19 May 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 6


  • Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom - Cory Doctorow
  • Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk
  • Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg
  • How To Be Alone - Jonathan Franzen
  • The Fifties - David Halberstam
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Browne/King
  • The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt - ed. Ruth Andrew Ellenson
Do you read for entertainment or for edification? Most people mix it up between the two, and for the most part, reading a book should give you some food for thought, regardless of how trashy it might be. The problem is, as always, what to do with all these books you've read? Not literally, but metaphysically speaking.

Let's say it takes me six hours to finish a normal sized book. That's three movies, half a night of sleep, and an afternoon of sitting around. Sure, I could learn some really interesting information (the Halberstam book this month is great) or I could feel like I've read something totally spectacular (Lullaby was like that) but at the end of the day -- or life -- what application does either of them have? I can feel a bit smarter, a bit wiser, a bit more knowlegeable, and possibly content but most books just come and go without a lasting effect. That kind of sucks doesn't it?

The only way I can come to grips with this problem is to think about books in the context of other entertainment. Do I enjoy it over most movies, television, and other media? Most certainly. I couldn't live without books. Then again, I couldn't live without movies and television either. There's a huge letdown to know that even if you can read twenty books a month, you'd hardly be making any dent into the huge sum of human knowledge.

For example, if we could someday just download every single book straight into our brain, would we? That would perhaps suck the romance and fun out of reading but it would quickly and effectively give us more free time to... watch more TV or something. I think I would probably opt for that option if it were available actually. So I guess the final answer is that I read for entertainment and hope for edification to justify the expense.

I, like, feel sad about that.