New Year’s Resolution #1

WHEREAS the amount and quality of reading I did last year was pitiful…

At the moment, I can think of only two-and-a-half works of fiction I read over the last 12 months: I reread Nabokovís Laughter in the Dark, and left it in a lounge in Schiphol so as not to read it again (it’s good, but not his best); stole from Jamie, quickly read, and thoroughly enjoyed Robbins’s Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates; and finally read Steve Martin’s bleakly striking novella (hence the 1/2), Shopgirl.

Naturally, I also read a lot of stuff related to my research, much of it interesting. But I can’t help but outline and read strategically when I pick up a book that is meant to make me know, not make me think. And many of these are research monographs, with writing that is informative, but not always compelling. I haven’t allowed myself to be immersed in a book from outside of my field all year, I don’t think.

When I first started grading undergraduate work, I would joke with my fellow TAs that my own writing was suffering. It was only partially a joke: short of writing a lot, the best way to become a better writer is to read widely and carefully. This piece of advice–which I regularly share with students–I have failed to follow recently.

THEREFORE, let it be resolved that I will read at least a half-dozen fiction and a dozen non-fiction books, from outside of the communications research literature, over the next year.

This may not seem like a whole lot, but it will require an investment of time that I haven’t given myself in the last year. I already have some ideas on the fiction (more Robbins, some Murakami, and maybe some S.F.). On the non-fiction side, I want to read some history, perhaps ancient, and more American pragmatism (James, Dewey, Peirce). In the latter case, I want to read slowly, and make sure I have a thorough grounding in each book I take on.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted 12/28/2002 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve made a similar resolution, and I’ve started early: I’m up to “the Warren Harding years” in A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson. I know there’s some harsh criticism about it, but I would highly recommend it. Plus, it’s so long, I think it counts as at least 2 books.

  2. Alex
    Posted 12/29/2002 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing (hoping?) you’ve already read Zinn’s self-admitted leftist critique of the accepted history. Mix Johnson and Zinn and you might just get at some of the more interesting issues. Or just confused, I don’t know.

  3. Posted 12/29/2002 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Kara, if you haven’t read Zinn’s book, I can lend it to you =)

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