They are both completely escapist activities, and can be done while sprawling (and occasionally combined with eating popcorn -- another favorite pasttime). My interest in the Real Housewives of Atlanta is dwindling (as hard as that may be to believe), but I will always look forward to cracking open a new paperback on a lounge chair in the summer sun or under the toasty covers at the end of a particularly stressful day; one of those days when truth borders on fiction.
The other day in the office, someone brought up Atlas Shrugged, and MJ and I were shocked to discover that one of our 20-something associates had never heard of Ayn Rand. I was actually more in love with The Fountainhead and even joined the Ayn Rand "cult" in Alice Lloyd Hall's Pilot Program my freshman year at the U. of M. (Alas, I discovered while looking up links for this post that the Pilot Program -- comprised in the 1970's of intellectual hippies and stoners who hosted rock star guests and philosophers at our dorm -- has been renamed the Scholars Program...a sign of the times.)
But let's get back to hitting the books. Reading fiction has always been a significant part of my life. I began with the old basics -- Dick and Jane and Golden Books, moving on to quirky little tales like Caps for Sale and the Five Chinese Brothers. (They both involve bizarre feats...I think there's a pattern here!) I still have my early edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales (which now exists online here and still creeps me out). I devoured every Nancy Drew mystery.
I still clung to my love of mystery, but added in romance. I graduated to Marjorie Morningstar as a teenager. It could probably be counted as the original chick lit. I was somewhat disappointed with Marjorie, however, because even though she had sex before marriage (scandalous at the time) and hung out with bohemian artsy dudes, she ended up married and in the burbs.
I majored in English, so I could read all the time in college. A little-known fact: I even went on to graduate school to study book publishing (the first year NYU offered a program). It was sort of like loving meat and then taking courses on how cows are slaughtered and sausages are made...probably more information than I needed to know...but it didn't end my passion for the written word.
Last Friday night, I was stranded in the Port Authority Bus Terminal for an hour (don't ask), and found shelter and peace in the book store (where I ended up buying Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (because any book that is described with the words "debauchery" and "belligerence" has got to be a great read. And yes, I can appreciate frat crap as much as chick lit these days. I enjoy shopping for books much the way Carrie Bradshaw shopped for shoes. I find I just don't sleep well if I don't have a book on my nightstand.
I haven't yet bought a Kindle. Until they make one that feels like paper and can get wet and sandy on a beach, I'm not interested. I do, however, like the notion of instant gratification though and the ability to make any "book" suddenly appear in my hands.
Books about religion, philosophy, and sex appear to be timeless. (See this chart of the best-selling books of all time...the statistics on the Boy Scott guidebook are really impressive!)
Although some statistics indicate that at least 50% of college graduates don't read books, most of the people I hang out with are still reading. What are YOU reading these days? What book(s) left you with a lasting impression?
Literary and intellectual action figures -- including a librarian!
Eyesight failing? Buy cool reading glasses.