Tag Archives: reading

A History of Reading

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If you like reading, you’ll probably like this book. If you love reading, you will love this book. And if you adore reading like it’s a source of oxygen, then you will go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs when you start this book.

In 1997, Argentine-Canadian Alberto Manguel published an immensely engrossing book called A History of Reading, a love letter, as it were, to readers everywhere throughout the ages. As his publisher puts it:

“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a bookthat string of confused, alien ciphersshivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. Alberto Manguel moves from this essential moment to explore the 6000-year-old conversation between words and that magician without whom the book would be a lifeless object: the reader. Manguel lingers over reading as seduction, as rebellion, as obsession, and goes on to trace the never-before-told story of the reader’s progress from clay tablet to scroll, codex to CD-ROM.”

For those bibliophiles and word nerds out there who can’t get enough book-related stuff, Mr. Manguel also has another interesting nonfiction book called The Library at Night. It’s sexy. It’s mild. It’s a sexy mild read.

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In a similarly related piece, Nicholas Cannariato penned a thought-provoking piece for @The_Millions called “Why We Read and Why We Write.” As Mr. Cannariato says:

“Reading then is a moral and subversive act in its own right. It’s a disengagement from the commercial and competitive in pursuit of heightened moral sense coupled with aesthetic and intellectual engagement. Reading doesn’t produce ‘work’ itself as ‘producerist’ ideology would have it, but rather it cultivates the intangibles that go into that work. What we gain by reading is what we often strive for in life when we’re actually thinking about what we want.”

But perhaps the most hilarious quote from this piece (and something which would likely make Stephen King hunt down and “Misery” the male colleague in question here) is the following: “Sheila Liming, in her recent essay “In Praise of Not Not Reading,” recounts a male colleague pursuing an MFA in fiction tell her he literally didn’t believe in reading. ‘I’m a writer, I make things,’ he said, ‘whereas you’re a reader, you consume things.'”

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Anyone have a candlestick, knife, rope, dumbbell, trophy, poison, lead pipe, revolver, or wrench handy for Professor Douchebag?

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Book Clubs

“Book clubs are totally dope – like English class if you were allowed to read only books that you actually like and snack and sip while discussing them.”

Sam Maggs, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks

…and by “sip” I assume Sam means kegstands with beer and wine straight from the bottle, and by “snack” she means stuffing your face with greasy food straight from the back of a pub.

Last night my book club talked about Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach. According to one of my fellow bookies who shall remain nameless but has a history of bibliophilic illness, “Manhattan Beach is a book about a beach. The beach is called Manhattan Beach. In between going to the beach and Anna’s home, people go diving and die. The end.”

Excellent summary.

Anyway, aside from plugging my own book club (did that come out right?), I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight the awesomenesss of book clubs. On top of meeting new people (hopefully), being in a book club means you have an excuse every month to rip it up while discussing pretentious subjects like art, literature, the art of literature, and literary art. Oh, and artistic literature, too.

I started this book club, Curling Was Full, in August 2009 and I’m proud to say we’re still going strong. Members have come and gone (there are only an Original Three left), but we always seem to have more requests for membership than we can handle. No surprise, then, that when Random House (before it was Penguin Random House) had a book club contest called Books Are Beautiful, we won!

Actually, we finished in second place (we all received a copy of Jowita Bydlowska‘s Drunk Mom) to We Don’t Bake Muffins, but I’m still convinced the contest was rigged. Something about screeching the judges and kissing a cod, I’m told.

Long of the short, though, if you’re not in a book club, start one. If you are in one, lament the fact that you’re not in Curling Was Full because, well, we’re full.

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You Are What You Read

 

This is your brain on books. Most of the time.

In a piece titled “Tell Me What You Read, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are.” Zat Rana (@Zat_Rana) explains how the books we read shape our thoughts. As he puts it:

You are what you read. The information that you input into your mind informs your thinking patterns, and it influences your output in the form of the decisions you make, the work you produce, and the interactions you have.

This is of course not a news flash — to most of us. But Mr. Rana is specifically concerned with our reading habits and what it is we’re taking in on a daily basis. Consider the following:

In the last 10 years, the number of books published per year has doubled.

10 times more data will be produced in 2020 than was produced in 2013.

We live in age of information overload, and the ability to distinguish value from noise is going to become an increasingly critical quality.

The effects of reading aren’t always obvious, and as a result, many of us don’t always pay attention to what our brain is processing, and we just go along in whatever distraction the world guides us. That’s not the way ahead.

I’ve espoused the utility — and joy! — of reading recreationally more times than I can remember, but as Zat Rana concludes in a succinct manner:

At the end of the day, one of [the] most important skills in your life is how you think. It affects everything from what you produce to how you see the world. It’s on you to improve that by consuming input of value.

View at Medium.com

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