Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reading or lack thereof

I don't really enjoy reading for long periods of time. The web has ruined me; now I can't stand to just read text for more than a few minutes at a time. Actually, I don't think it really was the web; I had started to dislike reading close to a decade ago. During the first semester of my freshman year in high school I read a lot of fiction, partially because it was required by my English class, and partially because I guess I didn't have anything better to do. I read Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar saga (Magician, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon) and one or two other books of his, all of which I enjoyed a lot. But at some point not too long after I decided that I didn't like reading fiction enough to justify doing that over other things. A few years later I decided that it wasn't too worthwhile to read technical manuals and references, something I used to enjoy doing, just because technical content can become outdated so quickly. I also used to enjoy reading about computer games, but I stopped reading computer game magazines when I got more frequent internet access, because it's old news by the time it's in print. Anymore I don't even usually read about them online, because there are just too many things I'd rather do. In short... I just don't read anymore. I read tech news and humor and a few blogs of people I know or respect, a couple forums, and that's about it. I'm pretty happy with this arrangement.

But, that doesn't stop me from wishing I had enough time to justify reading more of certain things. I don't know; maybe I should take more time out to read, or I could do it while exercising. Maybe it would be calming. I don't know. Today arrived two more books that may very well sit around for a year or more, both by Joel Spolsky, a man whose writing I enjoy even if I often disagree with him. (Well, one is written by him, and one is a collection of works chosen by him.) I added it to the stack of books that I have around and haven't bothered cracking open yet. Then I realized that it might be interesting to list those.

Actually, I have read a couple books in the past year or so. I read Jon Stewart's America: The Book, which was quite excellent, though spotty in some parts. I also "read" several compilations of my favorite comics: Red Meat, More Red Meat, Red Meat Gold, Get Your War On, and Get Your War On II, all quite hilarious. But, those are the exceptions, not the rule. Here are the books I've picked up and haven't started:
  • Whole Body Massage. I took a non-credit massage class at UNL my senior year. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I found it pretty relaxing and entertaining. What I didn't take into the account is that pretty much everyone seems to be pretty uninterested in the idea of receiving a massage from someone they know, something that I probably should have been able to figure out on my own. Consequently, it's a skill that I've been able to practice exactly once. Anyway, I got this book because it was in the discount bin while I was waiting for a movie almost a year ago. If I never open it, I'm only out five bucks.
  • Bread: The Breads of the World and How to Bake Them at Home. I love bread. I love all sorts of bread. I love making it. I love eating it. I love just about everything about bread. If there's one food that I couldn't live without, it's bread. But, my mom got me a breadmaker a year and a half ago for Christmas, and while handmade bread is a bit better, it's not so much better that I normally want to spend 90 minutes working on something that takes 5 minutes with a machine. Maybe I'll get some use out of this one if I ever need to make bread for some occasion, because some of these are fairly elaborate. Anyway, this was the other book I got from that bargain bin. Not bad for a full-color coffee table book.
  • You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure to Ruin Your Day. This book isn't even prose. It's just a bunch of Deep Thoughts-like tidbits such as this one: "When you're crossing the street, people in cars are making jokes about getting points for running you down." That one and about five others are the only ones I've read so far.
  • Joel on Software. This is Joel Spolsky's book that I mentioned earlier. Joel worked at Microsoft long ago, and now has his own company. I haven't read the book, but I did turn randomly to this quote which I find to be excellent: "Oh, and, by the way, if you think that it's unprofessional to be funny, then I'm sorry, but you just don't have a sense of humor. (Don't deny it. People without senses of humor always deny it. You can't fool me.) And if you work in a company where people will respect you less because your specs are breezy, funny, and enjoyable to read, then go find another company to work for, because life is just too damn short to spend your daylight hours in such a stern and miserable place."
  • The Best Software Writing I. This is similar in content to the previous book, but it's a collection of writings by people who aren't Joel Spolsky, assembled by someone who is.

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