Reading in a New Decade

On New Year’s Eve ten years ago, I was two weeks shy of my thirteenth birthday, and I rang in the new millennium from a tiny town in the northwest corner of Connecticut. I boasted the early adolescent triple-threat of acne, glasses, and braces, and accessorized with a mantle of awkwardness not even the most slouching and downcast of shoulders could manage to shrug off.

When the year changed from 1999 to 2000, the floor of my bedroom was strewn with school reading like Macbeth, The House on Mango Street, and The Princess Bride. On a desk in the corner sat an iMac, one of the original iMacs, the kind Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson smash open in the movie Zoolander (“the files are IN the computer?”). Since my iMac went into retirement in the early aughts, I’ve used a succession of computers that have gotten faster, smaller, and more powerful. I could probably fit close to ten models of my current laptop inside the casing of my old iMac.

Ten years ago I didn’t have a cellphone, and now I have one that can do a lot of the things my old computer couldn’t do. The past year or so has seen the advent of a new kind of technological companion that I wrote about in one of my first entries on this blog: the electronic book.  This Christmas ebooks were among the “most popular” gifts of the season, and over the past month or so I’ve seen innumerable ads for the Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony Reader, as these different ebook models competed against each other and a host of other snazzy gadgets to capture their share of the Christmas market’s technological pie-wedge.

The way I write (and the way I think, and maybe just generally the way that I am) isn’t really conducive to the blog format. Before I start writing, I like to ruminate, vacillate, consider, resolve, ponder, abandon, and explore. I begin, regress, reconsider, and then begin all over again. I get tangled up in contradictory ideas and lost in destination-less exploration, resulting in writings that end up essay-length or longer, writings which meander, take tangents, get lost, wind up in strange places, and then stumble their way back towards the point they were originally attempting to make, a point they’ve often managed to unknowingly disassemble along the way.

If there’s one thing that’s become very clear to me over the past year, it is that this is a very important time in the history of books, and in the history of reading. The world of reading is changing rapidly, and speculation as to the future of books (and the future of literature) is running rampant, becoming the focus of magazine and newspaper articles, radio journalism, blog entries, and, somewhat ironically, the subject of books themselves. I’m not necessarily the best witness to this changing world; I’m certainly not an objective one. But I do read a lot, and I read a lot about reading, so I’m going to write more about that—I’ll attempt, in general, to ruminate less and publish more, though of course it’s certain I’ll still write ridiculously long entries that I think about for weeks before finally starting to compose them.

Books aren’t created in a vacuum, and reading doesn’t happen in one. I think that books (like people) aren’t purely a product of their times, that they are not determined entirely by their origins or their surroundings.  But that being said, books and people are certainly a part of their times, and there’s a dialogue of sorts that goes on between writer and world, writing and world, writing and reader, reader and world etc. etc. And I want to play a part in these dialogues…a more active part than I have done in the previous half-year.

So over the next few days I’ll be creating a few new categories: a What I’m Reading category, and a category that will contain posts scattered loosely around the theme of What I’m Reading about Reading, so articles on ebooks, award-winning books, authors, famous writer’s birthdays, reading and philosophy, reading and neuroscience, all sorts of fun stuff like that.

Knowing how hideously wrong any of my guesses about the past ten years would have been, I hesitate to made any predictions about the life of books or the lives of readers in the next decade. But whatever happens, I’ll be watching, and reading along. So welcome to 2010!! I wish you all a year of good books and happiness!

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