Book Review: The Life of the Mind by Fr. James V. Schall

The Roman historian Suetonius says that Julius Caesar once, upon seeing a statue of Alexander the Great, sighed deeply at the thought that Alexander had already conquered a vast empire by the age at which Caesar was only new appointed governor of Spain. I often sympathize with Caesar’s sad envy when I think of the failings of my own education in contrast with the great intellectual achievements of my literary and academic heroes. As I seek to cultivate an authentic “life of the mind,” Schall’s marvelous book is a great encouragement along the way.

Schall offers a series of meditations upon intellectual life. Each is simultaneously an admonition to embark upon the cultivation of a life of the mind while offering encouragement to those who may have been deprived of a good start in early life. His guidance is always practical, his means of expression witty, and his insights are always profound.

Among the chapters of this book are meditations on the potentially positive effect of having missed out on reading good books early in life, on walking as an intellectual activity, and on the Christian religious obligation to the cultivation of intelligence. Each chapter is one that will forever change the life of the mind of the attentive reader.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in reading great books and thinking about important things. My recommendation is especially for Christians, but I believe that anyone who is sensitive to truth can appreciate and benefit from this book.

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