Housekeeping vs. The Dirt

Ahh, a book about books. There are a lot of them out there and I’ve read a few. I never watch TV shows about TV…or movies about film…but I do read books about reading books. If you spend a few hours with Nick Hornby and this short read, you will leave with a new-found respect for reading.

Early on he says:

And boredom, let’s face it, is a problem that many of us have come to associate with books. It’s one of the reasons why we choose to do almost anything else rather than read; very few of us pick up a book after the children are in bed and the dinner has been made and the dirty dishes are cleared away. We’d rather turn on the television. Some evenings we’d rather go to all the trouble of getting in a car and driving to the cinema, or waiting for a bus that might take us somewhere near one.

A few paragraphs later he says:

I would never attempt to dissuade someone from reading a book. But please, if you’re reading a book that’s killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren’t enjoying a TV program.

Reading is not an easy endeavor to pick up and as a form of entertainment, it’s a lot more work than the other options. I want people to read more. I want book stores to continue to thrive and authors to have the ability to make a good living. I love the endeavor and if I were to evangelize about anything, it would be reading. If I can convert one human in 2007 to start reading ten books a year, then I have achieved raging success. I have my targets.

That’s the effect that this book had on me. It also caused me ruminate about how important reading is to me and how thankful I am that I got started at a young age, before all the distractions of TV, internet, and gaming. I owe it all to my grandfather. I can’t peg the exact day that I first sat in this strange bamboo-like double chair-couch thing in the corner of the porch in his lake house in Michigan and shared some Louis L’Amour with him, but the memory is as vivid as yesterday. The earliest recollection of reading a book from cover to cover and discussing it with my grandfather happened there, and the book, I think, was Kilkenny.

This book also exposed gaps in my reading experience that I started to recognize here. Hornby makes a self-deprecating crack about how his reading habits are confined to the English-speaking world, as if no other languages are worthy of his attention. I take it a few steps further by nearly exclusively focusing my reading efforts on books by English-speaking white males. Yes, ’twill be rectified, but it’s going to take time.

In this book, Hornby reviews about 60 or 70 books in one or two paragraphs each. He’s an interesting guy and I love his take on things, although sometimes I get lost in the British humor. But he has spent a lot of time in the US and often makes keen insights into our culture. I think there’s one book of Hornby’s that I haven’t read yet and I’m going to knock that off this year. Here are some of his reads from this book that I plan on reading:

Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy D. Tyson
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky by Ken Dornstein
Citizen Vince by Jess Walter