A few weeks ago, when Northeastern was on Spring Break, I stayed with a friend in Northern New Jersey for the last two nights of break. He lives in a beautiful area, with gorgeous lakes, mostly composed of weekend homes for those who work in the City during the week. Coincidentally, there is no cell phone service, and few places offer Wi-Fi connections. So despite my laptop, cell phone and multiple email accounts, I was cut off from the rest of the world.
And it felt great.
But, by the last day, both Joe (my friend) and I were ready to get on the Internet. After all, our Facebooks had gone untended to for days! As Joe checked his email and other online forms of communication, I looked around his father’s handsome computer/ TV room. Being the fidgetting/nosy/curious guy that I am, I couldn’t help but wonder what electronic device (I saw a charging cord snaking out the back) would be around the size of a medium-sized paperback book.
Opening the leather case, I saw a blank screen. But it wasn’t black, it was white. And when I turned it on, it opened to the page of a book.
Electronic books have come a long way since the first text files exchanged over slow networks. The newest and most promising development is the electronic reader.
The screens use a different technology than your average LCD, and do not require additional energy once an image is on-screen. Which works perfectly for reading a book, where you might spend 5 minutes reading an especially difficult passage.
For some reason, this new display also makes the words clearer – instead of pixellation around the edges of letters, each looked just like it had been printed on paper.
So let’s think about this: its energy efficient, more portable (especially because with expandable memory, you can have hundreds of books with you at all times), and reads just as well as a real book.
With a high price for electronic book readers of this vein, the future has not quite arrived for all. But I expect that cheaper versions, as well as other products that use these technologies will eventually render paper obsolete.
At least for books.
Newspapers are dying. Century-old papers are shuttering their doors faster than anyone in the industry would have thought even 10 years ago. There are a variety of factors driving this, and no one can say for sure what they are.
But while daily news gathering takes a hit (worry not, it will return in a new incarnation), long form journalism, the type of story that can take months or years to research, is only gaining more and more ground. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of books that I feel exemplify this format of journalistic endeavor.
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser. One of the first books I read in this genre, Schlosser’s classic looks at the food industry in America. Focusing on agriculture and the big businesses that thrive in this country, Fast Food Nation is a compelling read. From his ride-alongs with ranchers barely breaking even every year to his anecdote about the meat packer who fell into an industrial vat and died, Schlosser paints a horrifying picture about what we eat, and how it get to us.
The Burning Season, Andrew Revkin. Chico Mendes was an Brazilian intellectual, environmentalist, union leader, and in 1988, martyr for the rubber trade. After Mendes’ death, Andrew Revkin immersed himself in Mendes’ hometown, and researched a thick, but interesting read. With all of the historical background on the rubber trade as well as the cultures of the area, Revkin’s book explains exactly what happened, why, and how it can be prevented in the future.
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain. Classically trained in French Cooking, Bourdain worked his way up to the top of New York’s culinary scene. At the height of food television’s popularity, he published this voyueristic look at the food industry. From the fights to the romances to the vices of kitchen workers, Bourdain lays out exactly what happens behind the closed doors.
After taking a look at several reading related blogs, I’ve seen that many blogging readers participate in “reading challenges.” The main prize seems to be the pride of checking a book off your list, and the joy of reading something new or different from your usual selection. But I still might have more to learn about readerly ‘street cred.’ I’ve decided to undertake a few (when the blog goes live, I’ll sign up officially).
One is “TBR Challenge 2008”, in which you assemble a list of twelve books that have been on your “to be read” list and plan on finishing them over the course of the year. Readers also select up to twelve ‘alternates,’ in case they decide that one of their first selections isn’t quite their cup of tea. I’ve included my list, and throughout the year, as I complete books, I’ll be updating you on my progress.
1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
2. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
3. Saturday by Ian McEwan
4. The Dower House by Annabel Davis Goff
5. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
7. Still Life by A.S. Byatt
8. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
10. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
11. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch
12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
The Ambassadors by Henry James
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
(Some of these are books that I’ve received as gifts over the years, all are available through NUCat, and if they’re checked out, try reserving through NExpress).
Have any of you ever undertaken either organized or impulsive reading challenges? How did they go? And have you read any of the books? (Not too many spoilers, please!)