Monday, January 2, 2017

In Praise of...Books Or My New Year's Resolution

First, Happy New Year! 2016 was an improvement over my 2015, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to say the same about 2017.

In general I try to stay away from resolutions, but I'm making an exception this year. My one resolution: read more books and less news.

Those of you who know me from anywhere other than this blog or my Facebook page know that I am someone who pays attention to the news, including domestic and foreign policy. I consider it a duty as a citizen of the United States but also of the world at large to know what's going on. But like many people, I've been shaken by how ill-informed I ended up being. There's a bit of listening to what we want to hear (and going to places where we know we'll hear it), but as I see it, it's more a problem of not seeing that there was a fundamental shift in real-life conditions.

In a world where we can watch or listen to the news every hour of every day, how can that be? I'm not an expert, but I think it's related to the kind of coverage major news outlets regularly give us: if there's a major, developing event, mainstream media outlets will make sure that I know the birth dates, religions and number of siblings the key actors have, and at least ten subject matter experts will spend a combined total of about three hours across the networks trying to give us some context for what's happening. The coverage can be pretty thorough, but good luck if you're interested in anything happening in any other part of the world. For example, during our election cycle in the United States, was anyone paying attention to Haiti's? Or Uzbekistan's? And did anyone catch Aung San Suu Kyi getting her ass handed to her by her fellow Nobel laureates?
Less of this

Maybe people don't have a good reason to care about Haiti, Uzbekistan or Myanmar at this moment, but what if you suddenly need to, in the way we suddenly needed to care about Yugoslavia and Afghanistan over the last two decades? Perhaps I'm asking too much, but I'd like to be well-informed about something before it becomes explosive.

In this current climate, I know I am asking too much. So what's left for someone who wants to stay informed? Books, glorious books.

Italian legal hardback books open
and more of this
I mentioned in my last post that I've devised a self-study "course" to help prep me for my next planned but to-be-written series. So far it's been heavy on history, and those readings have satisfied me in a way that I haven't felt from the news in a long time. (Seriously, who knew I'd find the history of revolutionary military technology so fascinating?) To be able to place an event into context, and not simply see it as an exciting (or frightening) snapshot, is the difference between having the time to create good options and having to choose between something bad and something worse.

The trade-off, of course, is that books take longer to read than the news and I'm not going to be as up-to-the-minute as I was before. But I can live with that, because now I'm actually learning something.  

What's your New Year's resolution this year?

The fine print: there is what's technically considered an affiliate link above, but I'm not sending you there so I can make money off a book purchase but so you can read my review. And if that makes you want to read the book, I'm sure you can find it in your library.