What do you read on a regular basis? We are what we eat, and that includes the words we consume. Today’s post (part 3 of a 3 part series) is about the magazine, journals, and books that make up my media diet.
- First Things, a magazine founded by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus that, while including Protestant writers as well, tends to come at things from a conservative Roman Catholic perspective. First Things is hit or miss for me: some of the long essays are just first-rate, while others are either over my head or boring.
- The Atlantic, a magazine that I’ve been reading since I was in middle school and that used to be much better than it is. (I guess I subscribe out of loyalty.) In the 90s and early 2000s when Cullen Murphy and then Michael Kelly (who was killed in Iraq in 2003) were editors and William Langesweiche and James Fallows were writing frequent longform pieces for the magazine and Benjamin Schwartz (especially Benjamin Schwartz!) was editing the Books section, The Atlantic was one of my favorite magazines. I’d receive a copy in the mail and read the whole thing, almost in one sitting. In recent years, though, The Atlantic (founded in 1857!) has seemed to me to foolishly chasing “relevance” and adopting the perspective of the sort of 25 year-old secular graduate student in the humanities who gets his wisdom from The Daily Show. (This is not a perspective I share, if you couldn’t figure that out.) Although The Atlantic published some great longform pieces from time to time, I get each new copy of the magazine out of the mailbox with much less enthusiasm than I did 20 years ago.
- Outside, a glossy adventure magazine. I wish Outside devoted more space to book reviews, as I’ve ready some really excellent novels the past couple of years that I first read about in Outside, e.g., The Dog Stars and The Abominable.
- Texas Monthly, which has enough ads to fill JerryWorld™, but also includes in each issue something I find worth reading about my adopted home state.
- Plough, a small Christian journal that, while ecumenical, draws on the Anabaptist tradition.
- Books and Culture, a newspaperish magazine that covers, from an evangelical perspective, exactly what the title suggests. Like First Things, Books and Culture is hit or miss for me, but I recently resubscribed because I really believe in its mission.
- The American Conservative, a magazine that I discovered from reading Rod Dreher’s blog. I don’t know of any other place online or in print that is similar to TAC: small c conservative, isolationist, contrarian, and realist. (I was pleased when Benjamin Schwartz, whose work at The Atlantic I referenced above, joined TAC last year as national editor.) For a good example of the kind of stuff TAC covers that no one else does, see this piece from April on suburban sprawl and walkable cities called “Cities for People–or Cars?”.
The Dallas Public Library
Where would I be without a good public library? Well, I’d have a lot more shelf space, that’s for sure. Here is my current library shelf in my home office:
Don’t be impressed–I have a habit of hearing about a book, placing it on hold at the library, and then stockpiling a bunch of great books I haven’t yet and probably won’t ever read.
And Most Importantly, Real Books!
I love reading, and I love reading physical books. I have aKindle and I use the Kindle app for iPhone; I like the way I can quickly annotate an ebook. But, despite the convenience of the ebook, I still think the regular old book is a pretty great form of technology, and reading a good book can quiet my mind better than just about anything else.
I read books on theology and leadership for my job, but what I really like reading are books on history and especially long novels. I try to vary up the books I read: something on one topic, and then something completely different. (As an example of something really different, I read a very long novel this summer, completely unlike anything else I’ve read in years: Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset’s 1100 page masterpiece about a woman living in 14th century Norway, and one of the best books I’ve ever read.)
In Conclusion: I Need to Make Some Changes
As I’ve been thinking about my media diet these past few weeks, I’ve once again been confronted with the fact that I fritter away too much of my time on unimportant online content that cuts into my time and ability to read books that matter.
My goal is to read 40 books this year, which would be more than I’ve managed in the previous 2 years. My current total: 29.
Maybe I need to stop watching so much Arrested Development.
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