's more about how many years you've spent mindlessly wandering around as opposed to whether you are actively researching something at the present, which essentially may lead to questions like yours/this because of existential dissatisfaction.

You’re on a healthy path. I’m much happier since I stopped reading the news. When I’m in the mood to read and learn, I use an RSS reader (Feedly) to read LessWrong, Marginal Revolution, Quanta magazine, Colossal (art articles), Our World in Data, and non-political blogs.

If you’re taking a break from computer work then leave the screens. Take a walk in the sunshine. Do something with your hands: origami, knitting, Legos. Take a nap.

Fanfiction. Top-rated fics from spacebattles and sufficientvelocity are a good starting point.

These are cool suggestions; I will check them out! Thanks!

I enjoy blogs from experts in fields where I have an interest, but don't have the background to make anything of actual papers, or from the rationalsphere, or the odd specific commentator. These meet your criteria. Some usual suspects of mine are, sorted by frequency:

- Astral Codex Ten (psychiatry, rationalsphere)
- OvercomingBias (economics, rationalsphere)
- The Scholar's Stage (history, commentator)

- A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry (history)
- InfoProc (physics, genomics)
- Dominic Cummings substack (politics, commentator)

The reason I like blog posts is that they not only do the work of summarization, but also are functionally the only venue for capturing important details like a single-person perspective of a field, or first-hand accounts of uncertainty or thought processes.

If you have any hobbies or skills that you are interested in cultivating, you could seek out people writing or talking about them. For example, I love chess and if I have a spare half hour occasionally I will just search up a random chess lecture that catches my eye on Youtube.

Others have already written the answers, I just try to put them in some context:

First, choose what kind of content you actually want: knowledge? fun? current news?

(News kinda try to be all of these, but do a shitty job at each)

If you want knowledge, read an introductory textbook or a popular science book.

If you want fun, read fiction, in book or online.

If you want current news... I probably wouldn't do that during the break. If the news is important, it may be difficult to focus on the work again.