all of these choices—these transpositions we choose when reading— work. They work for us because books do not tender precise images, sounds or smells. Books, like plays, present ideas, and the juxtaposition of ideas. It is the interaction of ideas that catalyzes feeling in us readers.
A long essay that is well worth the read.
A while back I put together a small plugin for tracking the books I read. Today I put the code up on Github in case it’s useful to others. You can see a live demo of it on my reading page.
The plugin uses a custom post type for books which lets you track each book as a new post. There’s also a custom taxonomy to keep track of the authors you’re reading as well.
I also wanted to create a repository for the notes I take when reading. I went with the easy way to do that. Within the custom post type any content will show as notes. The main reading page has a little “View notes” link that is added automatically once you add content. It means I’ll slowly build up a public, searchable set of notes from my reading.
For displaying books I put together a few templates as a child theme. It’s what I use on this site and the child theme is up on Github. I need to clean up the author archive templates a bit but it at least gets a basic layout done.
In the future I’d love to add a graph at the top of the page which plots monthly stats of my reading. Having a visual representation of my reading velocity would be neat to see over time.
I wish I had all my notes from college in plaintext Markdown-formatted files. As I get back in to reading more difficult texts I’m writing up chapter notes in nvALT.
The more I do this, the more I find myself going back to them and searching for previously noted phrases, definitions, or quotes. My reminiscent wish is for nvALT to be a single data store for all my reading annotations. The problem is I have all these NeoOffice and Pages files from college.
I’m still working my way through Foucault’s The Order of Things and have made slower progress than previous weeks. Busy weeks at work and lots of travel will do that. As I was working through my notes from the last 100 pages this quote caught my eye:
To know is to speak correctly, and as the steady progress of the mind dictates; to speak is to know as far as one is able, and in accordance with the model imposed by those whose birth one shares.
I particularly like those first six words. To know is to speak correctly. Has a nice feeling to it.
Nicholas Carr writes of a study that shows students still prefer printed texts:
What’s most revealing about this study is that, like earlier research, it suggests that students’ preference for printed textbooks reflects the real pedagogical advantages they experience in using the format: fewer distractions, deeper engagement, better comprehension and retention, and greater flexibility to accommodating idiosyncratic study habits.
Or, put another way, it shows that students who were taught to read through printed texts still have a bias toward that medium as they grow older. Humans are highly adaptable creatures and I’d bet the preference these students have is more a result of pedagogy than the inherent values of digital texts.
I think we won’t truly see the effects of digital books until these studies focus on students who learned to read on digital devices. In other words, people who don’t look at an iPad or Kindle as an e-book but, rather, just as how you read.
I typically read about a book a week. The majority of those are nonfiction with an occasional fiction one thrown in as well. Some of my recent favorites are The Power of Habit, Salt, and Moonwalking With Einstein. Those are all great but they’re also all pretty easy reads. They give my brain just enough to feel productive but not enough to really chew on.
Two weeks ago I picked up The Order of Things, a book I’ve had on my shelf for years. While I’ve only made it 90 pages in, I love it.
As a political theory major in college I read a lot of books like this. Books you struggled with to fully grasp. One of my favorite courses was an upper level Sociology course where the only assignment was reading. No papers, exams, or anything else. That reading made for the most challenging class I took in college.
Somewhere along the way I forgot the joy of sitting down to slowly and deliberately work my way through a book. I’m glad I found it again.