Reading

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At the beach, we all read. We’ve gradually shifted to reading on electronic devices, though I usually have a little of both. I tend toward nonfiction. I’ve read about the building of the interstate highway system, how traffic works, what motivates people, and various memoirs. I usually get through a book a day.  This year I finished my first book quickly. My next book was a 600 pager. I’m still working on it.

Yesterday was rainy so it was a good day for reading. Rainy days often entail board and card games, trips to the arcade or shopping. When I was a kid, I hated it when it rained at the beach. Now I see it as a chance to do something different.

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Reading list


I need a reading list.  I’ve read some weird things lately.  The Big Roads, for one, which I liked and I like that genre of book. I’d love some books like the one to the left, which came across my radar this morning.  I like reading about how people learn.  I’m not much of a fiction reader, really.  I prefer non-fiction, but I’m open to fiction as an escape.  So, any suggestions?

Things I need to do more of

Exercise.  And to go with that, less eating.

Read offline.

Exercise has totally fallen off the agenda.  It has to get back on it.  And I hate that this topic keeps coming up.

Reading has also fallen off the agenda.  For much the same reason as exercise has.  I come home and I’m too tired to do much of anything.  I tend to zone out in front of the tv–current obsession: How I Met Your Mother.  I read blogs and news online, but reading books, despite having several good options on my Nook, has not been part of my regular routine.

I need to figure out how to make this happen, but part of me thinks that juggling a job, afterschool activities–my own and the kids’, and a house, leaves little to no room for much else.  The reading could easily replace tv, but exercise requires a bit more motivation.  But now that the snow is clearing, maybe there’s hope for exercise.

Oh, and the Wii exercise plan failed, not because the idea wasn’t good, but because the remodel took away the original space designated for Wii Fit goodness.  Once it’s done, there’ll be space again, but that’s probably a month away.

Day of Reading

I had wanted to do this on Monday, but life intervened, what with the basement flooding and all.  So, I’m going to do it today.  I can’t give over the whole day to reading, but I can dedicate a good chunk to it.  I joined PaperBack Swap a few weeks ago and now have a nice pile of books that I’ve always wanted to read, plus one that I’m reviewing (almost done with it).  I have What’s the Matter with Kansas, Eat, Pray, Love, and Teacher Man. Honestly, I’m not sure where to start!

Sadly, writing has been almost non-existent this week and I’m okay with that.  I figure reading will be inspirational and motivational and I’ll be ready to dig in next week. There’s just been too much disruption this week to get anything done.

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On reading about food

Day 61: Making QuicheImage by lorda via Flickr

Last week, I devoured three books about food. First, Julia Child’s My Life in France; second, Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food; and third, Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia. All were delightful in their own way. It was a bit jarring to go from Child’s autobiography to Pollan’s description of the crap we Americans will put in our body. I have mentioned here before how I love cooking and eating, so going through these three books was soul satisfying, though not quite as soul satisfying as cooking and eating a good meal.

Child’s book was a good book to start the vacation with. I’m sure her autobiography paints a specific picture of her, but the picture I got was of a woman who loved life and lived every moment with gusto. Whether she chose cooking or flower arranging, I think she would have thrown herself in full force. I very much enjoyed her descriptions of Paris. Her apartment was mere blocks from the hotel we stayed in ourselves and a stone’s throw from Mr. Geeky’s conference. I recognized streets she described and even some market areas. It was a nice reminder of our own time in Paris. But more than that, her descriptions of food and wine and the joy she expressed in sharing meals with friends and family were really wonderful. She makes it sound as if her whole life was spent eating and drinking and laughing with friends. She doesn’t, of course, as she also talks about working on the book and subsequently the tv show. Her energy for both is amazing and inspiring.

Pollan’s book is, in many ways, a tribute to the kind of cooking and eating Child espouses. Even Child laments the processed food she finds upon returning to America. I especially liked Pollan’s rules for eating toward the end of the book. They’re simple and easy to follow. I immediately applied them to buying a loaf of bread, though the fewest ingredients I could find in any loaf was 7 (Pollan recommends no more than 5), but I could pronounce all of them. He admits that eating as he recommends is likely to be more expensive and says that it’s a shame that that’s the case. He says, though, that if you can afford it, you should eat organic and local and non-processed food as much as possible. Though it doesn’t get much ink, he also talks about enjoying food and seeing it as something to be experienced with friends (a la Julia Child) rather than as simply fuel. It’s nice to be given license to ignore the low-fat, low-carb crap the food industry throws at us. I’m just gonna eat food from now on. And apparently, not worry about saving money on it. If there’s one thing I do wish he and others would work on is figuring out how to get rid of some of the subsidies that are making it so cheap for companies to make really bad food (and food that is bad for us), because until it’s cheap for everyone to eat real food, we’re going to see more health problems and only the relatively wealthy will avoid them.

Finally, Powell’s book was a fun read, more fun than I thought it would be, and I suppose, because I love Meryl Streep, I might have to see the movie as well. I never read Powell’s blog, though I know some of you out there did and liked it and were disappointed with the book. The whole project does seem a little gimmicky, which is what, apparently, Julia Child claims it is. But in the book, but apparently not in the movie, this upsets Powell immensely, as she sees the project as giving her life meaning, as a way of finding out who she is and escaping the anonymity of her corporate job. Which is, sort of, what Child was doing in France. She had, by this point, identified with Child in a way without really quite realizing and still trying to maintain some distance, so having her project labeled as a stunt by the very person she identified with had to be a blow.

Unlike the other two books, Powell’s book is not really about food, though there are many descriptions of cooking food and eating food, that’s not what it’s about. It’s more about soul searching, about the ups and downs of life. You can sort of argue the same thing of Child’s book, that her book is also about finding oneself, trying to separate oneself from the masses. But Child’s book is less individualistic than Powell’s and less about ego and success. Not that Child doesn’t have some ego in her, but she seems to recognize more than Powell does, that her friends and family have contributed to her life in significant ways. That may be her age (Child was in her late 80s when the book was being written) or it may be the times. Child’s lesson, taking heart in your family and friends seems more important somehow in the end. Powell does recognize this in the end and she does take joy (her word) in some of what’s happened in the course of her project, but that somehow it doesn’t quite match Julia’s life–not yet, anyway.

All three books left me with renewed gusto to cook more and eat well and maybe invite friends over to share it all with.

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Does anyone read books anymore?

Via The Chronicle, I found this editorial from a librarian. In it, he suggests that librarians are moving away from dealing with books and actual reading and focusing on information literacy, meaning navigating information in online databases and on the web. He calls this teaching “computer skills”:

The buzzword in the trade is “information literacy,” a misnomer, because what it is really about is mastering computer skills, not promoting a love of reading and books.

This is the common framing of technology vs. books, as if understanding and appreciating technology naturally precludes a love of reading. In the eyes of people like Mr. Washington, he’s in a zero-sum game where books and computers can’t *really* live side by side. It’s why someone in my position is looked at with skepticism because I’m one of those people who wants to take away books and make everyone read everything on a computer or better yet, watch the YouTube version. This is all completely untrue. I certainly don’t think books are going anywhere. I’m an avid reader myself. My whole life I’ve been an avid reader and a technophile. However, I will say that you can’t ignore what’s going on with technology. More and more people, especially high schoolers and college students, are getting their information on the web. Librarians are uniquely qualified to help students sort through all that information. If they just direct students to books, then students will be missing out on a lot of information, information that may very well be more relevant and more recent. Is it really a librarian’s job to inculcate a love of reading in students? Isn’t that a parent’s job? Or maybe an English teacher along the way? And is it the end of the world if someone doesn’t want to read Bleak House? I’ve known lots of people who don’t read “literature,” including most of the people in my family. They still read. Mostly they read mysteries and popular fiction, magazines and a daily newspaper. Yes, the NEA report says that reading is declining, especially among the 18-24 crowd. Many people in this group are required to read for school, much more than I remember being required to read when I was in college. I also remember not having time to read for pleasure in either college or grad school. I’d like to see another study about reading online. Do people now read more online? And maybe this whole thing isn’t a problem with technology, but a problem with our society generally not encouraging leisure time. I’m willing to join the fight to encourage more reading when librarians (and I know many who already do) will admit that navigating and being critical of web-based information is equally important.