Yes, I'm still reading!

After a gap of several months of posting nothing to this blog, I might be thought to have given up reading, but such is far from the case. Two majors factors contributed to my recent "blog sabbatical":

Tenniel illustration, the Red Queen
"Now, here, you see,
it takes all the running
you can do, to keep in
the same place."
First, in the fall I was teaching three classes at a college campus 60 miles distant, on a grueling and exhausting schedule that left me with no energy to do anything other than run like the Red Queen, trying to keep up with myself (I lost that race). I had plenty of ideas for blog posts, many sparked by discussions in my literature classes -- my Blogger dashboard shows at least 15 drafts that never got finished and posted, some of which I may complete later. That is the problem with college teaching in the current sweat-shop environment: one is so consumed with preparation, teaching, grading, meeting with students, and various administrivia that there is no time for intellectual leisure or refreshment. And breaks in the academic year that are meant to provide such refreshment are generally consumed by a combination of total physical and mental collapse, followed hard on the heels by a desperate scramble to prepare for the next venture into the fray.

Second, just after quitting that job, which was taking more out of me than I had available to put into it, I received an Amazon Kindle for Christmas. Since that time, I have been reading almost non-stop, mostly books that are available for nothing, or next to nothing, to Kindle readers. (It's ironic that my last previous post was about ebook readers -- at that time I had no real intention of getting one, although the idea was gaining appeal for me.) I've discovered that there is a huge range of reading material available for little or no money for "catholic" tastes, from magnificent literary classics (long available in various electronic formats, thanks to organizations such as the Project Gutenberg ) to truly execrable self-published drivel; I've read some from the entire range, and I'm getting better at spotting the duds before wasting too much time on them. I've also paid for some Kindle books, something which Amazon makes ridiculously (even dangerously) easy.

Amazon Kindle Keyboard
Morning coffee tastes better with Kindle.
I've read essays and articles arguing that the advent of portable reading devices, and the wide availability of free, or inexpensive, electronic books will spur a new renaissance in reading among all sorts of people. Whether that shall prove to be the case remains to be seen; since I was already a reading-addict (since childhood I have been willing to read literally anything with print on it, from pickle labels and pillow tags -- "Do not remove this tag, under penalty of law" -- to the entire World Book Encyclopedia), I can only say that I find my Kindle to be an enormous convenience, which provides a much more pleasant reading experience than I had anticipated. The Kindle is my constant companion, traveling to the breakfast table with me in the morning and accompanying me in the side pocket of my purse wherever I go during the day. Now I need never be without books, magazines, even newspapers to read, because I have them all stored on my Kindle.

Currently I have exactly 300 items on my Kindle, filed in various categories to help make the list more manageable. Here is a sampling from my Current Reading category:

Now that I'm more or less recovered from my academic exhaustion (maybe it's just the effect of spring sunshine and birdsong), I hope to be posting some comments on these works and others, in the coming days and weeks. Meanwhile, I'm going to post this, so that I can get back to The Spectator.

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