Thinking About Reading

posted Aug 16, 2011, 8:06 PM by jj pionke
I've been doing a lot of reading this Summer.  Let me rephrase, I usually do a lot of reading.  Most of the reading I do has been for my previous life which was as an adjunct professor of English.  So when I say I usually do a lot of reading, you can understand what I mean.  However, this also means that I typically don't do fun or casual reading.  In fact, my fun reading times were usually relegated to Summer and Winter breaks and even then, it had to be very easy books or books that I had read before.  Why?  Mental exhaustion.  After doing the grading sprint at the end of the semester, the only thing that my brain was good for afterwards was reading comforting braincandy which meant that year after year, all of these wonderful books that I really wanted to read simply piled up on the "to read" bookcase and were unread.  Before coming to Ann Arbor, I did a major and very thorough cleaning of my room, including taking out and dusting every book on the "to read" bookcase.  Sadly, this also meant putting some books in general population simply because I knew there was no way I was going to get to them anytime soon and even more sadly, I had lost interest in the subject that they were in.  

When I committed to coming to the University of Michigan's School of Information program, I asked if there was a recommended reading list and lo, there was.  It was a little out of date, but considering that I was changing careers, maybe a little out of date would help me better integrate into the program.  So far, I have read:

The Magician's Book by Laura Miller
Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter
Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger
The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr (maybe unfair, I have read and taught this book in the past and are therefore counting it)
and I am finishing up Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal (which always makes me think of Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter)

For me, this is rather impressive.  I haven't read this much "for fun" material in YEARS.  I read the first book over the course of an entire semester in between grading and waiting for classes to start and it was infuriating because I was really really into it.  I wanted to just sit down for a few afternoons and read read read.  I loved The Magician's Book not just because the author talks about how her relationship with Narnia changed over time, but she also went into why Lewis wrote the books the way that he did which meant she did a very thorough character analysis of him.  I can understand why a lot of people didn't like this book, but I loved it.  Everything and Social Life were fascinating reads and I read them back to back.  However, I also felt that they got a bit repetitive at times which was frustrating.  Designing was the first book that I really read digitally.  I have a first gen Kindle, but mom pretty much er....permanently borrowed it so I haven't ever had much chance to use it!  Now that I have an iPad and an Android phone, I use the Kindle apps fairly heavily and really really like them.  Anyway, Designing was interesting in that I don't know much about this topic and the book is fairly well written kind of way.  I love Canticle and recommend it as a fun, if somewhat depressing, book about an apocalyptic future.

Finally, I am currently reading Reality.  This book wasn't actually on the recommended reading list. As I said, the list is out of date and desperately needs a clean up.  The book however, was recommended by a current student and the title was interesting enough that I downloaded it.  I am glad that I have.  It's a book about how well, reality is broken.  How the world around us has become so dreary in comparison to the games that we play that we need to start thinking about how to more fully integrate games into our lives.  It's an interesting premise and the book is extremely well written.  I don't have much left, and it is starting to get a little wearing, by this point the author is pretty much talking about her own projects, which, while interesting, I wished were placed in a larger context of other projects.  I do recommend all of these books.  None of them was so odious that I wanted to cry and I would say that none were odious period.

They say that in grad school, you have to learn how to skim or you will go insane.  Please understand that I read every word of all of those books because I had the time and I wanted to.  Some books took me much longer than others and that's ok.  If I had to read these books for classes, starting in just a 2 weeks, I am sure that I would not be reading every word and instead would be hardcore skimming them.

Also, please don't think that these are the only books that I have read this Summer!  In between these books, I also zipped through the Hunger Games trilogy, a book on the history of absinthe, and several other young adult novels that I could plow through in an afternoon.  When I finally started having time to read, it was like taking a deep breath of fresh air after shallow breathing for years.  I've missed reading terribly.  All of which tells me that getting away from adjunct teaching and changing careers to librarianship is the right choice in so many ways.  I have no illusions that I will have more time to read in my new career as I am sure that I will be very busy, but I know that my new career will allow me to have not so much take home work like my old career did and for that, I am very very grateful.  Being able to read the things that I want, even if they are part of a graduate program, has reminded me in some ways what it is like to live again.  That's a lot of pressure to put on a little activity like reading, but I am sure that reading can handle it.  ;)