Tuesday, May 8, 2012

on reading adventures

“what book will you buy first?” was the question i was asked most during my last week of the book-buying-ban.

i had no answer for this question. 

you see, over the last six months, my views on books have changed.  yes, i still love to own them—especially poetry—but the owning them isn’t as important as reading/experiencing them.

when i set out on this challenge, i gave the following reasons for wanting to do it.  so now that it’s done, i want to take a few moments to address these reasons and what i came to discover in the process.

reason 1:  space
i don’t have any more room for books.  i’m out of space.  books are becoming furniture already, so i need to curb their takeover for just a little bit so i can sort through what i have and am willing to sell off.  i don’t like shedding books, so it takes me time to embrace the decision.  this challenge is a way to postpone the inevitable and give myself time to make smart decisions about the purge.

this is still true.  but i’ve embraced the fact that i will always be short on room.  books are my life—they are my career, my hobby, and, to a very real extent, a part of my identity.  i will always make room for them, even when there seems to be none.

as far as the purge, i have mostly taken care of business.  i shed a few books that were “crap reads,” i.e. read for fun and pure entertainment rather than study.

i have decided that moving forward, all “crap reads” will now exist on my nook—cluttering up my virtual bookshelf rather than the physical.  this will leave me room to grow my collection of worthwhile and collectable texts.

reason 2:  practice what you preach
i fuss at my students all the time for not using the amazing resources they have available to them.  i’m guilty of this crime, too.  i have so many literary outlets, and, sadly, most of them go unused because it is so blasted easy to tap “buy” on my nook or “check out” on amazon.  rather than taking the three extra steps to use a free resource, i buy books.  so part of this challenge is to force me to start using these resources, thereby allowing me to practice what i preach.

i practiced.  a lot.  i am now free to preach as much as i would like. 

and, by the way, i was right.  there is a world of resources out there—you just have to be willing to take a few extra steps.

reason 3: playing with form
since i got my nook, on top of e-book purchases i’ve bought more books—actual paper and glue books.  i’m probably atoning for buying an e-reader, but it is what it is.  i love that we have so many different forms of books available to us, so i want to make better use of all the forms.  currently, i’m really enjoying audiobooks (partly because i have a long commute, and partly because they allow me to multi-task—you mean i can drive and “read” at the same time?!).  this challenge will allow me to continue to play with different forms.

forcing myself to use library resources allowed me to expand my book horizons to include technologies that i’ve always overlooked.  i came to love the audiobook—especially when “reading” fiction.

i’ve never been a huge fan of novels—mainly because i spent so much time in school studying poetry and plays that are typically short and quick to get through; the longer novel always bored me--my ridiculously ADD mind losing focus and wanting to move on to another story.  audiobooks allowed me a way to get into novels without the inevitable boredom setting in.  through the audio experience, i found many wonderful works of fiction and have now begun actually reading more of it in print.

reason 4: lack of inspiration
i have been utterly devoid of inspiration lately.  i have no creative drive whatsoever.  i'm hoping that, by forcing myself to find ways to get the books i'm after, i can overcome this immense creative block.

in the time spent in this challenge, i have finished a paper i’ve literally been puzzling over for five years and have developed ideas for a few new ones. 

i’d say inspiration has come—and i hope it stays, because “sexual negotiations: wooing in the times of john donne and marvin gaye” is an essay that i MUST write.

reason 5: the social experiment factor
underlying all my english and literature nerdiness is an epic love of culture and social sciences. 

this challenge is allowing me to see what it would be like to not have the ability to purchase books—what some might consider to be a luxury or frivolous purchase.  books are such an integral part of who i am, that i’m interested to see what happens when i remove my ability to buy them from the equation (will i stop reading due to the hassle?  will i mourn for amazon and barnes and noble? will i count down the days until i can buy books again?  will i be perfectly fine?).

another part of the experiment side of things deals with knowledge and intellectual property.  do i have to own a book to know it?  do i need to physically hold a book in my hands and have it on my bookshelf to have rights to the knowledge or story it has provided me?  can the two—book and knowledge—exist separately or must they coexist?

now the trickiest bit—the social experiment side of things. 

not being able to purchase books was hard.  that should come as no surprise.  it led to some problems, which in turn led to creative solutions.  while, at the end, i was perfectly fine having to rely on free resources, i definitely did long for the bookstore—virtual, yes, but especially brick and mortar.  i missed the scent of old books--dusty on store shelves, and the polite banter of book store employees.

my suspicion over intellectual property and ownership has been confirmed—knowledge is knowledge rather you get it for free or pay $9.95 for it.  i now know far more than i ever did before about german u-boats, the human optical system, and HeLa cells.  this knowledge is my own—no one can take it away from me, even though i don’t own the books.

i’m not going to say it was fun, but it was enlightening.  and, while i’m not apt to do it again for a while, i have, overall, enjoyed the challenge/experience.

and, for the record, my first book purchases were:
  1. the swerve: how the world became modern by stephen greenblatt
  2. abraham lincoln: vampire hunter by seth grahame-smith

Thursday, May 3, 2012


the sixth month of my challenge has come and gone.  it was a short, fast month filled with a thousand mundanities that kept me from reading as much as i would have liked.

here's the list:

title: crashing through: a story of risk, adventure, and the man who dared to see - robert kurson

medium: audio from library

thoughts: while not nearly as interesting as his other book, shadow divers, this is a good read.   i learned a lot about how people see, so that's something.

title: deja dead - kathy reichs

medium: audio from library

thoughts: this is book number two in a very long series.  it's fluff, but it's enjoyable.  

title: catching fire - suzanne collins

medium: ebook; already owned

thoughts:  i figured since i reread hunger games last month before seeing the film, i'd go ahead and continue rereading the series.

title: mockingjay - suzanne collins

medium: ebook; already owned

thoughts:  see catching fire above.

title: the prince - niccolo machiavelli

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i consider this foundational literature.  so much of western lit from the renaissance to today is influenced by this text, so i make my students read it.

title: don quixote de la mancha - miguel de cervantes

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i've only read bits and pieces of this text before this semester.  i enjoyed it very much this time around.

title: amoretti - sir edmund spenser

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  ummm...it's spenser.  he's badass.  don't believe me, look him up!

title: titus andronicus - william shakespeare

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i love this bit of bad shakespeare so very much!  plus, it's so brutal that it makes my students squirm, which is always fun.

title: areopagitica - john milton

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i don't particularly care for much of milton's canon, but this one i love.  it's all about the context here.  and his immense appreciation for books--whatever they happen to be about.

so there you have it: month six.

i'll be posting thoughts on the whole experience soon (once i've had time to collect them).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

i'm a survivor.

i have done it and relief has set in.

i survived.

i am now free to buy books.

unfortunately, the end of my book-buying-ban has coincided with pre-finals week at school, so i have no time to recap the experience, let alone really think about it.

i'll save that for next week.

until then, i've already made my first book purchase:  the swerve: how the world became modern by stephen greenblatt.  i can't wait until i have time to read it!