What Keeps Me Reading

Today I’ve got my friend Jeff Ussing on the blog. He’s known me for… at least twenty years. We met back in Germany when I was too young to know any better and he was a GI in the Army where we were stationed at Schwinefurt. My parents invited him for dinner, he joined us for rollerblading, and he learned to cook banana bread (funny story there). Then we got transferred to Tennessee and it seemed we had lost contact until the magic of Facebook reunited our families. We’ve gotten back in touch and keep in contact with each other, and he’s been kind enough today to come and talk about what makes a good book.

So, without further ado:

All of us have a finite amount of time and more importantly, attention. In a world filled with high speed internet on mobile devices in nearly every pocket, it is easy to find oneself with a shortage of attention and an abundance of things to spend it on.

It has been my experience, and I suspect for many of you as well, my attention is consumed (and then some) by work, family, school and occasionally leisure activities. Reading, I have found, is the one activity that that seems to transcend these many facets of my life. So what is it that draws us into reading instead of Facebooking or playing Angry Birds for hours on end? Details, details… the devil is in the details or at least in the books that I want to read it is.

Depending on your personal preferences and the topic of the book, you may find that you like a lot of detail in the books you read. JRR Tolkien for example

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."   - J.R.R. Tolkien - The Hobbit

was quite skilled at describing the minutiae of the story and creating an immersive environment that brings you into the story. On the other hand, this may slow things down for you because you just aren’t that interested in the exact shade of green of Aragorn’s cloak and how many buttons were on his vest.

When it comes to non-fiction it really depends on the topic and what you already know or don’t know about the subject. For example, by day I’m a business analyst and use Excel for nearly everything, therefore, Microsoft Excel for Dummies wouldn’t hold my interest. However, two titles on my reading list for work have piqued my interest, Business Intelligence and Data Mining Made Accessible and The Data Warehouse Toolkit: The Definitive Guide to Dimensional Modeling. I know, not your average light reading for a weekend but for me… oh boy, I can’t wait till I have some spare attention to give these.

While I do make some jest with these examples their basic premise still holds true. When I read fiction I enjoy a book with a little less detail and a little quicker pace. This is not true for everyone; I’m sure many reading this are Tolkien fans and relish those details. Well, good luck to you in your search for just the right book, because at least for me it’s about finding just the right level of detail and when I do then things are, well… just right.

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