ReaderWriterVille

Blog in progress

Tag: social media

ReaderWriterLinks: How To Read a Book edition

One of the things I’ve noticed about online media, both legacy and online-origin, is that a particular story idea will spread across several sites in a short time. Sometimes it’s generated by a research paper, like this one about how the TV you watch affects your political leanings. Or at least researchers found that what Italians watched when Berlusconi both headed up RAI and was a political leader affected their political attitudes. I could write a whole post on how one study does not a general theorem make, but that’s for another day; you can understand why this one went viral; it’s catnip for mediasplainers.

Today I have links from two major and historically respected newspapers which are designed to help people read books again. As you may have noticed, book coverage has changed to being about book culture rather than book reviews. I wrote about this a while back. And book culture is mostly about social media these days. Here’s the Guardian on how to love reading again. Presumably this is aimed at people who used to love reading but now find themselves not reading much, as opposed to people who were scarred by required reading in school and are just fine with not reading for pleasure, thankyouverymuch:

1. Follow book accounts on social media
If you’ve been away from reading for a while, it can be hard to know where to start. It can also be really tough to go from living your life online to building a separate one. By following Instagram accounts that regularly post about books, you’ll get ideas: try Book of the Month, Books on the Subway and Strand Bookstore for beautifully shot recommendations.
2. Read what you want to
If you haven’t read in a while, it can be tempting to set yourself lofty goals. For many of us that’s unrealistic, so instead: are there particular topics you’d love to read a non-fiction book about? Is there an author you’ve found easy to read before who has other books? Is there a favourite you can reread? When I’m finding it tough, I often punish myself by trying to slog through something hard before I let myself enjoy something that’s 200 pages and a laugh. But it’s enjoying the 200-pager that gets me in the swing of things, and makes it easier to concentrate on something tougher.
3. Join a library
Libraries are dying, and it’s partly because a lot of people don’t seem to consider them an option. But if finances are holding you back and you can trek to a library, it’s worth it. You can get recommendations, read for free and give up on books you can’t get into. Many have book clubs, too. For readers in the UK, you can find your nearest library here.

There are three more suggestions, and as the comments BTL (below the line) point out repeatedly, several of these involved using social media to get over your social media distractions. Yeah, that works well. But then this is someone who thinks libraries are dying because people don’t go to them, rather than because they are being starved of money. But I guess if the idea is to make reading trendy, pointing to social media is the way to go.

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Weeknote 16

It was an uneventful week, with very little out-and-about-ness. I minimized movement to give my knee time to recover (tendons and inflammation cannot be exercised/powered through) and it’s the dog days work-wise, so I read and did house stuff, mostly.

WORK

My coauthor and I wrapped up the first draft of our conference paper, so yay for us. It’s a very good paper, at least I think it is, and I can say this because I feel as if my coauthor did most of the work. He’s presenting it as a poster at the conference and I don’t have much left to do.

This week I get to nudge my committees and colleagues to the next stage of our tasks. So email! As I write these weekly notes, I realize how much time I spent either writing email, responding to email, or thinking about which emails I have to deal with and in what capacity. I guess it’s just the 21stC equivalent of memos, but somehow it seems more endless.

I should probably start thinking about what I want to change up in my classes this semester. I’m doing an overload this fall (don’t ask) and for scheduling and other reasons I have three, which I’ve only done one other time. It’s doable as long as I’m very organized (hahahaha) but it’s tiring. One of them is on immigration, which went really well last year but with everything going on I probably need to think about how I’m going to approach it.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished up Lost Children Archive, my fourth Booker longlist read, and I need to write the review. The first half was a slog and I can’t say I really enjoyed it, although it was interesting and I think I could see what the author was trying to do. The second half was much better and very powerful. The book as a whole made me think a lot about where my limits are to reading autofiction: what kind, what works and what doesn’t, etc. I’m now reading the next two more or less together: Ducks, Newburyport and An Orchestra of Minorities. The latter is from the library and I need to get it read before I have to return it. It’s quite compelling and I’m finding it hard to put down even though the style is more ornate than I usually go for. Ducks is hypnotic, at least I’ve fallen into the rhythm quite easily. I don’t know how it will feel for 1000 pages, but so far I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s really accomplished.

We watched the next Maigret and Foyle’s War episodes, both of which were about attitudes toward immigrants. They hit a bit close to home and I wouldn’t say they were entirely enjoyable, although they were excellently done. I’m just so worn out and my ability to cope with endless, avoidable tragedy is at a low. The Jackson Brodie installment we watched, which was merely about routine corruption and murder, seemed almost mundane in comparison, and how sad is that?

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Social Media Downsizing

As advertised, I’ve deactivated my main Twitter account. I kept it for the year I was off Twitter because the other two times I killed my accounts someone immediately grabbed the username. But Twitter will have to become something entirely different for me to return, and since that is unlikely it doesn’t matter to me if @ProfNita is swept up into Botland.

I’ve also deleted my Goodreads account. Longtime readers and friends know about my love-hate with Goodreads and my hesitance about going back. It’s been a much better experience this time and I’ve enjoyed a lot of my interactions. But as usual, I have negative visceral reactions when Someone Is Wrong on the Internet, and it sucks up my time and energy to fight my inevitable desire to correct them. It’s a stupid trait but not one I’ve been able to eradicate. I love talking to people about books, but the people I most want to talk to aren’t the only ones I wind up interacting with or paying attention to.

Thanks to Laura Vivanco I just read a post by Meljean Brook that describes my condition exactly, because it’s apparently her condition as well:

Twitter has a constant stream of info coming at you from people who really do have a lot of interesting and important things to say. But I wasn’t doing a good job of prioritizing my own mental health and needs.

(And ha, this was explicitly demonstrated to be the right move, because I deleted my Twitter right before the plagiarism/ghostwriting scandal erupted, and although I of course followed it…not having a Twitter account that is connected to so much of romancelandia made it all much easier check in on the few people I still follow, then go. So I was informed but not obsessively checking, and it made a huge difference.)

I have done this exact same thing with Twitter (especially before the recent Horrible Redesign) and I do it with GR too. There are key public groups whose discussions I can compulsively read and with which I am mentally arguing on a too-regular basis, and I don’t seem to be able to stop. They’re not as bad for my well-being as rabbit holes and kerfuffles of the past, but they’re not good either and they distract me from producing rather than consuming. I’m so much better than I was, but I’m still not where I want to be.

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Weeknote 15

I didn’t write a Weeknote last week, so this is two weeks’ worth.

WORK

Work has been slow and unproductive. I’ve had trouble sitting down and writing (probably why I didn’t do a Weeknote last week, it’s hard to report lack of progress. But not talking about it doesn’t make it go away).

I was also avoiding work email, but I’m catching up now. The summer is really almost over, because the work emails that aren’t about stuff that had to be done in the summer are starting to roll in. *cries*

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

While avoiding work I managed to get a fair bit of reading done. The Booker list came out on the 26th (at midnight BST, so at 4pm CDT on the 25th) and I dove into the ones I had access to. I read and reviewed My Sister the Serial Killer and I also finished John Lanchester’s The Wall, which I need to review. I then started Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive. In addition, I made progress on Ironopolis and read a Regency anthology from the Harlequin TBR, both for my 20 Books of Summer challenge. I have a feeling I won’t complete the challenge, but I still have five weeks to go so you never know. Barb said I’d picked a challenging list and she was right. It doesn’t help that I have a bunch of long and/or concentration-requiring books on it.

Or that I’m reading and listening to books that aren’t on the list! I’ve had the audiobook of Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? on the TBR forever. I read all the Palliser novels back in high school, but I’ve wanted to reread them. The narration is by Timothy West and he’s wonderful. I’m listening when I hike or jog by myself, and the audio is over 32 hours long, so it’s not going all that fast but it’s great. I’m impressed yet again by how Trollope can combine unsentimental acuity with empathy. I just finished a seaside party section that is up there with Emma‘s Box Hill scene.

On the watching front, we continued with the second Maigret (just as good as the first) and started rewatching Foyle’s War from the beginning. Everyone is so young! I’d forgotten how good the early seasons were, and how much Horowitz shows you the complex and not always admirable ways that different Brits reacted to the early months of the War. The first two episodes take us up to Dunkirk. I’m assuming you’ve all seen them, but if you haven’t, get started! And Michael Kitchen is brilliant.

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ReaderWriterLinks

Like the Weeknote post, the links post is late this week, but not absent!

Here is yet another article on how news isn’t news anymore. Yes, it’s a preoccupation of mine. I’ve been thinking about writing a post on what reading the “news” in the 21stC looks like these days. I’ve talked about it in links posts, but it deserves its own discussion. In the meantime, though, read this thoughtful Guardian article on news media consumption.

The profound experiential shift we have recently experienced is not merely down to the fact that the news is now available around the clock; CNN pioneered that, way back in 1980. Instead, it arises from the much newer feeling of actively participating in it, thanks to the interactivity of social media. If you are, say, angry about Brexit, it is possible to be angry about Brexit almost all of the time: to encounter new and enraging facts about Brexit, and opportunities to vent about Brexit, in ways that would have been unthinkable as recently as the mid-2000s. If you had fulminated then to your family and colleagues as even respected peers, novelists and philosophers now routinely fulminate on Twitter, you’d have alienated everyone you knew.

One crucial difference is that raging on Facebook, or sharing posts or voting in online polls, feels like doing something – an intervention that might, in however minuscule a way, change the outcome of the story. This sense of agency may largely be an illusion – one that serves the interests of the social media platforms to which it helps addict us – but it is undeniably powerful. And it extends even to those who themselves never comment or post. The sheer fact of being able to click, in accordance with your interests, through a bottomless supply of updates, commentary, jokes and analysis, feels like a form of participation in the news, utterly unlike passively consuming the same headlines repeated through the day on CNN or the BBC.

I think that one of the reasons we feel as if tweeting and sharing and so on is “doing something” is that activism and protest have been transformed by the availability of social media. There’s no question that coordination is easier with online tools. But limiting our participation to online forums rather and foregoing the old-fashioned, effortful methods of physically showing up to a meeting or public gathering (for those of us who have that option; not everyone does) does not do much to advance collective action goals. Yes, the Arab Spring was aided by Twitter. But did you know that the most common ways of communicating information during those protests were still through voice and text? And, for all of us, there is evidence that reacting and venting on social media about supposedly newsworthy events makes us feel worse about the world, not better.


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