Saturday, January 5, 2008

NPR - Reluctant Reader

I hate reading. Ok, that said, I've read a lot, otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here with an understanding of our world and writing about it. I wouldn't have earned a Master Degree in Geography without the research and writing the thesis, ok, on a very boring topic (great bedtime reading and easier than a sleeping pill). But that's just the half of it.

My Mom was a prolific reader, but almost all of it dime novels. She did read enough at work to become a senior adjuster with a major insurance company, which including reading a lot about the law and other really more boring stuff those companies and the legal system requires. I've always respected her for that, but she always resorted to dime novels.

My Dad only read at work. We never saw him read at home. I don't know why, but I suspect he really didn't like reading, and only did enough to get by in life. He rose to be a Lieutant Colonel in the US Air Force, so he wasn't stupid. He liked talking with people and doing things, albeit he couldn't make anything, a talent he handed down to my brother and I.

My siblings, my older brother Greg and older sister Kris, were similar to Dad. We read enough to get by, and if anyone read more, it was Kris. Greg was similar to Dad, he read enough to get by in life, and having a BA in Accounting, being a CPA and eventually a CEO, he had to read a lot of related stuff. But he didn't read outside of work.

I, on the other hand, hated reading in school but read occasionally for myself. I'm a learn by doing person. I like doing something, learning as I go, and then read when I have a question or a problem. Then I stop, read and roll on. I've learned almost everything I do that way, and partly why I make a lot of mistakes, but it's who I am, and try as I must, I don't read beyond what I need to know or learn.

But I will read when the passion strikes. I've read the complete works of Sherlock Holmes, Henry David Thoreau, and other writers. I sit down and read, and read, until I've read everything they've written. And I read what I can find on a subject because it interests me. I have a small library on large format photography which I read every book before buying a camera and lenses.

For my Master Degree thesis, I read tons of materials. You have to, but my best talent was research. I'm able to sit down in libraries and scours shelves of references and bibliographies for material, find that material and read it. For my first, failed, thesis I had found, sometimes bought, every book and article published up to that time. I have a file cabinet full of copies of these materials I included in the bibliography.

And for my photography and Website, I've struck a balance. I buy reference books, read enough to start and then do things to read when I'm stuck. It's why my Website isn't fancy, yet, because I don't want to learn javascript or fancier Web design. I know I will, when the passion strikes. Or not, if it doesn't. I learn what I can do simply and easily. It works for me.

I also read 3-5 newspapers 3-5 times per week. But read is a dubious word. I sit down with a sandwich and chips and start with page one. It would be better if I said I peruse the newspapers, looking for interesting news or stuff, and then read it. And then continue. I often just read the first few paragraphs of articles to get the idea and to see if it's interesting. Since you can't learn everything about an issue from an article, I don't see the reason to try and understand all of it, only the highlights.

Is this so bad? Not really. I listened to an interview with Nancy Pearl, Chief Librarian for the City of Seattle, who said she only finishes one in twelve books she starts. She said the other eleven don't interest her enough to read past the first chapter if that. So, it's ok not to read every book you pick up, and not to finish every book you start reading. It's about being in our world of words, where knowledge and understanding lives alongside life. So read what works for you.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up hating to read too. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries especially for boys 8 - 13, who also may not like to read.

    NEWSPAPER CAPER, TERROR AT WOLF LAKE, NORTH WOODS POACHERS, MOUNTAIN CABIN MYSTERY, BIG RIG RUSTLERS, SECRET OF ABBOTT'S CAVE & LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF, are compared by readers and reviewers to Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, Huck Finn, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Scooby-Doo, Lemony Snicket, and adventure author Jack London.

    My blog, Books for Boys, ranks in the top 5 on Yahoo and the top 20 on Google and you can find it at There you will also find links to my author's web site and another blog with 50 pages of reviews.

    If you have any questions, please let me know.

    Thank you,

    Max Elliot Anderson
    Now, from an author who hated to read...comes books kids hate to put down.