You Are What You Read…Also Blogging Books

I like reading (non-fiction, that is). I like reading book reviews (though usually after reading the book to gain additional perspective, never to help me determine to read a book). And I finally like reading periodicals as listed in “Print I Read” on the left bar. Hence, the emphasis the bloggers I read place on books is especially interesting and enjoyable. I have some observations on the notion “you are what you read” and then on how bloggers approach this from my viewpoint:

1. People who read a lot of books, newspapers, and magazines are usually more interesting than those who do not. If you read my post/article books make you a boring person then you know about the horrible quicksand many avid readers fall in to – becoming intellectually lazy by regurgitating facts and not critically analyzing what they read. This is especially true I think when I see, say, a strong anti-Bush person read Michael Moore books and the other 100 books out there to reinforce his/her own views. That person would be so much more interesting if s/he could suck it up and read Bush Country, a pro-Bush book. Then one could say “Well Bush’s supporters say X, Y, Z with these reasons but I don’t agree with that because of A, B, C….” Right now it’s usually “Bush sucks because of A, B, C.” The former is much stronger argument, only done through sitting through 300 pages of the opposite side.

2. People who rely on few media sources for daily news fit in the “boring” category. Why? An example. At a dinner party a couple weeks ago with primarily adults, politics inevitably came up. Everyone went around the table and said their one stock line (almost always a headline from that day’s NY Times) or their one Bush joke. Most busy people will read one national paper (NY Times or WSJ) and their local paper. I know people who have been reading the Times for 40 years regularly. It’s amazing to think that their entire thinking and window through which they see the world has been determined for the most part by a group of editors at one paper. I try to overcome this by reading both the liberal and conservative editorial pages of the Times and WSJ. Harpers and the Atlantic. 24 blogs daily. Etc. Also important to read about the credibility in journalism and the stories behind the stories of each of these publications.

3. Bloggers who list what they are reading (as I do) seem to plow through their books in an amazingly short amount of time. Maybe because it’s summer. But I ask this question: how much can you remember or take away from each book? There have been studies that people often buy lots of books and put them on their shelves and then they feel good. They sometimes never get read, or when they do, very lightly. In the past I’ve been steadfast on keeping my books clean, without underlining or other marks. But now I’m going to be marking up my books start to finish so I can go back and reference information as well as keep my mind focused on what the take-aways are from the book (assuming non-fiction).

4. Negative book reviews on blogs don’t make sense to me – why would I care why it’s bad. If it’s bad, don’t write a review saying it is bad. If it’s good, tell me why, so I can see about getting a copy.

Those are my thoughts on this topic for the moment. I’d love to hear yours.

3 Responses to You Are What You Read…Also Blogging Books

  1. I haven’t reviewed any books on my blog nor do I really intend to. What I do try to do though is when I make a decision based on the advice of someone be they a friend, associate or author that I credit them. Citing an actual application of an author’s advice to me is just as good if not moreso than reviewing the book from a purely academic perspective.

  2. Will Pate says:

    As per why bloggers tend to read books fast (and why I stopped keeping a book-roll) see this relevant Ask Metafilter thread.

  3. Brad Feld says:

    Good post – reading has been one of my great pleasures since I was a small child. I strongly agree that people that read a wide variety of things – including all perspectives on issues – are much more interesting (and generally informed) than those that either don’t read much or that pick a side and will only read “that stuff.”

    However, I’d apply this more generally. I find a wide variety of stuff interesting – non-fiction, fiction, first novels, travel, tech oriented books (ok – I’m a nerd), biography, and occassionally history (I have the hardest time reading history and classics). My first suggestion is to open yourself up to a wider range of books – don’t limit yourself to non-fiction – and don’t underestimate how much you can learn from fiction (I learned more about Afghanistan from The Kite Runner then I did from virtually anything else I’ve read on it – fact or fiction).

    Your comment on reading multiple media sources is right on the money. When I was in college, someone once told me that they regularly grab a bunch of magazines off the shelf when they are in the airport as a way to keep up with what is going on in different segments of the world they ordinarily wouldn’t pay attention to. While it’s a little odd to buy a copy of Road and Track, US, Home and Garden, E! Magazine, and Colorado Homes all in the same shot, it does stretch my mind to read a bunch of random stuff (and see all the different ads for products and services I’d never thought of before).

    Finally, don’t underestimate how much some people can read. While I recognize there are plenty of folks in the world that “ego read” (e.g. “look at all the books on my shelf – but I (a) either didn’t read them or (b) don’t remember much from them.”) My wife Amy and I don’t watch much television and right now (while we are at our place in Alaska) are logging 5+ hours a day reading (7 pm on every day). If you are a fast reader (50 – 100 pages / hour), you can cover a lot of ground in 5 hours / night.

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