How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs challenges us to consider our thoughts as he reveals some of the habits we’ve acquired that lead to misunderstandings. He presents Susan Harding’s essay “Representing Fundamentalism: The Problem of the Repugnant Other,” as an example that we may bypass thoughtful analysis because of our prejudice against others.

Jacobs asserts that it is impossible for us to think independently, “Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said” (p. 37). He points out the need to think with both reason and feelings based upon truth. “Learning to feel as we should is enormously helpful for learning to think as we should” (p. 87).

He demonstrates the difficulties of thinking clearly as he makes the following statement, “A couple of years ago, Scott Alexander, one of the most consistently thoughtful bloggers active today . . .” (p. 71). How does he know that Scott is one of the most consistently bloggers active today? Has he compared Scott with all of the consistent bloggers on the internet to know if he is one of the most thoughtful? Jacobs realizes that accurate thinking is hard work and our thoughts and emotions combine in a variety of ways to affect our thinking.

He emphasizes that we are to cultivate a healthy skepticism of our own motives and generosity toward the motives of others. He concludes with “The thinking person’s checklist” providing an excellent summary of many of the key points in the book. This book is a refreshing approach to a culture that gets its arguments from emotionally charged sound bytes.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).


Associate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

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