Every journalist should read Samuel Johnson from time to time. First, because the quality of his writing, especially in his essays, is enough to put even the most self-important hack in their place. Second, because he so often discusses why he writes and what writers do with a brutal honesty and lack of self-regard that we should all try to emulate. And third, because he is witty, entertaining and engaging.
The three essays I’ve chosen here cover the range. In Rambler 2 we see Johnson considering the nature of ambition and the many ways we find to deceive ourselves. In Idler 48 he speaks to every Twitter user and blogger of how we ‘play throughout life with the shadows of business’. And in Adventurer 95 he explores the process of writing in an age when, it seemed, there was nothing new under the sun.
They are the perfect refuge from the blogosphere and, since they require no external power, excellent for those long journeys when your laptop battery dies before you reach your destination and the only discarded newspaper to hand is yesterday’s Daily Express.