“A Book Is a Machine to Think With”

There’s much ado these days about new reading technologies. In particular, the ebook, but there are more recent innovations in digital reading, too: Spritz is one, and social e-readers are another. The way digital reading is discussed, you’d think people who like reading plain old paper books are Luddites.

But what if I told you that physical books are technological marvels themselves?

I encountered a provocative discussion of how we use this far-out dead-tree technology in–where else?–a book, dead-tree version, by one of my favorite writers, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. After reading this, I’ll never look at a book the same way again.

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What’s better than reading? Re-reading

I’d like to re-read a book every month or two, but right now that rarely happens. I get distracted by New Book Sexiness.

Sex is actually a nice metaphor. A lot of people talk about how great it is to read around, sampling a different book every time. But anyone who’s stuck with one book for the long haul knows that this leads to a richer life.

New books are always going to be sexier — it feels almost like an instinct. And if you have a long list of stuff you want to get to, there’s a certain pressure to pick something different off the shelf, in the name of “progress”.

But the re-read always rewards your selection.

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Living on a knife’s edge

The sleeping-sickness, actually a viral disease called encephalitis lethargica, struck no two patients in exactly the same way — this baffled the medical community. Many sufferers slipped in to irreversible comas, while others became so aroused that they died of insomnia. Those who didn’t die tended to fall gradually into a deep Parkinsonism, especially of the “frozen” variety, and had to be institutionalized. Sacks epitomizes their dreadful state with a quote from Donne: “As Sicknes is the greatest misery, so the greatest misery of sicknes, is solitude… Solitude is a torment which is not threatened in hell itselfe.”

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