I will now make a public confession of something I have only mentioned to a couple of people my entire life because of the shame it brings me. I don't read. By that I mean I very seldom read for pleasure. Though rare, this is not an unheard-of affliction amongst academics, after all, we read for a living. Reading therefore becomes "work" and work is, well, work. This may result from my favorite type of reading being history; it's too close to what I do for a living. You'd think that historical fiction would be the answer, but I find that historical fiction leaves me with a "love it or leave it" reaction: either I adore the book* or loathe it and put it down without finishing it. The latter happens especially when I find an glaring factual error or a preposterous oversimplification. In the past couple of weeks, however, I've finished two books. So what happened? First, I put Kindle on my mid-sized iPad. Now, I tried kindle before on the Amazon device, it worked at first, but then my interest waned. For some reason, I find the pad more attractive, and a device is easier for me to use than fumbling with a book, and lighting, and with my presbyopia. Second, I retired. This, of course, means I need to find something to do with my time (even I can only nap for so long in the course of one day) but more importantly it means I no longer read for a living. Third, I think I may have found a solution to my history problem, viz., read in an area about which I know little or nothing (difficult for a universal savant of my caliber) so that way I can't be critical all the time. So the first book I read was a deliciously dry and excruciating precise and detailed history of the Maya. I devoured it; all the joy of technical academic reading with none of the personal investment. I moved on to something closer to home: a popularly written history of the personal conflicts and vendettas among the artists and popes responsible for the building of St. Peter's. A couple of tangential factual errors and one piece of nonsensical Latin, but I got past that. Egad! I'm reading for pleasure! Where to next? Likely either the history of the semi-colon or Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I have really enjoyed popularizing astrophysics books in the past.
* The novel I most adored was Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian, which is simply brilliant. Read it and you'll know why she was the first woman elected to the Académie Française.