Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What We Read

There's no better window to the soul than knowing what people read. Well, wait a second, that's a bit too strong. The soul is more amorphous and mysterious than a person's reading list. And a such a list would not sum up the whole person, would it? OK, let me rephrase. What a person reads provides strong clues to what a person is vitally interested in, what he spends time thinking about, what she likes and considers important. I always ask my friends that read what they are reading. Indeed, almost all my friends are avid readers; it's just the kind of people I hang around with. It still flabbergasts me that the vast majority of Americans don't even read one book in a year!  You can sport readers a mile off when they come into a place with bookshelves (most of the time a home, but sometimes other places like offices): they scan titles. They wonder, as do I in such situations, what does this person read? Do we have common interests? Is there anything here that sounds interesting to me?

I got to thinking about this subject when I came across this NY Times piece on Lewis Lapham and Lapham's Quarterly. I've been a subscriber since this publication began its second year. I have to confess that I've not read every page of the four issues I've received, but I've read a lot. And I've renewed. Not reading every word of every page is nothing new. I remember somewhat in disbelief that there was a time when I was young were I did read every word of every magazine I got. But I got fewer and definitely less meaty ones then, and that was a long time ago. Anyway, I don't get that many magazines, but it's still too many: Harper's, Atlantic, Newsweek (which I just scan), Chess Life, and the aforementioned journal. I have a bud that passes along his old New Yorker magazines. I gave up my subscription earlier this year. All those unread magazines (once a week!) made me feel way too guilty. I still have stacks of them sitting around in the doubtless vain hope that one day I'll get around to reading them. I'm not even counting the extraneous stuff that comes in and that I'll spend time scanning or actually reading.

And then there are the books. I've got a ton of books around here that I really want to read, a lot of them in the category of I'll read that when I retire. Well . . . what am I waiting for? That story is going to have to wait till later.
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