You'd think I'd really love this book, but I only liked it. It's really well written, interesting and did make me think. I do think Cowen does has deep insights on just about everything, but the whole time I just couldn't shake the feeling that he's really out of touch with regular folk like me. It's strange considering that he's traveled widely, avoids touristy spots and likes to hang out with the locals; in other words he knows way more ordinary people than I do.
I don't doubt that his advice on how to choose good restaurants, appreciate art and read intimidating books is very good, but I think I really get the sense that he thinks that either we want to read Remembrance of Things Past and Dante's Inferno or that he feels we should. But I ended up feeling that the advice didn't apply to me much. For example, we are encouraged to ask, "Is this the best possible book we could be reading right now?" if not we should move on. This is better advice for people who can legitimately evaluate books in a way that most people can't. Most of us have read only a small percentage of "the cannon" so finding a book reasonably described as the best book you could be reading is dead easy, but we don't actually want to read the best stuff. We may want to want to, but we don't actually want to.
More useful would be tips on how to "improve" your reading from where you are now. What process can I go through that will teach me to actually want to read those things and have grave doubts that this would involve jumping right to Ulysses. In other words the advice is better suited to people who are actually doing fine on their own.
added: Should make slightly more sense now.