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This Is Water

Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

by David Foster Wallace

In this rare peak 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.

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Recommendations: 1

Categories: EssaysPhilosophy

Reading time: 01 hours


I learnt this from a great mate of mine, Billy Shore, who’s often known as Saint Billy—runs No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength. So he came over to my place one day, and he gave me two books that I now gift very regularly. One is David Foster Wallace’s speech, This Is Water, his commencement speech. I’ve heard you talk about the David Foster Wallace one, so I know you know that. And he said… I said, “Oh, I haven’t read either of these.” And he said, “Man, I learned a long time ago, it’s really nice to give books, but it can be a burden to give a big book because people will feel, ‘Oh, I’m going to see him in a month. Oh, shit. And I’m having dinner with him next week and shit, I need the book!'” But it is a 15-minute book.