Arkbuilding & Other Ways to Kill a Weekend

by Patrick on January 22, 2010

It is a soggy, marshy sort of day, the fifth in a row in this week of spitting rain and wind.  We’re not used to this in Southern California; rain makes us crazy, like wet Santa Ana winds.  Anyway, I recommend a lot of reading this weekend.  Stay inside, cultivate your mind a bit, you know?  The sunshine will return soon enough.  For now, here’s something to contemplate for the weekend:

I’ve decided, in the spirit of the new year, with this new weather and what not, to try to shake up my reading life.  I’m going to attempt to read more than one book at a time.  If you click over to The Stack, you can see that I’m currently involved with three different books (each of them, weirdly enough, non-fiction).  I’ve never been able to successfully do this.  One book always comes to dominate my attention and I finish it before moving on to the other books.  Here’s my current plan is to read Ken Auletta’s Googled on the train and at work, Nick Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb when I’m home or out at a coffee shop, and Kingsley Amis’ Everyday Drinking in pieces, here and there (Okay, actually only when I’m in the bathroom…happy now?).

The question is, can this be sustained?  Will I be able to put down one book for another?  Does anyone have tips for how to do this?  Will it make me read more books or simply indulge my desire to always be starting a new book (the “grass is always greener” phenomenon)?  I shall report back.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sarah McCoy 01.24.10 at 4:04 pm

Dear Patrick,

From my experience, a nonfiction book and a novel can work simultaneously. One is an account of a subject; the other is a kind of slip into dreamland. Totally different sides of the brain… for me, at least. Juggling different nonfiction texts seems to work fine and dandy, too. All of us being former students, I think academia molds us into nonfiction multitaskers. Think about the average high school student’s reading list: a book about the settlement of Jamestown for history class, a political satire for government, a biology text for science, a memoir for music appreciation, a cultural narrative for a language class, etc. So we’ve been taught how to open and close nonfiction books concurrently. I think it’s a bit trickier for novels.

I, for one, can’t read multiple fiction works. From the first page of a novel, my imagination begins to create a world. I immediately meet the characters and empathize with their emotions. If I did that with two or three worlds at a time, things might start to overlap and all of a sudden I’m feeling hostile toward EMMA because of something that pissed me off in ATONEMENT. The authenticity of the reading experience would be corrupted. So I stick to one novel at a time, but I could do multiple nonfiction titles.

Speaking of fiction vs. nonfiction, your January 21, “Discovery and Credibility…” post got me thinking/blogging about the topic: http://www.sarahmccoy.wordpress.com.

Thanks for passing on the awesome MOTHER JONES essay!

Yours truly, Sarah

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