Month: September 2007

How many books should you start?

So few other people sample books en masse, yet the practice strikes me as trivially correct.  If I buy a book the odds that I finish it are reasonably high, certainly above fifty percent.  Why spend the money on a longshot?  (Btw, "What I’ve Been Reading" is almost always books I have finished, otherwise why report them?)  But when I troll a public library for free books, which I do virtually every day, should I pick up only those books I expect to finish?  No, I slide further along the marginal benefit curve and that means I grab lots of books with relatively small but positive expected values.

Yesterday’s haul from Arlington Public Library included You Never Call! You Never Write!, and Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening, neither of which I expect to finish (though I will if I love them).  The real question is should I read more on-line book reviews (which are free), or do my own "reviews" by pawing the free book for a few minutes? 

What are other reasons not to sample?  Are library trips so costly?  Are you so confident in social filters relative to your own judgment/pawing?  Have blogs outcompeted book pawing?  Is the goal of reading simply to share impressions with other people, and there is little uncertainty about what are the hot-selling books?

I say go and grab, go and grab, go and grab.

Nothing at all like this happens in our house

Darrah’s absence has brought something else into bold relief — our attachment to certain routines.  Without her youthful energy buzzing through the house, some of our longtime habits have deepened — calcified? — into codgerlike rituals.  The one that most amazes and amuses Dan and me takes place after dinner, when we…amble into the living room…put on a CD and pick up our respective books (these days, usually from the library).  We then commence what we call "parallel reading."

…Once in a while, one of us will notice the rutlike quality of this activity and say something to the effect of, "What have we come to?"  Then we’ll chuckle, sip some tea, and go back to our books.

That is from Karen Stabiner’s The Empty Nest: 31 Parents Tell the Truth About Relationships, Love, and Freedom After the Kids Fly the Coop.  For one thing, I don’t drink much tea.