Dec. 13, 2020

This is Water by David Foster Wallace: The capital T truth-about life

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
YouTube podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge


Listen to the full speech here: 


About the Book: This is Water

In this rare peek into the personal life of the author of numerous bestselling novels, gain an understanding of David Foster Wallace and how he became the man that he was.

Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in This is Water. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace’s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.

Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading.

Source: Amazon

About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More.  He died in 2008.

Buy the book from The Book Depository -

Would you like to take better notes from the books you read?  Get your copy of Archley's beautiful book journal, the Book of Books here:

Source: Amazon


BIG IDEA 1 (4:23) – How to think

This is about the things in our life that we don’t often talk about. Liberal arts degrees are often surrounded by the cliche that they teach you ‘how to think not what to think’. David said that we first need to decide what to think about, therefore not being taught about how or what to think.

Closed-mindedness drives arrogance and leads to wrong ideas or thoughts. We get to choose what we pay attention to or what to think about, but too much time inside our head is a bad thing. Over analysing things is one of the bad things about liberal arts degree or any kind of higher education, because it often leads to over-intellectualising and getting stuck in your thoughts.


BIG IDEA 2 (6:36) – Things look and feel different to everyone. 

We need to ask more questions around why. Why do things look and feel different to everyone? Why is our experience in life different from what other people think and other people’s experience of life? We should also explore where we get our meaning from – the experiences or stories that lead us to believe one things over another.

David talks about how we are the center of our own world, everything we’ve ever experienced has us at the centre. When we start putting our life in the center of everyone else’s life, it’s a problem. We need to free ourselves from the thought that we are the center of the actual universe, despite what our experience tells us. We have to have compassion for what other’s reality might be.


BIG IDEA 3 (8:15) – It’s within your power

You get to decide. We have to learn to choose what gets our attention and what has meaning to us. We need to choose what we worship, whether it’s power, intellect, beauty or money. These things drive our behaviour and we will never feel satisfied or like we have enough of them, especially ones that diminish over time.

Freedom is attention and discipline and the opposite is unconsciousness. Living by the standard set without the awareness of what’s going on. Real education is knowing what’s real. Knowing this is water.

Music By: Is this hip hop by LightBeats


Support my book habit:

See for privacy information.

Hey, have you subscribed to the bookmark newsletter? If you liked this, you might like my twice-monthly email with book reviews and ideas of what you should be reading, and listening to, next. Click here to subscribe.

Let’s connect