Believe it or not, the origins of this podcast and the entire New Books Network can be traced to a conversation I had in...

Believe it or not, the origins of this podcast and the entire New Books Network can be traced to a conversation I had in a cafein Ann Arbor, Michigan (Sweetwaters in Kerrytown, as it happens) in 2004. I was sitting there minding my own business when I overheard Ed Vielmetti and Lou Rosenfeldtalking about something called “del.icio.us” [sic]. It sounded interesting, so I asked them–complete strangers though they were–about it. They kindly brought me up to speed on something else called “Web 2.0.” Then I begin thinking…

Turns out a lot thinking is done in cafes, as Leona Rittner, W. Scott Haine, and Jeffrey H. Jacksonpoint out in their fascinating book The Thinking Space: The Cafe as a Cultural Institution in Paris, Italy and Vienna (Ashgate, 2013). At one time or another, most modern Western intellectuals found themselves in one or another cafedrinking coffee, dreaming big dreams, and often arguing with another. The caffeine helped, but the atmosphere and company helped even more. Unhurried, quiet, comfortable, warm, public, inexpensive, full of reading material, open long hours, and right on the corner. The coffee house is an ideal “third place” for cerebral types. To my mind the most fascinating thing about this remarkable collection of essays is the variety of kinds of coffee houses found around Europe. Needless to say, they didn’t (and don’t) all look like your local Starbucks. If you like cafes, you should grab a copy of this book and read it . . . in a cafe, of course.

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