Saturday, June 28, 2008

Becoming a Reader

Alison Bechdel, the author of the graphic novel, Fun Home, a Family Tragicomic put together a great short piece on how she developed as a reader. It's a lot of fun.

Bechdel has been on my list of authors whose books I need to get my hands on for some time.

In this story she includes the advice that, if you really want your kids to read something, the best way to do it is to hide it on the higher shelves, and not tell them about it. I'm not sure this works for all kids, but for the more voracious reader it makes some sense.

This tails in nicely with the debate that's been going on in England over the age-stamping of books. Someone suggested that no one knows what book is most appropriate for any given kid more than the kid themselves, and that typically they won't read the books they're not ready for. This worked pretty well for me.

The question lies in what one does if their child is not already a reader. How do you then determine if a book is right for them before you make them read it?

There's a problem in that question. Can you see it?

Yeah, MAKE. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. Trite, but true. The same is equally true for people of all ages and books. If you want to suggest a book to your child, but you're not sure if it will be appropriate, read it!

If you won't take the time to read a book, why should your child?

Of course, I don't know any guaranteed way to turn a kid into a reader, but if their parents don't read, and yet they try to make their kid read... well, it doesn't sound very successful does it.

I don't mind general age stamping. Children's, Young Adult (YA), and the like, but I don't think they need to be more carefully defined than that. As an early teen I read a mix of adult novels and more YA fiction, and as an adult, I know people who still read a sizable amount of YA fiction. If you're reading for pleasure, read what you enjoy. But for kids, well, they will already have the books they have to read, that's what school is for. For parents, you don't need to make your child read important works, just make sure they're comfortable reading. If they enjoy it, their reading will sort itself out. You're never going to be able to force them to like a specific type of literature, any more than you can force them to like the same music as you.

That just gave me a great image. A parent forcing a preteen to sit down and really contemplate Rubber Soul. It doesn't seem like the best way to produce a fan of the Beatles.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Candidates Read

I'm late in learning about this, but apparently presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee, Barack Obama, was spotted holding a book. And not just holding it, he was carrying it with one finger between the pages marking his place, indicating that...

Hang on, this is just tough to say about a politician...

...indicating that he was ACTUALLY reading it!

I'm so used to the occasional press release from the current occupant, in which he describes himself as a 'reader' or a list of his summer reading without any opinion, that I'm not sure how to take it.

Oh wait, I am sure. It's awesome!

Anyway, you can see for yourself here.

Apparently he's reading Fareed Zakaria. I've never read him myself, but I've enjoyed his Daily Show appearances.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I've been a fan of George Plimpton for a long time, and this seems a truly fitting tribute to him.

If you haven't read any of his writings, you should, I recommend The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair as a good start. It worked well for me.

As the essay I linked to states, he was well known for his cameos. And I thought I'd share a few of my favorites.

If you are in your twenties or younger, then the chances are pretty good that you saw him on The Simpsons, playing himself as the host of the Spellympics. This episode is filled with great lines, and a number of them were delivered by Plimpton, such as "You remind me of me, when I was a white-haired little boy."

More special to me, was his work in the second season of the phenomenal Nero Wolfe series run on A&E. As a small part of the ensemble cast, Plimpton played a chef, an elderly lawyer, and others, all wonderfully. For me, Nero Wolfe is a long-loved treasure, I have read almost every one of the books, and am always looking for the last few. I also loved the series. Plimpton, as a successful writer, certainly never needed to take acting work for money, which means he took the job for love. And his love of the Nero Wolfe stories is as evident as that of everyone else involved in making that show. It was special.

I don't recall seeing Plimpton in anything else, but that doesn't mean he wasn't there. Any favorite Plimpton sightings that you want to share?

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I've never felt much interest in reading Nick Sparks' books, and I haven't seen the movie of The Notebook but this article about what he's done for local athletes in his hometown is really impressive. I always admire when people who are successful give back. Sure it's nice when they give money to charity, but when they give time too, the way Sparks has, it's much more special.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Read a Book!

It's a hot lazy Thursday afternoon, but I have a youtube message for you, brought by those great advocates of reading, Handy and the Human Ton!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I aitn't dead!

Sorry that I disappeared for a while, a combination of extreme business and frequent lack of internet access, left me without the time to post.

Billy Collins, poet-extraordinaire, former poet laureate of these United States, and for some reason that remains unclear to me, the motivation behind the brief-lived anti-poet laureate position, has written a sonnet that is currently posted on the Guardian's book site.