You Are What You Read

you are what you readBack in my college days I once got into a discussion with another student once about my lack of desire to read Marquis de Sade. He argued that my refusal to read it indicated a sad failure on my part to experience everything life has to offer, refuting my claim that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it with the philosophical depth charge “don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”

Aside from the obvious fact that we continually assess what we’ll get involved in without experiencing everything under consideration, it’s really more of a mathematical issue than anything else. According to a study undertaken by the Google company, the total number of books in the world right now is approximately 129 million. I don’t care how long you live or how fast you read, you’re not going to make a dent in that pile. Of course, you could modify this by saying you only have to try a few things from each category, but even then the list is daunting. Think about it: we’re not just talking about capital-L-literature with its myriad subcategories (medieval French literature, colonial literature, literature of the Vietnam war, surrealism — there is no end to genres, periods, perspectives and isms), but every subject in the world from art to zoology and everything in between.

So choices must be made, because no one has that kind of time. I’m sure we all read the requisite books and journals in our professional fields, but the books we choose to read for pleasure are very specific selections that reflect our individual personalities, values, and interests. So to anyone wishing to read the adventures of the good marquis I say more power to you, but at least own the choice and don’t pretend you’re merely on an objective quest to broaden your horizons.

That said, and fully owning my choices, what’s on my fun reading list? Here are a few off the top of my head:

Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman
Fantastic commentary on writing wrapped in a totally out-of-the-box page-turner.
Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones
No relation to the movie. A novel about an American woman living in China as a translator. Funny, perceptive cross-cultural insights and best translator-revenge scene ever.
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley
It’s a comic strip. I read it because I’m doing research for an article on humor in postmodern America. That’s not true. I just like it. I read all the funnies in the newspaper.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Biography of mathematician John Nash, which chronicles his descent into schizophrenia and subsequent (tenuous) recovery. Intelligent, absorbing story about the puzzle of the human mind and the triumph of the human spirit.

What’s on your list? I’m always willing to broaden my horizons. Or to think about it anyway. But I do love a good read.


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