Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nevermore: Digital Vertigo, Little Bookstore & The End of Your Life Book Club

Nevermore featured a lot of non-fiction this week, but not all of it was well-received.  First up was Digital Vertigo:  How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen, in which the author blames various social media for stripping people of the right to privacy and solitude.  While Jud felt Keen had some justifiable concerns, the author also seemed to make a number of questionable assertions.  When Jud reached the chapter on the horrors of social reading, which Keen considers “the end of the world,” Jud gave up on the book entirely.  We all agreed that readers have always liked to share and compare when it comes to books, and that a good deal of civilization and culture is based on the idea of shared reading. After all, Nevermore itself IS a book club for people who want to talk about books and ideas.

Two recommended books were the polar opposite of Digital Vertigo when it came to reading.  Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch is the story of two “outsiders” who came to a little town in Southwest Virginia and decided to open a small used book store.  Wendy and her husband Jack Beck were greeted with some skepticism on behalf of the locals, but they persevered: they both knew that small towns take some time to get to know newcomers, especially so when aforementioned newcomers want to do something as radical as open a bookstore where one has never been before.  Today the bookstore is a thriving concern and a real part of the community, a place for readers to share a love of books. This also led to a discussion on “new” books and the consensus that any book, no matter its publication date, is new to someone who hasn’t read the book.  Some older books retain their power for centuries.

 The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe has a wonderful quotation:  “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing.  It’s the opposite of dying.”  When his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, mother and son began to spend a lot of time together in cancer treatment waiting rooms.  They both loved to read, so as a way of passing the time they selected books which they read and discussed together.  The book is not only a lovely tribute to human spirit, but to the power of books to bring people together in meaningful ways and to allow discussions that otherwise wouldn’t take place.  Schwalbe allows readers to be privy to some of the discussions in this moving and inspiring book.  This is shared reading at its finest, which allowed a mother and son to discuss topics that would have been too painful to talk about outside of a fictional framework.  It gave them both insights into each other.  Most of all, it made a very painful time less painful.

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