09 September 2011

Reading Time--Books, Magazines, Journals

Welcome back. Read any good books lately? Nope. What book are you reading? None.  

At age 6 or 7, I discovered I was not a pleasure reader. Uncle Caspar brought stacks of 10-cent comic books on every visit. My brother and I would devour them, but my devouring never went much beyond the pictures. Who needed words to know what Plastic Man or Captain Marvel was doing?

All these years since, I should have been reading the same books that might have been on your nightstand or next to your favorite reading chair, or that have sand grains or pine needles or some residual from your vacations. It’s never happened.

I’m retired and it’s time to adjust my reading habits. In my defense, though, let me tell you what I do read besides the news media I mentioned last week.  

Technical Journals and Newsletters
 
For 50 years, to keep abreast of my primary and related fields, I had to read an infinite number of technical journals and journal-like newsletters. OK, maybe it just seemed like it was infinite. There’s at least half a dozen as well as technical updates emailed from more and more sources. These anytime updates make up for brevity with frequency.  

That’s my base, my gotta’ read; what I was reading before or after office hours.

Magazines Plus
 
The handful of magazines I subscribe to--Newsweek, Kiplinger's, American Scientist, Consumer Reports, I review cover to cover. Different groups I belong to send me magazines, which I dutifully thumb through. I recently changed one to the online version where it’s subject to a different psychology. Anything on my reading pile is safe from recycling until reviewed. If it’s online, clicking Delete is sometimes irresistible.

There are also a small number of short, non-technical newsletters. One, for example, is a wellness monthly that’s begun emailing almost daily health tips. Do I have to be that healthy? 

Books

Before college, I read what was assigned in school, no more; and not much was assigned. As an undergraduate in college, I was crushed by technical courses and had too few non-technical courses to make a significant dent in my reading. 

Have I already read these?
Living in the Philippines for two years, I read, yet not enough to earn a pleasure-reader merit badge. Not having television or regular newspapers helped, though I spent more time schmoozing and playing guitar than reading.
 
How abysmal that I have to skip ahead nearly 40 years to reach my next moment of truly substantive reading. Laid up after back surgery, I zipped through a handful of books. Alas, most were on financial planning. I had to get ready to retire, didn’t I?

Rebalancing My Reading Account
 
Where to start my reading transformation? Do I dare cut back on technical reading? That would be a colossal step toward accepting retirement, my don't look back moment.  

I’ve got to admit that I’m not getting to or through journals as fast as I did before retiring. Makeshift bookmarks protrude from the reading pile, and the pile keeps growing.  

You know what I did after retiring? I closed my eyes, held my breath and, instead of clicking my heels, canceled membership in a professional society I’d belonged to for 45 years. That ended one technical newsletter. The world didn’t end; not yet anyway. 
 
If I “unsubscribe” to emailed technical updates, I’ll really be retired, won’t I?

Wrap Up

I’ll do it! I’ll make time and I’ll read for pleasure. I’ll pick one of the top 100 lists and just start reading. Maybe I should go through our shelves first or finish what I haven’t read of, say, Shakespeare. What about current best sellers? Oh, this is going to take time to work out.

I’d read Uncle Caspar’s comic books if my mother hadn’t tossed them all. I think Truman was president, not that he had anything to do it.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.
 
P.S.   

With the huge number of free ebooks from Google and e-bookstores, I’m tempted to buy an ebook reader. Project Gutenberg alone offers over 36,000 with no registration or fee (in the U.S.); a small donation is requested: http://www.gutenberg.org/

Libraries also offer ebooks, though they may not be compatible with every ebook reader. If you're interested, the September issue of Consumer Reports has a review of ebook readers and tablet computers.

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