Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Hate Reading

This is going to be a little anti-climatic.  The end of the year always lends itself to "year-in-review" type lists.  I love lists, so love reading these things.  Assuming I respect the writer's taste, I find book lists especially interesting because I need recommendations when it comes to books.  Last time I went to the library was before a trip.  I wandered around the aisles, so overwhelmed by the choices that I just got a magazine.  (Real Simple, I think.)  However, when I got to the checkout, I was informed that the magazines can't actually leave the library, so I walked out empty handed.  Here's the other thing: I hate reading.

I don't really.  But once, a good friend of mine, when her husband asked if I'd read anything recently, interjected, "Sarah haaates reading."  So now I laugh about that all the time.  See, even though I don't hate reading, I really don't do a lot of it.  I like to think that I don't have time, but really, I just choose to do other stuff with my free time: cooking, shopping, and more TV than I like to admit. 

Most of the reading I did this year was while on an airplane, usually after trying to find the worst item in the Sky Mall catalog.  Considering how many hours we spend on flights and in airport lobbies, it's embarrassing how few books I read.  Ready for it? Four.  Maybe four and a half if you count the one that took me two years to read - yeah, I started in 2012.  Plus, two were in January, so that means it took me eleven months for the other two.  Five months per book?  Like I said, a little embarrassing, but Psych was not going to watch itself.  Want to know what they were? Without further ado, here is my meager book list for the year:

1. The Sibling Effect, Jeffery Kluger

I'm a fan of non-fiction.  Nothing that requires too much thinking, but I love books in what I call "social economics" genre. Think Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics - books that take a slightly deeper look at why people act the way they do.

This book was just up my alley.  The book looks at the effect sibling relationships, birth order, and family dynamics can have.  Entertaining antidotes are mixed in with scientific findings and theories.  It was impossible not to compare what I read to my own family dynamics and have a few "That's why my sister is the way she is" revelations.  I was rather sad when this book ended, partially because it was so enjoyable and partially because I had nothing else to do in the middle of an eight hour car ride in South Africa.

2.  Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

A friend and the nurse at the travel clinic (where I had to get FOUR shots) recommended this book, so I figured I should give it a chance.  None of what I read were "new" books, so this is probably all old news anyways.  It's a historical tale about a man and his twin brother who are raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the time Emperor Selassie was overthrown.  The main character is a doctor, so that should have been a sign this might not have been a good book for me. I can barely stand to get a shot without holding someone's hand, so I definitely skipped a few of the scenes that were too graphic for this weak stomach and sheltered heart to handle.  (I think I got the recommendation in the first place because I said something to the nurse like, "I'm really not good with shots and made my mom hold my hand last time even though I'm almost 30 and she's not here so can you just keep talking to me so I'm distracted?" all in one breath. And then we talked about books.) So, too much medical detail for me, but I'm glad I didn't quit though because I started during our trip to Africa and was about halfway through once we reached Ethopia.  Experiencing the place I was already familiar with through Verghese's descriptions was AMAZING.  I was able to explain cultural practices to Jason as we explored Addis based on what I absorbed from the book. Hopefully he didn't get too tired of me repeating, "That's in my book!"

3. Life of Pi, Yann Martel 
I bought this at the airport right before the final, ten hour flight home from our African adventure.  It seemed like the safest option in a Dutch bookstore at 6 am.  Of course, once I boarded the plane, I only got a few chapters in before falling asleep, so I never finished until after a few months passed and I saw the movie, which at that point I did just because I feel guilty leaving books unfinished.  The book had a few more details than the movie, but they didn't add a whole lot for me, especially since the movie had such wonderful imagery. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining read that can get you thinking on some deeper themes if you let it.  You probably know what it's about, but basically a boy and a tiger are stranded in the ocean.  Note to self for 2014: learn ocean survival skills.

4. What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell 
I bought this book when it came out a few years ago, but I was in grad school at the time so legitimately did not have time to read it (unlike now where I just make excuses). I lent it to a friend and never got it back, so finally got it from the library this summer. I love Malcolm Gladwell's books, as I've mentioned, and this was no exception.  A collection of articles he wrote for the New Yorker, the chapters I found most fascinating about hiring teachers in the public school system and possible reasons for the increase in breast cancer over the past century. In each chapter, Gladwell examines a personal characteristic or phenomenon, gets to the root of it, and sometimes even suggests a solution. The only thing that frustrated me is that in cases where the is a real problem that needs to be solved, it's often not a solution that is being implemented, and it's not something that I can personally change. For example, in the breast cancer issue, drug companies usually don't have an incentive to start caring about people rather than money and it's not something I know how to change.  So it's interesting to learn about but frustrating that it reveals how inefficiently the world works.  I suppose bringing attention to an issue is the first step in solving it; I just want to also read about a happy ending.

The half book I read was False Economy by Alan Beattie, but I actually can't even remember if I finished it so it doesn't get a picture.  I'm an economist and while it was interesting at the time, it wasn't interesting enough to remember now, so that's probably telling you something. You have to really like economics to like this book is what it's saying.  Also it's saying I need to read more interesting books.  Sounds like I have my New Year's Resolution.

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