Sunday, March 6, 2016

National Reading Month; or Don't Dumb Down, Danny

Happy March! I don’t know if you knew this but March is National Reading Month. And since this is my blog and I can write about anything I want, I'd like to briefly talk about reading in general. I recently read an article decrying technology and the imminent demise of reading and with it, intelligence. It was written last year but it could have easily been from the 1950’s. Every generation worries that the following one is getting dumber and often point to the advent of a new form of entertainment and the lowering of academic standards to dumb down society. And while anecdotally it does seem like society might be losing some IQ points(I will leave politics and Mickey Mouse Institutions out of this), I think it’s unfair to consider reading a panacea for the masses. If everyone took up a book right now…. Well actually that would be cool because that means there’d be a momentary reprieve of violence and talk of reality television. Oh wait, off track… If everyone took up a book right now(and assuming they hadn’t fallen through the cracks and CAN read),  there is no saying that society would become smarter.

Yes, reading is important to access peer-reviewed journals(which don’t yet have a televised version). It’s important to understand the legalese in your mortgage and credit card agreements. Reading is important in brain development and language learning. And reading is necessary if you want to form an opinion about something from more than one source. Most importantly the ability to reachad allows you to keep up-to-date on each and every one of my rambling blogs.

BUT reading still cannot force you to think. 

“Modern stupidity means not ignorance but the nonthought of received ideas."  

I think that is the thing about learning and thinking in general, no matter what form you utilize to experience the whole world around you, you need to actively engage it. Critical appraisal and gathering of as many different facts and opinions as possible will help you learn and be better suited to be an active and productive member of societyJ I’d like to think that reading can help you get there.

Oh by the way, have any of you ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron?  I don’t know whether it was a purposeful attack on communism and utopian egalitarian ideals, but the premise was that everyone had to be the exact same. Meaning intelligence-wise and athleticism. Of course, it’s a far more challenging task to make people SMARTER or FITTER, so instead they shackle, both literally and figuratively, the smarter and more athletic people so that they are reduced to the level of their lowest performing peers. For intelligence, this meant little ear pieces that bells rang every so often to distract the person and prevent any stream of consciousness and deliberative thought. Kinda like trying to read with your phone buzzing with Facebook and Twitter updates every few seconds, right? Get that book, turn off all other technology and enjoy. Here’s a list of the books I’ve read since being in Guyana. I’ve marked the ones I recommend(because I enjoyed them, not necessarily because their "literary masterpieces":
  1. The Broken Cord-Michael Dorris *
  2. Ahab's Wife- Sara Jeter Naslund  ***
  3. The Family Arsenal-Paul Theroux *
  4. The Prophet-Kahlil Gibram  *
  5. A Grief Observed- CS Lewis  *
  6. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay- Michael Chabon  ***
  7. Living the Wisdom of the Tao- Dr Wayne W Dyer **
  8. Under the Greenwood Trees- Thomas Hardy *
  9. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water- Michael Dorris **
  10. Jonathan Livingston Seagull-Richard Bach *
  11. The Imperfectionists- Tom Rachman ***
  12. The Poorhouse Fair- John Updike **
  13. The Man in My Basement- Walter Mosley **
  14. Inez- Carlos Fuentes*
  15. The Kingdom of This World- Alejo Carpentier **
  16. Farewell, My Lovely- Raymond Chandler **
  17. Rapture- David Sosnowski *
  18. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers- Robert Sapolsky ***
  19. The Tale of The Dueling Neuroscientists- Sam Keen ***
  20. The Dovekeepers- Alice Hoffman ***
  21. Reading Lolita in Tehran-  Azar Nafisi   **
  22. The Traveling Mercies- Anne Lamott  *
  23. Going to Ground- Amy Blackmarr *
  24. Gertrude and Claudius- John Updike **
  25. The Lost Cyclist- Paul Herlihy *
  26. Last Bus to Wisdom-Ivan Doig ****(He gets an extra one just because it's Ivan)
  27. Eight Bullets- Claudia Brenner *
  28. The Light Between Oceans- ML Stedman ***
  29. Death of an Irish Politician- Bartholomew Gill **
  30. The Call of the Toad- Gunter Grass *
  31. Across China- Peter Jenkins *
  32. The Snow Child-Eowyn Ivey ***
  33. The Art of Novel-Milan Kundera *
  34. Proof-Dick Francis **
  35. The Ambassadors-Henry James *
  36. God Bless John Wayne- Kinky Friedman*
  37. The Last Place God Made- Jack Higgins **
  38. The Celebration- Mary Lee Settle ***
  39. Wild Horses-Dick Francis **
  40. True Enough-Farhad Manjoo**
  41. A Life Inspired-Anthology*
  42. World So Wide-Sinclair Lewis*
  43. North Toward Home-Willie Morris**
  44. Old Friends, Rare Books-Madeline Stern and Leona Rostenberg**
  45. Houdini Girl- Martyn Bedford**
  46. One Small Act of Kindness-Lucy Dillon**
  47. Racing the Rain- John L Parker Jr***
  48. Sharp Objects-Gillian Flynn**
  49. Breakfast of Champions- Kurt Vonnegut**
  50. The Lost Continent- Bill Bryson***
  51. Code Name Verity- Elizabeth Wein***
  52. A Little Chapel on the Water- Gwendolyn Bounds***
  53. The Language of Flowers-Vanessa Diffenbaugh***
  54. Looking for Alaska- John Green**
  55. Summit Fever- Andrew Greig**
  56. Dharma Bums- Jack Kerouac **
  57. Anatomy of Peace- Arbinger Institute*
Happy Reading!

Until Next Time,



  1. Sure would like to read a letter.this month from my far away God son. Was that the first CS Lewis book you've read? I've picked him up and put him down a couple times. Tell me how things are going.

  2. Hello sir,
    I think I can make that happen. When I go to French Guiana I'll see if they sell any postcards:) I've actually read all of the Narnia series but this was totally different. It was originally his journal after his wife passed away. It was okay...

    Things are good down here. How about you and NH? I'm excited about October 1st!