All the Books I Have Known

I remember as a child reading that for every minute of your life, ten pages of reading material are published. This line upset me greatly, since I could not imagine keeping up with such prodigious publishing. Years later, after I lost my childish naivette, I was greatly relieved to realize that of those 10 pages, perhaps 0.1 is worth reading. Even then, it is impossible to keep up. I tried to do my best, though with keeping up with daily NYTimes, weekly Book Reviews, and monthly Wireds, music mags, Physics Todays (I had to drop Scientific American for lack of time), I have less and less time for books.

I also read somewhere that reading interests change on the average every 4 years. This statement might be an artifact of the American educational system which is neatly broken into 4-year blocks. In grade school (in the former Soviet Union) my reading were from the canon of children's adventure literature: Dickens, Scott, Dumas, Cooper (he is much more readable in Russian), Gaidar. In junior high, when I was most interested in archaeology, I read archeology and ancient astronaut books. In high school, when I began to be interested in science - pop physics and science fiction. In college, as my interests broadened, my reading horizons expanded, and I read much worthy stuff. Now I just make sure to vary the dosage between fiction and non-fiction, depending on whether I need relaxation or mental stimulation.

How to keep up with what's out there

My strategy of choice is to read NYTimes Book Review. The advantage is that not only do you get a summary of the plot or the main points (that's the only thing you remember anyway years after reading the book), you also get some learned opinion on the merits of the particular work. (It is widely known that a sign of a true intellectual is a Book Review in the bathroom.) You also can't go wrong reading award winners. My favorite award is the Booker Prize, awarded for the best British fiction of the year. Sometimes the work is tedious, but never disappointing. National Book Award winners are on my list. I stay away from best sellers, though, even if they are 40% off.

Books to take to coffeeshops

Books to relax by the fireplace with

Books for the beach

Sometimes one might catch me reading trash, that is anything in a pocket book format, or with embossed or reflecting letters in the title, or double covers that reveal more detail once opened. Very often these books are time sinks like TV, but sometimes this is all your brain can take.  


Last modified: 7/12/98
Kristina Lerman, lerman@isi.edu