August 18, 2007
That's Tyler Cowen's question about reading any given book, which he poses in his new book "Discover Your Inner Economist." (Is that the best book?) He seems to be saying you should toss the book aside if the answer is no. I'm afraid that's a formula for never finishing a book. Isn't there something to be said for maintaining your focus and following through lest you approach reading -- and presumably everything else about life -- with a growing case of attention deficit disorder? Take it from me. I read virtually the same advice written by Doris Lessing in the introduction to "The Golden Notebook," which became the first book I tossed aside following the principle. That was about 30 years ago. Since then, I've started a lot of books, and I would have cast them all aside -- save one or two -- had I not forced myself through some of them. But the vast majority of the books I've started lo these 30 years, I haven't finished, and the crazy thing is that I maintain the belief that I'm still reading a book for many years as the pile of books I believe I'm reading piles up. One thing about reading on line -- especially reading to blog -- is that what you don't finish evanesces. Once the day has passed, you feel utterly absolved of any obligation to go back to anything. The text flows on and you grab what you want and feel no pangs about what goes by unread. The question is what's new? I mean, what was I saying about a growing case of attention deficit disorder?