Why you should read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography.
Yes, you should, you should read it now. NOW.
J.S. Mill’s Autobiography is the book that many people today would get the most from. Here are some of the lessons that I think are most applicable to us now.
It’s a story about getting out of your intellectual and moral bubble, taking the people you disagree with seriously, and learning from them how to adjust your own deeply held beliefs.
Mill had several periods of depression, possibly related to his childhood and the way his father treated him. His remedy was a combination of outward exertion, self-discipline, and cultivating his artistic and naturalistic enjoyments.
The Romantic idea that you should “discover yourself” and become the best person you can become is treated very seriously by Mill. Along with the first two, this is one of the main cultural topics of our time.
The whole book is an advocacy for more and better education, without quite endorsing the sort of education Mill specifically received. Children are capable of so much more than we imagine. With the rise of homeschool, alternative schools, knowledge-rich curriculums, now is the time to re-read Mill.
Mill aimed not to entertain as much as to provoke, to convert. Compare this book with Educated by Tara Westover, an admirer of Mill. How many lives will be lived differently after reading each one, and how differently will they be lived? I have no firm answer, but Mill’s influence on Westover is apparent.
We hear a lot now about the importance of the humanities and “how to think critically”—this book would be one good place to start with that.