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Brandon

Wow. That is crazy. I guess you know already how I resonate with your post.

Law Bob Esq.

Everyone is neurotic in their own way. If you only knew, and I'm certainly not confessing anything...

I have rather the opposite problem. One day when I was young, I had to do a book report. I had one day left, and hadn't started the book. My mother explained to me that, in a pinch, I could read the first and last sentence of each paragraph and get enough to write about. It worked so well the habit stuck. It was an incredibly handy skill in college, and a terrible handicap in law school.

In all truth though, I can think of two things that contribute to your dilemma. The first is cultural, too often we tend to view our current activity as only something to be completed so we can move on. Our minds are never on where we are, and what we are doing. Always we look to the future. Blame television, perhaps, or blame Yoda.

The other source of trouble is that many books published now-a-days are really not that good. Nine times out of ten a book is written by someone "reinvestigating our understanding of something we thought we knew." The author argues against some point of common wisdom, however weakly, because writing a book that agrees with conventional wisdom won't sell. Imagine writing a book that says, "the accounts of the new testiment are historically accurate," or, "the founding fathers of the United States were a bunch of fine, up-standing gentlemen." Who would bother to publish it?

To make a long story short, most books are not that good. To become a better reader, read good books.

Meg

I wonder, Adam, if you simply read like a recovering fundamentalist. I would say that I tend to the same problems as yourself - worried about missing the trees and subsequently not enjoying the forest. As I look at the two boxes of books next to my table that I have yet to read, I definately struggle with guilt. I'm much less educated that I wish to be. It has only been in the last two years that I've learned to do the "grad school skim."

But, okay, back to fundamentalist reading practices. . .
look at the way Fundies read the Bible: they look for verses, pithy deposits of wisdom. They don't read it as an overarching narrative but rather take bits and pieces to prove a pre-existing theological conclusion (aka premillenial dispensationalism.)
When I was on the debate team in college, we competed against Bob Jones University and they were NOTORIOUS for misusing evidence but I'm not sure they did it on purpose. They would take an article clearly written to express one side of an issue which included one self-rebuttal/balancing statement. They would then use this one quotation as though it was the thesis statement of the article. It's dishonest because it hasn't accurately reflected the intention of the Author. Instead, this kind of reading takes a thought external itself and assimilates it as though the Author's sole intention was to buttress your presuppositions.

Anywho, I've been germinating some thoughts lately about the far reaching tentacles of fundamentalism. Even those of us who have escaped are still influenced in some interesting, mundane, daily ways by the subculture of our youth. Let me know if this holds water for you.

Kristen

Wow, I'm really glad to read this as I was Brandon's post on some of the same issues with reading. Since reading is one of the very few things that comes easy for me, and since it is such a joy, it's hard for me to remember that it's not always so for other people. My sister Kacey has to read outloud because slight dyslexia, so obviously she can't read very much in places like waiting rooms, etc. And I think I can agree with Law Bob that there is tons of crap being published out there, but I'm def. not one of those who thinks that everything being published now is crap. There are some amazing books coming out every year- the struggle is in finding them! And of course the classics are classics for a reason.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on reading. A person's hunger for knowledge and open-mindedness is what really matter, in my humble humble opinion.

Nicole

I reveal my true shallow nature on reading here: http://goingape.blogspot.com/2005/05/what-kind-of-reader-am-i.html

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