I’m currently reading Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence. Before that, I read David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous. Before that, I read Lesley Ellen Harris’s Licensing Digital Content: A Practical Guide for Librarians. None of these things I read because either school or work required it. I think there’s a point to this paragraph besides boastful windbaggery.
The point is a question. Does not being required reading make these books leisure reading? While it’s true that I read them in my unpaid, no-paper-needs-ensued-from-these-readings hours, making them reads in and at my leisure, one could make the case that they are plenty related to my field of study — information science — and so are un-leisurely. Part of that is true; I did read these books because I felt that I should know their basic contours and because I wanted my professional thinking to be informed by their content. On the other hand, I read them because I felt them interesting. I did not read other books that are perhaps just as helpful to a library professional’s development because, well, I could. It was reading at at my leisure, for my pleasure, after all.
And what about books that are not immediately required but serve some long-term professional goals? I’ve mentioned before that I hope to have a career in scholarly communications. Towards that end, I read plenty of books on the state of publishing; I read about copyright. I also happen to find both of these topics fascinating. (I didn’t choose my intended career out of masochism!) And I allow myself the luxury in picking and choose what I (don’t) read.
So what is leisure reading? What is its complement? “But the penumbra around twilight does not mean that night and day are artificial human constructions with no descriptive import,” so said Richard Epstein. I recognize that there are things that I read for definite leisure (e.g. Tom Bissell’s Magic Hours), and there are things I’m forced (kicking and screaming) to read. The books shadowed by twilight, however, escapes neat delineation.
What about you? How much of what you read is strictly for work or school? How much of what you read is recreation? How much in the penumbra of dawn?
Was there a point to this post?