As the back cover tells us, the new series My Reading answers a friendly question concerning literary works: “What it is like to love this book?,” that is, how can one help readers care about the author of a literary work, imagine what this work shows, remember it, and let it participate in their lives? These aims are beautifully reached in Philip Davis’s reflections on William James’s worldview as “a literary way of thinking outside the realm of literature” (xii).

Davis starts from James’s own distinction between, on the one hand, “dead feelings, dead ideas, and cold beliefs” and, on the other hand, “hot and live ones” (2), a distinction meant to help us set up “intimate and continuous connections” (4) with what surrounds us, blow open “the walls of rigidified systems,” and, by advising us to believe that life is worth living, suggest that this belief may “help create...

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