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Could anyone please help me understand this quote of Mr. Dooley from the self-help book "Pushing to the front, Chapter LXII: A College Education at Home" by Orison Swett Marden:

"Reading is not thinking; reading is the next thing this side of going to bed for resting the mind."

Thanks

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    From Wikipedia: "Dr. Orison Swett Marden (1848–1924) was an American inspirational author who wrote about achieving success in life and founded SUCCESS magazine in 1897"
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 21 at 16:27

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It just means that reading is a good way of resting the mind. The fictional Mr Dooley claims that the only better way of resting is to go to bed!

If you are reading an enjoyable book, you are 'in' the world of that book and not thinking about your own problems.

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The author of that remark lived most of his life in the 19th century. His English is somewhat old fashioned.

Consider this bit of hype about a (fictitious) new audio technology:

Our Super Duper Immersion Sonic Theater™ is the next thing, this side of sitting in the first row, for experiencing the feeling of being present at a live concert.

Nowadays we'd say "the next best thing":

Our Super Duper Immersion Sonic Theater™ is the next best thing, this side of sitting in the first row, for experiencing the feeling of being present at a live concert.

"This side of {something}" is a figure of speech that hinges on a "boundary" metaphor. "this side of" means "not going quite so far as to cross the boundary", in other words, "not being quite as good as".

Our cakes and pies are the next best thing this side of heavenly bliss.

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