Who Are These Interesting Books For?
Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 by Austin Gerth
If you’re a human being with a pulse and an eighth grade reading level who’s ever taken a stroll through the aisles of Concordia College’s Carl B. Ylvisaker Library, then you will have some inkling of the feeling I’m experiencing right now.
I’m sitting at one of the better tables in the Carl B., the one on the fourth floor right in front of the door to the archives, and beside me is a book I plucked from a nearby shelf. It’s called Tuna: A Love Story, by Richard Ellis, who writes books about fish. I’ve just read its introduction and now I’m torn up inside. I want to read the rest. But I also need to read this paper about feminism, racism, ableism, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty before we video conference with its author tomorrow in the Philosophy Seminar. And I should study for my religion test on Friday and work on the next draft of my seminar paper.
All I want to do is read about tuna, but I have to learn instead.
If I don’t read this book about tuna, then who will? There are a lot of books in this building, but sometimes I wonder how often any of them are seriously read, and who has the time to do so. I certainly don’t – I barely make it through the reading I’m assigned to do (I don’t manage my time well.) Perhaps professors read the books; their jobs only take 40 hours a week.
When I say “seriously read” in the paragraph above I mean read slowly, cover to cover. If you’re using a book as research for a paper or project – which, I imagine, is the biggest reason weird-intriguing books like Tuna: A Love Story or Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn ever get taken off the shelf – then I doubt you’re reading that way; no, you’re skimming and jotting and jumping around because you’ve got to synthesize that book with several other sources. And let’s not even get started on all the literature on the third and fourth floors, or the philosophy on the first.
I don’t imagine most students are too different from me. When class is in session, they read what they’re assigned, and they devote the greatest portion of their intellectual engagement to their coursework. It would be naive for me to suggest that things could or should be different. Even though I’m complaining, I’m not really complaining. Or I’m complaining over the fact that Concordia offers such an embarrassment of opportunities that I don’t have time to embrace them all – which isn’t really a complaint so much as a compliment.
I didn’t check out the tuna book. I placed it on one of the salmon-colored shelves the library employees use to re-shelve books correctly. Perhaps I will return to it someday.