Enlightened Conflict

communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016

 

everybody needs what i am selling deserve life

————————–

 

“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.

 

Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

 

=

David Ogilvy

 

———————

 

“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

 

=

Mark Nepo

 

—————

 

“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”

 

=

Bruce McTague

 

——————–

 

Well.

 

Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.

 

I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’

 

What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’

 

Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.

 

Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”

 

Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.

 

Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.

 

While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.

 

Look <part 1>.

 

Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.

 

This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.

 

Now.

 

Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’

 

Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.

 

Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.

 

I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.

 

And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.

 

Look <part 2>.

 

In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.

 

sell hope i canWell.

 

That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.

 

Look <part 3>

 

I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.

 

Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.

 

And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth

 

Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.

 

Anyway.

 

Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.

 

The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.

 

The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.

 

It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.

 

Sure.

 

Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.

 

Why?

 

Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.

 

on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.

 

The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.

 

Yup.

 

Huge difference.

 

Hacks say ‘stand apart.’

 

Non hacks say ‘stand above.’

 

And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.

 

Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.

 

Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.

 

Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.

 

Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.

 

In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.

Yup.

Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.

 

In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.

 

Oh.

And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.

 

By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.

 

By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.

 

Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.

 

Regardless.

 

 ===

 

“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.

 

That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 

——-

 

Truth is truth.

 

Lies are lies.

 

Responsibility is responsibility.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.

 

I get aggravated.

 

No.

 

I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.

 

What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.

 

What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.

 

Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.

 

HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

In the end.

 

I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.

 

But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.

 

I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.

telling-truth-piss-you-off

I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.

 

Why?

 

They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?

 

They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.

seek_truth

===

About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.

 

a wrong turn

February 6th, 2016

field of sun flowers===

 

“A wrong turn lead me to a field of flowers and suddenly I’m second guessing every wrong turn in my life.”

 

———

Source: a thousand words tumblr

 

===

 

 

Well.

 

 

I have never analyzed nor have I seen any research with regard to how much time we use to plan out the ‘right moves’ to make in our careers and lives. I planned what happenedimagine, if a study were done, between consciously planning and the ‘in the moment analysis’ planning … those two ‘life plannings’ would represent some inordinately absurd amount of our time.

 

 

When I saw this thought on athousandwords I began thinking about how often most of us attach ‘bad’ to wrong turns and how less often we attach ‘good’ to wrong turns.

 

 

Simplistically we attach wrong to bad.

 

 

Wrong turn = Bad choice/decision

 

 

Sure.

 

Sometimes that is true.

 

 

But I think I could argue that a wrong turn simply puts you in some place you hadn’t planned on <and you assume the plan was a good plan because … well … you had planned it>. Therefore the unplanned place is a bad place because it … well … was an unplanned place <some circular logic which seems kind of doomed to conclude bad even if it may actually be good>.

 

 

Setting aside the whole planning thing … turns are part of life.

leading one way

Life is not one huge straight boulevard you place your car on and start driving.

 

Life is more often like seemingly random patchwork of inner city streets with dead ends, one ways and no left hand turns which seemingly are only placed at only the intersections which you had planned to make a left hand turn.
Whether you plan the shit out of your life or not we all make a shitload of turns in Life.

 

Some are planned.

 

Some are unplanned.

 

Some you have the time to invest a lot of time thinking about.

 

Some you cannot invest a lot of time thinking about.

 

Some end up in a good place.

 

Some end up in a bad place.

 

 

I imagine my only point is that sometimes, maybe more often than you think, a wrong turn puts you in a different better more interesting place. A wrong turn exposes you to something you maybe never imagined you would ever see, ever face or ever think about. And that is the ultimate value of a wrong turn.

 

 

It exposes you to something beyond the plan you ever envisioned.

 

I don’t propose building a Life around a disproportionate amount of purposeful wrong turning. field dirt road sunset

 

That kind of seems a little chaotic and absolutely suggests a shitload of wasted time & energy.

 

 

However.

 

Maybe we think about Life more as a shitload of turns … just a blanket ‘shitload’ … instead of categorizing them simply as right turns & wrong turns.

Turns are turns and more often than not they don’t lead you some place you can never leave they simply lead you to some place.

scrap the plan for the day

July 30th, 2015

 

======

morning plans who i am

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life.

Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto.

But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”

Carl Gustav Jung

=====

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.

If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem.

But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.

This makes it hard to plan the day.”

e.b. white

=====

“I’ve always liked the time before dawn because there’s no one around to remind me who I’m supposed to be so it’s easier to remember who I am.”

Brian Andreas

=======

 

 

Ok.

planned what happened

 

Plans.

 

 

Plans and planning are tricky things.

 

 

I tend to believe I could write a Life version of this and a Business version of this.

 

 

Today is Life.

 

 

I have written about ‘hard to plan a day’ before:

http://brucemctague.com/hard-to-plan-the-day

—-

 

 

This time I write more about scrapping plans and how difficult we make it to do so rather than discussing actually deciding what plan to have.

 

 

Let me begin with intentions.

 

We wake up.

 

 

busy making plans notebook
We decide to head off to change, or impact, the world in any way we choose to.

 

 

We may not ‘define’ our decision as impacting … it may simply be under the guise of ‘good shit to do today.’

 

 

This also means, unfortunately, we do have a tendency to think of daily plans as ‘doing tangible things’ rather than possibly judging our plan completion under some heading like ‘teaching someone how to do things with grace & dignity & compassion.”

 

 

Which, by the way, I gotta tell ya … sounds like a frickin’ good plan.

 

 

Regardless.

 

 

Let me approach scrapping plans in a … well … curious way.

 

 

Curiosity is one of the three things I tell young people is the secret to success <the other two are resiliency and character>.

 

I tell young people this because most older people just don’t seem to have time, or make the time, to be actively curious.

 

Most older people … having inserted themselves into the daily grind and the ‘conserving institutions’ of which we call everyday Life … are less interested in curiosity and more interested in stability.

 

 

====

unexpected change

“Society, community , family are all conserving institutions.

They try to maintain stability, and to prevent, or at least slow down change. But organizations are organized with the intent to destabilize.

Because its function is to put knowledge to work – on tools, processes and products; on work; on knowledge itself – it must be organized for constant change.”

Peter Drucker

====

 

I say all of that because it means ‘improving the world’ often translates into swimming against the natural tide of ‘conserving institutions.’

 

 

This is not easy.

 

And therefore makes it even tougher to scrap the plans for the day.

 

But not scrapping pans for the day has a bigger repercussion to an individual.

 

 

I think the ripple effect for most of us is that we find ourselves waking up each day thinking ‘wow … I would love to improve the world somehow today’ <either consciously or subconsciously> and yet we end the day seemingly ot even having nudged Life in a positive <improving> direction..

 

 

Frankly … this struggle increases a feeling of negativity which can easily consume your life if you are not careful.

 

 

Between society encouraging things that don’t feel right for you, a ‘conserving’ environment, unhappy friends, media generating anxiety rating point by rating point by convincing us the world is going to end or intrusive trolls on social media … it can seem overwhelming negative as you view all of this versus what you felt when you first woke up in the morning.

 

 

Maybe that is why I love, and included, the Andreas quote … we wake up in the morning knowing ‘who I am’ without anyone trying to tell us otherwise. ‘

 

 

It is an odd, uncomfortable, struggle we face in scrapping plans.

change world and new

In our heart of hearts I believe most people want to help others and make things better in their lives <and others>… but it is difficult to make a priority.

 

Especially if we even have inkling that we have some desire to enjoy the world that day.

 

Enjoyment, these days, can be found less in curiosity and exploring curiosity and more in stability and ‘things went smoothly <as planned>.’

 

 

Just like E.B. White suggests … we are not only torn each day by enjoyment and improvement … but as Drucker points out … layered on top of our own dilemma the world around us is conspiring to suppress any improvements or changes we may decide to try and apply that day.

 

 

It is a constant battle of ‘us versus them’ on a variety of levels.

 

 

Us versus society.

 

And.

 

Uhm.

 

Us versus others.

 

 

“…But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

 

 

 

Huh?

 

 

What if the one day I choose to enjoy the world … and someone needs me <which forces me to scrap my enjoyment plan>?

 

 

What if I spend the day helping someone who can never really be helped and I miss out on some personal enjoyment?

 

 

Thinking about scrapping plans for the day makes you start thinking about is it better if one just stopped caring for others … I don’t mean entirely just becomes secondary … and how would this effect Life <your own as well as others>.

 

 

 

By the way … this ends up being more about ‘unintended consequences’ or ‘indirect influence’ on Life.

 

 

big plans ruler universe
This may begin sounding selfish … but it is not.

 

 

It relates to an important nuance … serving others to benefit someone else or serving myself t benefit others?

 
Does my plan for each day need to be a question of should I help myself … or help others?

 

 

I think I have an odd perspective on this.

 

 

And it may sound selfish but hear me out.

 

 

I tend to believe if you focus on waking up and improving the world by helping others you are focused on the wrong thing.

 

 

Huh?

 

I would suggest if you focus on improving yourself and being better every day, being the best you can be as PART of the world, you will inevitably improve the world and inevitably help others.

 

 

I know the difficulty in this approach is that you can lose out on the obvious ‘cause & effect’ feedback loop which helps feed our belief in ourselves and fights everyday negativity in that we have tangible proof we did something positive.

 

 

It takes some courage to approach it the way I suggest.

 

 

And it takes a lot of steadfast resilience in the face of a ‘prove you are doing something meaningful’ world.

 

 

Here is another thing in my favor with this thought.

 

 

All of us pretty much understand that no matter what plans you make, something unexpected is bound to happen … especially if one of your plans to enjoy the day and improve the world is a commitment to curiosity <which implies plans will be scrapped at some point any way>.

 

 

The unexpected portion implies plans are relatively useless … and maybe more importantly … scraping plans is almost standard.

 

And following that thought … it also implies it almost doesn’t matter what you actually do <as in measured tangible output and checks against ‘things done today’> as long as you have created some positive change, some improvement, around you.

 

————–

“It doesn’t matter what you do,” he said, “so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”

=

Ray Bradbury

————-

 

 

Look.

 

 

Life isn’t easy. Planning isn’t easy.

 

 

We all know this.

 

 

And my thought on approaching Life every day is tough because its approach accepts that things may not get better by tomorrow … maybe not even next week … but at some point <in the future>.

 

And while I don’t really embrace the whole ‘live in the now’ psychology I do suggest that really the only plan you shouldn’t scrap each day is improving yourself and doing the best you can.

 

 

It is like improving the pebble being dropped into each day’s Life.

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Despite all the bullshit in this world the one thing you can control is your own self-improvement. The one thing you can actually DO every day is remain curious and pursue curiosity.

 

 

You have to keep that in mind because while your plans are your plans …you need to beware … someone will always have tools to destroy them.

 

 

 

————

“Even if you have built your walls higher than the sky, someone will have the tools to destroy them. “

=

scraps of dreams pick up

via nothing-to-regreet

————

 

 

Lastly.

 

 

The plans you like, feel comfortable with, and inevitably start putting in place more often. Let’s call this your personal ‘conserving institution’ for the sake of continuity in this post.

 

 

The point here is what you feel comfortable knowing & doing. As you get older you will find a desire to do what you like doing and think what you feel comfortable thinking … more & more often.

 

As a result, you don’t see what I see <or someone else sees>.

 

 

You see what you like. So you end up seeing information that supports your point of view and your plans become less based on pursing curiosity but instead on stability & predictability <based on what you already know>.

 

You get stuck … stuck knowing what you already know.

 

 

 

Curiosity is a deliberate decision and action <I always get a little vocal when someone says ‘I am naturally curious’ because I tend to believe it is more a decision and not some innate characteristic>.

 

 

To improve yourself <and hopefully improve the world around you> you have break the existing routine of doing what you do and thinking what you think.

 

 

You have to force yourself to not only get a different perspective … but actually try and understand that perspective.

 

 

Even if you love your job you need to force yourself to learn new skills that increase your value to others <in business & work>.

 

 

You have to force yourself to look for something you would typically never read.

 

 

Inevitably you just have to learn to scrap the plan for the day if it means becoming better … and I mean proactively scrap the plan rather than have the scraps of dreams possibilitiesplan scrapped for you.

 

 

So go ahead … scrap the plan for the day.

 

I believe either you do it or Life will do it.

 

 

And maybe that is the biggest point.

 

 

Control your destiny or have Life dictate it.

 

 

That is your choice when it comes to plans and your day<s>.

read the world

August 23rd, 2014

reading is traveling words

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

=

Augustine of Hippo

——

 

 

Ok.

 

 

If you are a reader … this is going to be fabulous. Oh. And most of it was generated by a couple of tween/teen <young adult> people who love to read.

 

 

 

So often we have our favorite authors and many of those ‘favorite’ are driven by either where you live or by popular media.

 

 

I hesitate to call it a ‘reading rut’ but if you are not careful … you will see that over time your bookshelves with start having a slightly homogenous feel to it.

 

 

book touch lightly

I say that because that means we often miss out on some fabulous reading out of the mainstream.

 

 

That is why I believe this is fabulous.

 

 

I came across this “list of books from around the world’ on the tumblr site ‘about books and dreams’ which connected me to two different lists I wanted to share.

 

 

 

Suffice it to say … there are a shitload of books listed here and you could spend a lifetime finding & reading all of them.

 

 

 

But … well … what a lifetime, huh?

 

 

books to read

Anyway.

 

 

 

=

 

 

 

–         The original list …Read The World – The Peirene 100 Essential Classics From Around The Globe.

 

 

A truly challenging, eclectic and inspiring list compiled entirely by Peirene Press readers:

 

 —

http://www.listchallenges.com/read-the-world-the-peirene-100-essential

=

 

 

 

And then I saw a commenter … a young adult … kind of ‘diss’ the list in that snarky young way that young people can pull off <and I loved it>:

 

 

The thought was actually creating a list which is a reflection … a true reflection … of the world population.

 

 

 

What a fabulous idea <and lots of work>.

 

 

 

I do not know who ‘eastiseverywhere’ is … but job well done.

 

 

——————

 

 

 

eastiseverywhere:

 

 

I recently got ticked off over a “Read the World” list that was still really centred on Western books.

 

 

 

Then I started thinking: what if there were a reading list of 100 books that reflected the actual demographics of the world population of 7.152 billion people right now?

 

 

Here are:

 

19 books from China;

world broekn down 100 people

17 from India;

 

4 from the US;

 

3 from Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan;

 

 

2 from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan and Mexico, and 1 each from the Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Turkey, DRC, Thailand, France, UK, Italy, Burma, South Africa, South Korea, Colombia, Spain, Ukraine, Tanzania, Kenya, Argentina, Algeria, Poland, Sudan, Uganda, Canada, Iraq, Morocco, Peru, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nepal, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, Ghana, Mozambique, Australia and Taiwan.

 

 

50 books are by men.

 

49 are by women.

 

1 is a work of divine revelation.

 

 

 

 

 

Authors (roughly) reflect the ethnic makeup of their nations – e.g. the South African author is Black, not white; the Malaysian author is Malay, not Chinese; one of the PRC authors is non-Han Chinese; one of the American authors is non-white.Bucharest, romania: A woman walks between books displayed on the pavement d

 

 

I’ve tried to represent a range of historical periods and the most acclaimed writers in each section.

 

 

Writers presented are those widely available in English – this is why Ding Ling, Zhang Yueran and Akka Mahadevi weren’t featured: because it’s really hard to find their work in English.

 

 

Also, a writer is only of a nationality if s/he’s got/had citizenship of the area at some point – i.e. Jhumpa Lahiri is American, not Indian.

 

 

Sure, I know this list is problematic – smaller countries, like those of the Caribbean and Oceania, are kind of wiped out. But I’m open to change this. So send in your suggestions for changes if you’ve got them!

 

 

And remember: if you’re gonna read the world, you might as well do it RIGHT.

 

 

————–

 

 

Here is the Full list of Books:

<note 1 from Bruce: of course I would edit the list to match up with my likes & dislikes … for example … for Spain I would include Arturo Perez Revarte … for Russia … well … I could include several others … but you get it … you can edit and add & subtract … but the point is you get exposed to books from around the world>.

=

<note 2 from Bruce: this list also becomes more difficult if you maintain representation of the world … for example … France with its extensive list of great literature is limited to one book because of its relative size in the midst of the larger world>

=

<note 3 from Bruce: please forgive me for any formatting issues or readability issues … this post was frickin’ difficult to build and format … I would have tortured someone at wordpress if I could ever find someone to wring their proverbial neck … >

—-

 

read fast sorcerer

On with the list ……

 

 

 

CHINA

The Analects of Confucius

The Tao Te Ching of Lao Zi

The Art of War by Sun Zi

The Poems of Li Qingzhao

The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng En

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Shi Naian

Selected Stories of Lu Xun

Rickshaw Boy by Lao She

The Dyer’s Daughter by Xiao Hong

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa

Red Azalea by Anchee Min

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi

Daughter of the River by Hong Ying

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

The Good Women of China by Xinran

 

INDIA

 

The Ramayana of Valmiki

The Mahabharata by Vyasa

The Dhammapada of Buddha

The Kural of Tiruvalluvar

The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT by Chetan Bhagat

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi

Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Spouse: The Truth About Marriage by Shobhaa De

Moving On by Shashi Deshpande

 

USA

The Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Beloved by Toni Morrison

INDONESIA

Letters from A Javanese Princess by Raden Adjeng Kartini

This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Saman by Ayu Utami

BRAZIL

Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado

The Hours of the Star by Clarice Lispector

PAKISTAN

Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Bhutto

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

NIGERIA

Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie

BANGLADESH

Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam

RUSSIA

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

reading 3

The Poems of Anna Akhmatova

JAPAN

reading 2

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

MEXICO

reading 1

The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

PHILIPPINES

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

VIETNAM

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip

reading is traveling child

ETHIOPIA

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

EGYPT

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

GERMANY

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

IRAN

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

TURKEY

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja

 

THAILAND

Letters from Thailand by Botan

FRANCE

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

UK

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

ITALY

The Aeneid by Virgil

BURMA

Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi

SOUTH AFRICA

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

SOUTH KOREA

Please Look After Mother by Kyung Sook Shin

COLOMBIA

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

SPAIN

The Life of St Teresa of Avila by Herself

UKRAINE

The White Guard by Mikail Bulgakhov

TANZANIA

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah

KENYA

Devil on the Cross by Ngugi wa’Thiongo

ARGENTINA

The Topless Tower by Silvina Ocampo

ALGERIA

Fantasia: An Algerian Calvacade by Assia Djebar

POLAND

The Poems of Wislawa Szymborska

SUDAN

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

UGANDA

Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek

CANADA

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

IRAQ

The Poems of Rabia Basri

MOROCCO

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami

PERU

The Time of the Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa

UZBEKISTAN

The Dancer from Khiva by Bibish

MALAYSIA

Kampung Boy by Lat

SAUDI ARABIA

The Quran

VENEZUELA

Doña Inés vs. Oblivion by Ana Teresa Torres

NEPAL

The End of the World by Sushma Joshi

AFGHANISTAN

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

YEMEN

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

NORTH KOREA

Eyes of the Tailless Animals by Soon Ok Lee

GHANA

Changes by Ama Ata Adoo

MOZAMBIQUE

Neighbours: A Story of a Murder by Lília Momplé

AUSTRALIA

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

TAIWAN

Notes of a Desolate Man by Chu Ti’en-Wen

——-

 

 

And to be fair to the about books and dreams tumblr author … she added her own list:

 

 

–          I’ll start adding some titles here (trying to stick to novels) and you can send me yours in a message.

 

 

 

Japan:

The Sea of Fertility series by Yukio Mishima, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.

México:

books and time

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, Battles in the Desert by José Emilio Pacheco, Les Exilés de la Mémoire (Los Rojos de Ultramar) by Jordi Soler, The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, Confabulario by Juan José Arreola, Popol Vuh, The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela, The Nine Guardians (Balún Canán) by Rosario Castellanos, Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta.

Germany:

Perfume by Patrick Süskind, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (born in Poland).

France:

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (born in Morocco).

Italy:

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (born in Cuba).

Colombia:

Delirium by Laura Restrepo, Recipes for Sad Women by Héctor Abad Faciolince.

Spain:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Tell Me Who I Am by Julia Navarro, See How Much I Love You by Luis Leante, Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones.

Argentina:

The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges, Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato.

Canada:

Dear Life by Alice Munro, In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré (born in Scotland), Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen.

Peru:

Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo.

Czech Republic:

Slowness by Milan Kundera, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Israel:

The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret.

Nigeria:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe.

 

 
Palestine:

Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh

 

 

Portugal:

Blindness by José Saramago, The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.

 

 
Uruguay:

Memory of Fire series by Eduardo Galeano, The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga, The Truce by Mario Benedetti.

——-

 

And then because the blog owner is Brazilian … she asks … can I add more Brazilian literature?

 

 

– Agua Viva, Near to the Wild Heart, and The Passion of G. H by Clarice Lispector

– The Posthumos Memoir of Bras Cubas by Machado de Assis

reading and where you will go

– Winning the Game and High Art by Rubem Fonseca

– They Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato

– Blood-drenched Beard by Daniel Galera

——-

 

Well.

 

 

If you can’t find something new to read off of this list … well … you are hopeless.

marginalia and raucous conversations

March 6th, 2013

“Reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.”  –marginalia Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize author, historian, actor, and broadcaster, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings.

Marginalia is the study of things scribbled in margins of books.

Well.

I am a book margin scribbler myself <although I doubt my scribbled-in books will make anyone any money someday>.

I call them marks of affection. Indicators of my relationship with the words I found within. Sometimes they are notes of inspiration … for new thoughts, ideas, things I will write in the future, things I may speak in the future … or simply admiration for wording.

My margins are a reflection of the immediate me. am I scarring a book or simply etching my appreciation for a stunning glimpse of clarity?

My To Kill a Mockingbird <albeit not my 1st edition copy> tends to highlight Scout’s wisdom.

The Eight by Katherine Neville <a 1st edition I have read and reread> is strewn with notes regarding history and thoughts.

And many many other nondescript books which may have had only one truly memorable literary moment <most published books have at least one incredibly well crafted thought>.

Oh.

I also admit I love collecting older books with notes in the margins thumbing through dusty yellow paged books in random corners of used bookstores seeking scribbled margins.

I think the notes represent a book within a book.

A glimpse into what some stranger sees or feels.

I believe how I feel about marginalia puts me in a minority. Scribbling in margins just seems like something polite readers do not do.

A guy named Paul F. Gehl blames generations of librarians and teachers for “inflicting us with the idea” that writing in books makes them “spoiled or damaged.”

I agree.

And I would add in my parents and all the other adults around me.

Marginalia was more common in the 1800s.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin.

 

marginalia making book fee loved“In getting my books I have always been solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling in suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general.” – Edgar Allan Poe

 

I imagine it is a certain type of reader who might be inclined to underlining, noting things or even scribbling notes & comments in the margin.

Speaking as one myself I know I am giving a book my complete attention as i hover over the pages with a pencil nearby when words inspire me to do so. I also believe it is a commitment to return. To regather those comments and thoughts another day.

“… quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book.” – George Steiner <defining an intellectual>

 

So.

I am not an intellectual … but I do tend to read with a pencil nearby, scribble notes or circle phrases or turn down the corner of pages if I find something I want to reread.

All of those things I just stated about the margins of books?

Uh oh.

I hear a chorus of librarians <and my mother and sister> groaning about the sanctity of the book.

But I have Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Coleridge and Studs Terkel on my side.

All were proponents of this nefarious deed.

 

Mark Twain left a comment about “Huckleberry Finn,” in his copy of “The Pen and the Book” by Walter Besant.

The book, about making a profit in publishing, scarcely qualifies as a literary masterpiece. It is highly valuable, instead, because Mark Twain penciled, among other observations, a one-way argument with the author, Walter Besant, that “nothing could be stupider” than using advertising to sell books as if they were “essential goods” like “salt” or “tobacco.” On another page, Twain made some snide remarks about the big sums being paid to another author of his era, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

 

Twain was engaging in marginalia.

And despite the fact the only thing I share with Twain is having a mustache … I also engage in marginalia.

Look.

Despite the fact everyone will be skewering me for marking up books … marginalia has a rich literary history <sometimes regarded as literary archaeology as I try and explain my modern graffiti in the classics>.

Part of the history?

<I have stolen these examples from another wrier on marginalia>

 

Some examples, like Fermat’s Last Theorem, are of the most desperate importance.

Others, like an early medieval monk writing ‘My hand is so cold I can hardly hold the quill’, are utterly unimportant but immediate.

In some cases, there is art work – Nabokov sketching a beetle in his copy of Metamorphis.

In other cases, there is an absence of anything intelligible: Churchill’s poignant red crayon marks on German decrypts detailing their murdering ways on the Eastern Front.

There is stupid marginalia: a student copy of Wilfred Owen’s collected poems where the word ‘futile’ had been written in big block capitals next to that poet’s Futility.

There is irrelevant marginalia by important people: Lincoln’s attempts to learn legal Latin in his law books.

Then there is important marginalia by irrelevant people. The first evidence of Hamlet being performed in a Chaucer belonging to one Gabriel Harvey: ‘The younger sort takes much delight in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, but his Lucrece, and his Hamlet Prince of Denmark have it in them to please the wiser sort’.

There is stolen marginalia – the ‘precious’  early Welsh stanzas from the Juvencus manuscript were cut from their place and hoarded away by a scholar.

There is posthumous marginalia – medieval glosses copied out as a text in manuscripts where we’ve lost the original margins: for example, the Greek words taught to Anglo-Saxon students in the seventh-century by Theodore of Canterbury. 

There is even – in homage to Invisible Libraries – Invisible Marginalia: in Wuthering Heights, for example, there is a reference to Catherine’s pen portrayal of Joseph in a margin of a book.

There is even’ notes to friends’ marginalia: Coleridge in a borrowed book of Charles Lamb: ‘I will not be long here, Charles!—& gone, you will not mind my having spoiled a book in order to leave a Relic.’

 

But.

As I noted earlier … sometimes when you read you are inspired by how something is articulated.

Therefore Marginalia can reflect history … as in the fact one book can create a source of inspiration <for another book>.

Like this.

A copy of Thoreau’s “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” <which had been borrowed by Jack Kerouac from a local library in 1949 and never to be returned> has on page 227 a short sentence Kerouac had underlined in pencil with a “small, neat check mark beside it.”

The sentence: “The traveler must be born again on the road.”

<of course … Kerouac is famous for his book “on the road”>

 

Anyway.

I found a relatively bad overall poem about marginalia which has a couple of very good stanzas:

 

From Billy Collins’ poem ‘Marginalia’:

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

 

friends_talking_on_benchWell … I have always been a book giver … but maybe I should become a book lender … and encourage people to write in the margins when inspired. Mostly because I am relatively sure I have never had a bad discussion when discussing a book … even a raucous discussion.

Am I speaking heresy <to the sanctity of published literature>?

Aw. Who knows.

To me?

We should all at some point “seize the white perimeter as our own.”

Read.

Make notes.

Think.

Make more notes.

Books are made to create a raucous conversation … whether it be with others … or in your own head.

hard to plan the day

September 20th, 2010

=====

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

e.b. white

===

 

 

So.

 

My plan for the day.

 

 

Each day I wake up and aim to be the best I can be at work.

 

 

I do this with the intent of … well … actually … for … for those who work with me and the people who work for me and anyone I can impact.

 

But does that I mean sacrificing being able to enjoy the world?

 

Does enjoying the world mean vacation?

 

Or relaxing?

 

 

Geez.

 

 

This whole life thing is tough and I haven’t even starting thinking about what good ole EB calls “life challenges.”

 

 

That is just how I think about it.

 

 

For everyone <this includes me>?

 

 

Balancing self versus others is tough.

 

 

Toiling toward success versus relaxing is tough.

 

Heck.

 

Life in general is tough.

 

 

And it’s even tougher if you can’t decide how to attack life.

 

 

The hardest part?

 

 

You can’t.

Every morning you are trying to decide how to attack the day.

 

 

Despite all the self help books and “the 12 ½ traits of tried & true toilers” <I just made that up but I got to use lots of “t’s” which made me happy> and no matter how you plan and make lists and all that crap … you cannot.

 

Every day is a plan made … when you wake up.

 

 

yes or no crazy<so it seems a little crazy to me investing boatloads of energy trying to plan your life let alone the day>

 

 

Of course everyone wants to improve the world.

 

 

I don’t know I have ever met anyone who hasn’t wanted to <even in the smallest way>.

 

 

In fact <I am digressing here> I would argue that even if it isn’t in your ‘plan for the day’ should the opportunity to do something that would improve your world stepped into the day you would drop a shitload of other things down on the list to make room for it <hence your plan for the day has gone to hell in a hand basket … hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … but … for a good reason ..>.

 

Anyway.

 

 

Despite the ‘wanting to improve the world’ decision you made the night before <and the awesome dreams you had during the night> as soon as the alarm goes off and the caffeine starts kicking in you are quickly shifting focus to ‘how do I keep my head above water today.”

 

Oh.

And where the hell does “enjoy the world” come into play?

 

 

Do I, personally, have good balance?

Shit no.

 

 

The best I can say for myself is that the one thing I have down pat is the work thing. Relentlessly focused on making anyone I manage be the most successful they can be (in life and in business). I kinda figure maybe my ‘enjoy the world’ comes from the fruits of that endeavor.

 

 

In my own odd way I have figured out how to improve the world and enjoy the world.

 

 

I will say this to anyone reading this though.

 

 

Figure out your own.

 

 

But figure it out so you aren’t always choosing on over the other. Maybe it takes some weird logic like I developed to get to a balancing act. Maybe you can figure out your own less obtuse way of doing it. It really doesn’t matter (and when people say you have a fucked up way of looking at it … well .. they are wrong … because it is YOUR way of looking at it … and they are wrong to impose their guidelines on you).

 

 

Anyway.

 

The point?

 

 

Yeah.

Life makes it really really hard to plan your day if your two aspects are improving the world and enjoying the world.

 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and figure it out.

 

 

In fact.

 

You will be a lot happier if you invest some energy at some point <hopefully with some cocktails and maybe a really good friend> and figure it out.

travels of reading part 1

September 7th, 2010

So.

 

 

This is partially a rant about people who don’t take advantage of the opportunities reading provides … and partially simply a plea for people to read as often as they can.

 

Let me begin with the traveling ‘thing’ I mention upfront.

I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to travel different parts of the globe.

And experience lots of things. And see many different things.

 

But even with that.

 

I tend to believe books and reading have offered the best travels I have ever experienced.

Yeah. I do love reading and I believe reading books really is like traveling.

 

 

Traveling to places … new and known.

To thoughts … new and known.

To others minds and how they think … and what they think about.

To other types of thinking. To fresh ideas.

 

It is an absolute fact that everyone has the opportunity to see so many things through reading.

 

 

And imagine things limited only by the boundaries of your own imagination and vision.

 

And experience thinking and ideas and combinations of words that energize the mind and the heart and the soul.

 

Reading just gets you … well … thinking. Just thinking about things.

 

As we read I believe all of us have found those ‘moments’ in books.

 

book stack

There are those moments when you actually traveled through a slice of someone else’s life … living it word by word.

 

 

As I typed that … I remember I was fortunate to be given a proofers copy of The Horse Whisperer and asked my opinion of the book before it was ever published.

I know I gave it a great review.

 

And I believe the book made me cry in the first 50 pages <which may be one of the most heart wrenching tangled emotional ‘stepping into a moment’ sections of a book I have ever encountered>.

 

That is an example of traveling through someone else’s life experience.

 

You travel through their experience and feel it … right in your gut.

 

You live it.

You get so close to the moment through the words you feel like you have traveled right into the moment that you are experiencing it.

 

I find the same (but different) feeling when I read The Economist <so it does not have to be novels>.

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Anyone who reads knows about the moments when you come across a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things that maybe you’d thought before … and it was lurking in your own mind … and it appears on a page articulated by by someone else, someone you’ve never met, maybe even someone long passed.

 

 

It’s as if someone has heard your thought and knew you couldn’t figure out a way to put it in words and has traveled to you through this book to say “here it is, worry no more, for now you know what it is.”

 

 

And, of course, <because I am consistent on this issue and I am who I am> reading is an easy path to knowledge … any kind of knowledge <factual, historical, metaphorical>.

 

 

Of course you can gain knowledge through experience, or discussion, or other paths … but reading is so freely available and simple to do that it can only be deemed a great failure to anyone who doesn’t encourage it as a core activity for any and all of us. It imagine I consider it a failure because, to me, reading is a privilege.

 

 

I do know I would like to see America become a place that’s proud of intellectual curiosity.

But I fear too often intellectual curiosity is belittled by people whose idea of culture is determined by television or People-type magazines or internet blogs.

 

reading cracking open a bookYou would like to think that knowledge should be a lifelong goal and not something satisfied by high school mandatory reading lists or four years of college … but rather a lifetime of reading.

 

 

Here is the issue <ok. some issues>.

 

Okay.

 

Some statistics which are disturbing <at least to me they are>.

 

From bookstatistics.com:

–          58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

–          42% of college graduates never read another book.

–          80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

–          70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

 

Ok.

 

 

Did you know that there are approximately 30 million adults in the U.S. who can’t read?

 

Yikes.

 

 

THAT last one sends a shiver down my spine.

Well … honestly I am not sure which factoids bothered me the most … the ones where people know how to read and choose to not read or the people who do not even have the ability to read.

Pick your poison.

 

 

While I would like to think most people would like to read <like I do> I imagine I also assume they can actually read <bad assumption it seems>.

 

But.

 

 

Look at number 2 on the list.

 

80% of families did not buy or read a book.

 

80 frickin’ percent.

 

 

Whew.

 

What happens to us <from childhood where we seem to have endless supplies of books to read>?

 

I do know that one of my favorite childhood memories is “reading” The Hobbit.

 

 

Ok.

 

I didn’t read it. It was read to me. Our teacher read it to us in installments in elementary school in ‘reading time.’

 

Afterwards? I couldn’t wait to get my own hands on it and read it myself.

 

 

Since then I have read it and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy <plus the Hobbit> maybe 10 times. I have no idea at what age was my first time reading it … but it has to be very young. tolkein not all who

I remember being fascinated, excited and impatient waiting for the next chapter to unfold.  I created pictures in my mind at each reading and the next day another picture would be drawn.

 

 

So.

 

 

Let’s be clear. I am not suggesting everyone love reading as much as I do.

 

 

I am simply suggesting it is good to understand that what reading has to offer is important <so at least you recognize the choice>.

 

Not everyone can physically travel … and books not only give someone an opportunity to travel anywhere in the ‘now’ but they give you an opportunity to travel through time … and see ideas past, present and future.

 

 

Look.

 

I know reading books certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on becoming “smart.” Smart can be found anywhere in the written world.

 

I’ve read some amazing stuff online, and I’ve read amazingly written thought provoking newspaper articles <not in local papers but maybe the NY Times or The Guardian>. And I do think staying open to new media is a key sign of intellectual curiosity.

 

 

In any case, I don’t know if people who don’t read lack intellectual curiosity. I think there can be other ways to satisfy intellectual curiosity <particularly in today’s web crazy world>.

 

 

But I do think if you don’t read you can find yourself with a lack of ability to think in the abstract and the potential. And that is a nice ability for lifelong learning and self improvement <adapting to Life>.

 

 

You may have heard the term “lifelong learning.”

 

 

Though learning begins when we are children … education is truly a never ending process <and reading can play an important part of learning for everyone>. Reading can not only keep us informed about the world around us but it also provides intellectual stimulation and helps keep us mentally sharp.

 

 

Research has shown that reading offers benefits not found in more “passive” media.

 

 

It gives the brain a much better workout than does watching television. When we watch TV, we take in the information in a passive way. But reading allows the mind to:

 

  • pause, reflect, think
  • operate more actively
  • use intellect and emotion together
  • develop a longer attention span.

 

 

Oh.

 

 

And on that last bullet point.

 

To those of you who may say “I don’t have the attention span to read.”

 

 

Well.

 

I am calling ‘bullshit’ on that.

 

There ain’t anyone out there who has a shorter attention span than I do. I have the attention span of a gnat. And still a book can suck me in to a place where it doesn’t become about ‘attention’ any more but rather ‘involvement.’

 

 

Ok.

 

 

Regardless of all my own personal ramblings on the greatness of reading there are some actual studies <if you doubt that this whole reading is traveling thing is really for you>.

–          Carnegie Mellon scientists discovered that the volume of brain white matter in the language area of the brain increased after study participants followed a six-month daily reading program. The Carnegie Mellon study proved that the brain structure can be improved by training poor readers to become better readers.

–          In 2009, Mayo Clinic conducted a Study of Aging that offered some good news for middle-aged and senior adults. Reading a book and other cognitive activities could decrease the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

This suggests we should assume the brain is like a muscle.

 

Studies prove that exercising it and stimulating it makes it stronger. Reading stimulates brain activity. Reading a variety of “things” (blogs, books, newspapers, etc.) challenges the brain to think in new directions and absorb new concepts and information.

 

And children?

 

 

Children benefit from reading on many levels. Parents actively stimulate their child’s brain by sharing a reading time with them. Interactive reading time creates a shared bond between parent and child along with provoking a child’s natural curiosity about the world and environment.

 

 

Giving a child a chance to ask questions, express an interest in a particular topic, and hear new vocabulary and ideas forms a positive impression on a child that lasts a lifetime. Children with poor reading skills have a tendency to feel more anxious and sad (that comes from a study but I lost the source).

 

Reading also means we are in more control of how we learn and absorb different ideas. We can skim over portions that interest us less, move backwards and forwards, reread and, as in my case, make notes or write spectacularly articulated things down.

 

 

Reading helps keep us oriented and engaged.

 

Science, history, biographies, self help, religion, philosophy … the list is really endless … all make our ‘world’ a little more ‘full’ (but it is a glass that can never actually be completely filled) with each book we read.

 

 

I left this last thought to the end because people who haven’t really figured out how to enjoy reading don’t “get” this next thing I am gonna say.

 

There is an amazing pleasure to sitting down with a good book. It’s kind of like traveling to anywhere in the world <imagined or real> without leaving the comfort of our own chair.

We can visit a fantasy realm with JRR Tolkien, or the American West with Louis L’Amour, or solve a mystery with Sherlock Holmes or see the intricacies of war with Tom Clancy <that list could truly go on and on>.

 

 

So.

 

In the end.

 

Some people will never ever be interested in learning unless dragged, kicking and screaming.

 

My biggest hope is that we adults <the ones who don’t like reading> don’t hinder our kids natural curiosity about the world and still encourage them to read <unfortunately … kids typically do as they see … so  … if they don’t see you read they don’t feel compelled to read>.

 

I do know that I will never quit trying to give everyone the opportunity to love reading and knowledge and encouraging curiosity.

 

 

Why?

 

 

Because not all of us have the privilege to travel.

 

And books give everyone the privilege to travel.

 

Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Enlightened Conflict