Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How George W. Bush Ruined My Reading Habits

I know.  It sounds far fetched.  But George W. Bush has helped ruin my reading habits.  Normally an avid front-to-back reader, I have developed a terrible habit.  In the past couple of years, especially since the 2004 election, I've begun reading about half of a nonfiction work and then bailing.  In case you are wondering, I do not have ADD.  Since 2004, it's more painful reading about the state of things.  I have aborted books so often that I developed a formidable backlog -- of yesterday's best sellers, half finished.  It's a real case of libris interruptis.

Enter my New Year's resolution.  Actually, I made three: 1) read my books to the end.  2)Lose 10 pounds.  3) Exercise 6 days a week.)  OK, so I put myself in a double bind with Nos 1 and 3.  That's not the real problem.

But before I worked the backlog of unfinished books, I whetted my appetite with a list of front-to-back complete reads.  The hope was I would use this as the motivation to stay on the straight and narrow.  I'd end this bad habit once and for all.  So, recently I have worked through: Static (Amy and David Goodman),

It Can't Happen Here (Joe Conason),

The Greatest Story Ever Sold (Frank Rich),

American Fascists (Christopher Hedges),

State of War (James Risen),

Cable News Confidential (Jeff Cohen).  I think I've left a couple out (more on these reads in later posts).

But then I did a foolish, but delicious, thing.  When both my daughters asked what I wanted for a recent birthday, I said (you guessed it) certificates.  Do I have a front-to-back reading death wish?  I had long fantasized about ordering a whole slew of books at one time.  I've never shot two whole gift certificates all at once before.  So I did.  I bought

Nemesis (Chalmers Johnson),

Tripple Cross (Peter Lance),

Target Iran (Scott Ritter), Blackwater (Jeremy Scahill),

American Theocracy (Kevin Phillips),

Misquoting Jesus (Bart Ehrman).
What can you say about the depressing nature of most of these titles?  Perhaps I should switch to fiction.  But I'm hooked on non-fiction.  That's not likely to change.  Nor is the depressing content in the next couple of years.  So onward...

Sadly, though, I have moved these new slightly aside, for use as intermittent reinforcers.  I have to complete two, three or four  half-finished works before I'll let myself read one new one: Here's a sample of the Great Unfinisheds, which need such reinforcement:

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (John Perkins --this is scary stuff and not for just before bed),

Digital Destiny (Jeff Chester), Collapse (Jared Diamond),

Guns, Germs and Steel (ditto).  Do you think maybe I should stop ordering depressing Jared Diamond Books?

Fiasco (Thomas Richs),

Chain of Command, (Seymour Hirsh),

Assasin's Gate (George Packer).  The last two on this list (Hersh and Packer have written excellent  recent histories here.  I "love" Seymour Hersh.  Why do I procrastinate?) Maybe the Iraq war is getting on my nerves?

There's more:

Hubris (David Corn and Michael Isakoff, that Monigate reporter from Newsweek).  Do I still harbor a secret impeachment grudge?). And

1000 Years for Revenge (Peter Lance).  I shot myself in the foot by buying yet another Lance book.  I will mend my ways and read them both.

I have determined that I will never, repeat never, read the most recent (or any other) book by Bob Woodward.  Ditto Thomas J. Freidman. I won't even try.

I am now actually finishing both Fiasco and Confessions of an Economic Hit-man.  Then I'll "reward" myself with American Theocracy.  Some reward.  I may need to tweak my incentive program. 

By now you are probably thinking, it's not George W. Bush who ruined my reading habits, but ME!  And you'd be at least partly right.  It's George W. Bush who makes nonfiction content so hard to stomach. Ole George could make things more pleasant for us non-fiction readers, though.  But I'm the culprit for confounding my efforts.  The buck stops here. Within a few short months, hopefully, I will have cured myself of libris interuptis. And maybe even book-aholism.  You can help.  Please, please help me make this happen by electing a Democrat in 2008! 

And shortly thereafter, I can just decline to buy all the books trashing him or her. Then I might just relearn an affinity for fiction.  Or better yet, poetry, preferably borrowed from the library.  How sweet it will be!

(cross-posted at