Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Stop at the Bookstore

We managed to slip into Barnes and Noble Tuesday night after dinner with a friend. There are bookstores in Chiang Mai, but most didn't excite me and we didn't get around to them often. But I remembered at B&N why dropping into a bookstore for an hour now and then is healthy. Bookstores remind me of how much I don't know. And, usually, in an hour, I can pick up a few ideas that are either totally new or that renew something my brain's flirted with briefly and forgotten about.

This book title - Throw Out Fifty Things. What kind of society do we live in that people have to buy a book to help them get rid of things? Clear evidence of society where at least some people have too much.

Would this book have caught my eye if I hadn't been to hear David Chalmers recently? I don't know. Looking at this quickly, it does seem to extend Chalmers notion that the mind is more than just inside our heads.

And I hadn't noticed before that you could buy a book and get to also read it online AND get an audio version. In this case, I don't even know what the book was about at all. I was just interested by how it was delivered.

This is just one tiny section of the bookshop. So much to know! There really is something different about unplugging from the distraction of a computer connected to the internet and finding a nice chair, a spot on a beach, or even a seat on a bus or an airplane, and getting deep into a book. One book. On one topic. Focused so that you actually learn something about the topic, rather than skipping around to get tidbits of lots of things, but nothing in depth. You really can become relatively expert on some subjects by reading a few books on it. Though some blogs - like Maddy's Ramblings and Empty Wheel which I've listed in the "Links Worth a Look" on the right - do go into great detail and give a more than basic level of expertise. (I've updated Empty Wheel from the old The Next Hurrah on the right of the page.)

And then yesterday, in an article called "Ear Plugs to Lasers: The Science of Concentration" John Tierney reinforced that theme:

“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said. “Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.”

And while non-fiction often seems more solid than fiction, I've found that good fiction has as important and potentially life-changing content as non-fiction. Good fiction deals with those ineffable issues such as interpersonal relationships that science has so much trouble 'proving.' And it's often much more readable.

Oh, and yesterday, when Jim emailed and asked if I'd subscribed to Sun yet, I followed the links and subscribed. I have to be really impressed to subscribe to anything more coming into our house, but having read several copies of Sun, thanks to Jim, I think it is worth my time. And I have a few more books on my list to pick up at the library after my trip to the bookstore.

Getting books at the library not only saves money and prevents more clutter in our house, but it also gives me a deadline to finish the book. Because of that, I tend to be much better about reading books from the library than ones I buy. But before I borrow or buy, I've got several books I'm still working on.

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