Wednesday, June 14, 2017

On Modern and Old Books

Glen's comment of two days ago got me thinking:  "I used to be a voracious reader.  Nowadays - I haven't bought a book in years.  I wonder if it's the same stuff we find objectionable."  It got me to thinking about books.

It occurs to me that most books are a reflection of the time and age in which they were written. I suspect that for many - who have not read anything more than what is currently listed as a best seller or what is recommended in a media magazine - lack the sort of historical span to get a perspective on this.

That said, perhaps that is why (on the whole) I tend to prefer older books.  They were written in a different time - a time that I (for the most part) did not live in but have enough of a thread of memory and familiarity to recognize and enjoy.  They (on the whole) eschewed graphic violence and long steamy sexual passages and the rather lamentable use of cursing - let alone whatever the latest social trends are.

I suppose in some fashion this is true of any age, and to think otherwise is foolishness.  It also explains the existence and continued success of the used book store in the face of the faceless Internet Book Selling Monolith.

As I have written before, most of my fiction used to revolve around Science Fiction and Fantasy - until these became less about the act of flight of fancy and more about making them "real" (see two paragraphs up).  Suddenly it was not fantasy or science fiction, a world of medieval magic or far off stars:  it was our world, with special effects, most often with a point somewhere trying to be made.

My bent now is largely history (and even here you have to be careful - I like history, not someone's opinion of history), specific works around projects I am interested in (gardening, livestock etc.) self improvement books, and the Classics (by Classics I mean literature from largely before 1900).  I do scan the Science Fiction and Fantasy shelves for authors I know and trust, but have found myself steering farther and farther away from such authors.

Why?  Like many other things, I have found that my time is limited.  And I do not really have time to engage in reading something that is A)  Not Useful and B) Not Entertaining.

Am I missing out on some modern classics?  Undoubtedly - although I treat this much the same as I treat most movies in the theater now: at some point they will show up on a streaming service and I can watch them then (funny story - I do not end up seeing most of those either:  Not Useful, Not Entertaining.

But even in the areas I have chosen to read, there are still far more books than I will ever read in this lifetime. Might as well spend the time on things I know and like instead of risk it on that which may be highly objectionable.


  1. What gets me about the older works is the language used. I'm not talking about pieces of work written by and geared toward the college-educated mind. I'm talking about novels written for the masses. Read "Atlas Shrugged," and you'll see words that have fallen far from common use (or have been "redefined"). It gives one an idea of the "average" level of education then, as compared to now. Heck; these days, high school grads can't SPELL half the words used in Atlas Shrugged, let alone define them.

    O' America; how far thou hast fallen...

    1. You are completely right Pete. The language ability just based on the literature produced far exceeds what passes for literacy and conversational ability today. Sad, really. In so many ways it feels like we are headed towards the lowest common denominator as quickly as possible.

    2. Amen. Students in 'one room schoolhouses' knew more than many kids now.

  2. I wish I had kept my Lucky Starr books. And my original, war time, Hardy Boys books.
    I know what you mean about Science Fiction now days. Too many movies and TV shows are going that way, too.
    I hear they want the God of Thunder to be a woman now.
    I'm sorry, but no thank you.

    I do still read a lot of magazines. And I keep a lot of them (to the point of where can I stuff them now?)

    And what do I read? GRIT, Hobby Farms though I much preferred Hobby Farm Home so I don't read said mag so much now. Chickens magazine - because one day the Farm may be a farm again. Backwoods Magazine, if I remember, that is the title. Sometimes I read Urban Farmer. Again, not certain of the exact title. Sometimes I will read Mother Earth News, but it was a lot better decades ago, too.
    Hubby grew up on a farm. He knows hunting and dressing - as in cows, pigs, chickens and deer for eating. His dad was a home builder, so hubby knows plumbing, construction and electrical stuff.

    I do have some stuff on amazon kindle for my phone, and a ton of stuff on my computer; but I the paper stuff is a fall back for the zombie apocalypse - which after this morning could be closer than I like to think.

    Be safe and God bless.

    1. I wish I had kept my Hardy Boys as well, Linda. And had collected Tom Swift instead of just reading them.

      I really do not read that many magazines. Not really sure why - I guess because I always feel like I am falling behind because a new shows up?

      Sounds like your husband has a lot of good experience, given the state of things.

      I actually gave thought to a Kindle the other day - if I want to read more old books, it might make sense to spend less on them (and save the space).

    2. I am sure if you research on the internet, you will find solar chargers for USB devices - not sure how a kindle charges - that could solve a problem, of sorts, should the grid fail..

      Haha. I know what you mean about falling behind. I have gotten to where I only read issues that interest me now. I don't try to read them all any more. :)

    3. Yes, the solar charger for the Kindle is a possibility (similar to an cell phone or laptop). Something else to consider.

  3. Hi TB :)

    I'm not a fan whatsoever of E-books. Hate them. I will however, download them if I find them for free, but just to quickly browse through them on a rainy day. I need to hold a book in my hand. I'm a big fan of Shakespeare and classics. I read a lot more in the summer, though I do enjoy the quick best-sellers, as long as they aren't filled with sex and mushy romance. I hate topical too, stories should be timeless in my opinion. If a book refers to "Googling" or texting, I put it right down!

    We're really big on biographies at the moment. Well, mostly auto-biographies if we can get them, those are preferable. We just recently got Groucho Marx, Raymond Burr and Larry Fine (one of the Stooges). Our interest in old movies plays on the choices we pick too.

    1. I am not a huge fan either Rain, but practically speaking I have X amount of room in house for books and there are always more that I want to read. Topical works on occasion and for specific subjects: Anything by Steven Pressfield, for example, is a pleasure to read.

      Biographies and autobiographies are hit and miss with me. I really enjoyed Jobs (about Steve Jobs) and Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. So many autobiographies are ghost written any more we might as well call them biographies.

      Thanks for sharing! - TB


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