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Read something you hate…

A very interesting read. The article argues that we should read books that we don’t particularly like (hate is such a strong word).  I find this idea oddly appealing and very timely for myself.  I was just thinking this morning that my FB feed is so “me” — the people I follow share my views, the pages I follow share my interests.  I was lacking variety and ultimately found myself bored. I can see why – so maybe the next book I pick up will me Atlast Shrugged — I’ll give it a 3rd attempt.

LINK: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-hate-reading.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits&_r=0

Here’s a reading challenge: Pick up a book you’re pretty sure you won’t like — the style is wrong, the taste not your own, the author bio unappealing. You might even take it one step further. Pick up a book you think you will hate, of a genre you’ve dismissed since high school, written by an author you’re inclined to avoid. Now read it to the last bitter page.

Sound like hell? You’re off to a good start.

This is not about reading a book you know is bad, a pleasure in its own right, like an exceptionally dashing villain. It’s about finding a book that affronts you, and staring it down to the last word.

At a time when people are siloed into narrow sources of information according to their particular tinted worldview — those they follow on Twitter, the evening shoutfest they choose, AM talk radio or NPR — it’s no surprise most of us also read books we’re inclined to favor. Reading is a pleasure and a time-consuming one. Why bother reading something you dislike?

But reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Sticking it out for 300 pages means immersing yourself in another person’s world and discovering how it feels. That’s part of what makes books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than toss the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What about them makes you so uncomfortable?

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My taste for hate reading began with “The Fountainhead,” which I opened in a state of complete ignorance as bonus material for a college class on 20th-century architecture. I knew nothing of Ayn Rand or of objectivism. I thought it was a book about building things. I even showed it off to a French friend, an architect and a die-hard socialist, thinking he’d be impressed.

“How could you bring that into our house?” he asked in disgust. “But it’s about architecture,” I replied weakly. Or was it? Within pages, I found myself suffering at the hands of its tyrannical egomaniac of a protagonist, Howard Roark, forever plunging a fist into soil and holding forth. The lead female character, Dominique, who naturally took second place to the godlike Roark, kept striding across rooms in long, column-like gowns.

Still, I persisted. A hundred pages later, I was more of a French socialist than I’d ever been before or since. I finished every wretched page of “The Fountainhead” in alternating states of fury and despair, and when it was finally over, I tried to leave the vague echo of Dominique, stomping around in her evening gowns, behind. What stuck was the abiding knowledge that I was not, nor would I ever be, a libertarian.

In earlier, blithe days, I’d simply allowed the contents of books to gather agreeably in my head as I read and then file out when I was done. Either I enjoyed a book or I didn’t. It was only by burrowing through books that I hated, books that provoked feelings of outrage and indignation, that I truly learned how to read. Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

As debaters know, sometimes you figure out your position only in opposition. All it takes is for me to read a book by Howard Zinn or Paul Johnson, each gleefully hate-worthy in its own polarizing way, to locate my own interpretation of history. This is what’s so invigorating about hate-reading. To actively grapple with your assumptions and defend your conclusions gives you a sense of purpose. You come to know where you stand, even if that means standing apart.

I’ve hated my way through many books, thinking, I will read you no matter how hard you make it. But as I go on, I often find that loathing is mixed with other emotions — fear, perverse attraction, even complicated strains of sympathy. This is, in part, what makes negative book reviews so compelling.

One of the most scathing reviews I’ve ever written was for this newspaper as a freelancer. The book I’d been assigned was a parenting book. I wanted to like the book. I agreed with much of the book. But the authors were too credulous of certain research, and in ways that served their thesis. As I put it in the review, the authors’ “penchant for describing psychological studies and research projects as if they were chemistry experiments, with phrases like ‘the test of scientific analysis’ and ‘the science of peer relations,’ conjure up the image of Thomas Dolby repeatedly exhorting ‘Science!’ ”

It came across as manipulative, and I felt betrayed both personally (I had written a parenting book and bristled at seeing the genre compromised) and on behalf of readers who might not have the background to parse the data. New parents are a susceptible lot — I know because I used to be one.

It can be interesting, and instructive, when a book provokes animosity. It may tell you more about a subject or about yourself, as a reader, than you think you know. It might even, on occasion, challenge you to change your mind.

Of course, many hateful books simply clarify and confirm. I can tell you straight out what I loathed about the novel “Flashman,” by George MacDonald Fraser, though I read it nearly 15 years ago. “Flashman” is a cult novel, which didn’t bode well for me when I picked it up at the suggestion of a new boyfriend. For whatever reason, when it comes to cult fiction, I am never part of the cult. Beloved in the same way Wodehouse is beloved but by fewer people, “Flashman,” published in 1969, is the first in a series whose subsequent titles each felt like a slap in the face (e.g., “Flashman and the Redskins,” “Flashman’s Lady”). The cover of “Flashman, Volume I” featured a swaggering bloke in uniform with a bare-breasted maiden of “exotic” background, in, of course, the background. Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover.

But I went in anyway. There, I met the title character, Harry Paget Flashman, who romps across the British Empire, landing variously in Scotland, India and Afghanistan. Accompanying him are minor figures from British history — Lord Auckland, governor-general of India; Thomas Arnold, headmaster at the Rugby School; and the like. But the main action concerns Flashman, a light dragoon and a womanizing drunkard who skips from duel to romp to “forceful seduction.” Most of the time, he frequents prostitutes, but he also enjoys raping an Afghan dancing girl. I have nothing against a good antihero, but I didn’t even enjoy hating this guy. I just wanted to get away from him. Also, it turned out, I wanted to get away from the boyfriend who’d recommended him. This was a perfectly useful takeaway.

Yet hate reading can actually bring readers together. Sure, it’s nice when people like the books you like. But an even more stimulating excitement comes from finding someone else who hates the same book as much as you do (welcome, fellow “Pickwick Papers” loathers). This is why book critics love commiserating. Some of the most spirited discussions I’ve had with other readers have been over just how despicable or disheartening we’ve found something we’ve read.

So go ahead, bond over what you hate. Or hate it all on your own, knowing that someone, somewhere wants to throw that same miserable book against the wall. Just please finish reading it before you do.

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FIP Shares

Today’s post is an incredibly interesting and accurate blog I came across. Had to share with my readers. You can visit the original content by clicking on the title or feel free to read below and leave your thoughts. Are you an audio booker? 

 

America’s unhealthy obsession with productivity is driving its biggest new reading trend

“I probably started reading ultra hardcore about seven or eight years ago,” says Tom Bilyeu, an entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. “Ultra hardcore” means that Bilyeu reads everywhere: While he brushes his teeth, while he gets dressed, in the 30 seconds it takes to cross rooms in his house, he’s reading.

“My big secret is,” says Bilyeu, “I read in all those little transitional moments.” Plus, for the last eight years, he’s optimized his intellectual consumption by listening to audiobooks at three times the normal speed.

Audiobooks are the latest trend in book publishing. They’re part of the podcast boom, and they’re helping US publishers keep losses down as ebook sales from big-name companies continue to slump. What’s been around since the 1980s has a sleek new face, and today who’s listening, where, and why, offers a glimpse into a new reading trend sweeping the US.

Audiobook listening is growing rapidly specifically with 25- to 34-year-olds, thanks to a pernicious “sleep when you’re dead” mindset reflective of the young, aspirational, educated American: We are fearful of mono-tasking, find downtime distasteful, and feel anxious around idleness. Even when picking socks from a drawer, young workers feel better if information’s somehow flowing into their brains. And this is exactly the restless market that book publishers need.

A fast growing format

Audiobooks are booming audibly in the mobile age. In the US, growth of audio is stronger than any other format, according to the Association of American Publishers, which tracks revenue from 1,200 book publishers. And while audiobook unit sales numbers are still small (from January to September 2016, US traditional publishers sold $240 million in audiobooks, compared to $1.8 billion in hardcover books), the format’s growth has meant more and more publishers are putting their money in people’s ears.

“I am very bullish on audio,” Kristen McClean, executive director of business development for market trends company NPD Book. “This is on the top of my list in terms of things I’m watching.”

“What we’re seeing is something that goes beyond the simple ease of downloading,” she says. “I think there is a shift in consumption going on.”

A class of readers

Audiobooks are a way for people who were once big readers to keep up with their youthful curiosity. As they find themselves with less leisure time than they had in college, the gym and the car become opportunities to be stimulated. “I used to read a lot, and probably stopped when I went to law school,” says Jamie Brooks, a lawyer based in New York City. Now she listens to an audiobook a week, on average three hours a day, on the train to work and before bed.

Audiobook listeners tend to be slightly above average in terms of income and education compared to the rest of the US population, according to 2006 data (pdf), the most recent available from the Audio Publishers Association (APA). “We find that our users are well educated, well paid, and successful,” says Beth Anderson, the executive vice president and publisher of Amazon’s Audible, the world’s largest retailer and publisher of digital audiobooks. “A huge number have masters and PhDs. They’re book lovers.”

 “[Audio] gives us the opportunity to take time that would be dead time and make it into time that’s useful.” 

But they’re also book lovers in a hurry. Mustafa Anil Kocak, a graduate student in electrical engineering at New York University, says he listens to 40 minutes to an hour of audio per day, during his commute, and to make his exercise regimen more efficient. “At the gym I feel like I’m wasting time,” he says. “[Audio] helps me not to think that way.”

One of the biggest use cases for audio listeners is the commute. But a sizable third say they listen while exercising, or while gardening or cooking. “[Audio] gives us the opportunity to take time that would be dead time and make it into time that’s useful,” says Michele Cobb, executive director of the APA.

Restless minds

Audiobooks mean we never have to be idle. They’re a cure to widespread restless mind syndrome, with its daily self-imposed nagging to make progress: Be more effective, says your productivity tracker. Do and learn more, says your to-do list. Optimize your to-do list, says your faddish new notebook.

Mobile technology helps. David Gross, a doctor and longtime audiobook listener based in Washington DC, recalls the trying process of procuring them 20 years ago: “There’d be a paper catalog, you’d call a phone number, they’d mail you the CDs, you’d keep it for a month, you’d mail it back,” he says. Today, downloads take two minutes, and apps make accelerated listening easy.

 “It’s part of that obsessive, ‘Where else can I squeeze out another 10% of efficiency throughout my day and drink Soylent’ mindset.” 

Podcast app Overcast offers “smart speed,” which shortens silences and pregnant pauses, so you don’t waste any time on the in-between. And Audible’s Whispersync for Voice lets you switch back and forth between listening and reading the ebook, so you can go from the car to your couch, or from the kitchen to your bed, without losing your spot. “Audible makes it possible for you to read when your eyes are busy,” Jeff Bezos wrote of the feature in his 2013 annual report.

“It’s part of that obsessive ‘Where else can I squeeze out another 10% of efficiency throughout my day and drink Soylent’ mindset,” says Khe Hy, entrepreneur-in-residence here at Quartz. He recently confessed that during a period of his life where he was fixated on optimizing his time, he listened to audiobooks on double speed:

I spoke at a frenetic pace, bragging about all my time management hacks. I told her how about how I listened to audiobooks at 2.5 times their natural speed; how I’d created a BlackBerry shorthand language that included the most common English words; how I exercised by plowing through tens of thousands of burpees, praising their efficiency.

“That behavior was motivated by a hardcore scarcity mindset that there’s not enough time to do all you want to do in life,” he says now.

Bilyeu, whose mantra is “Always Be Reading,” after the business truism, “always be closing,” describes the moment he discovered he could listen faster than the normal pace: “The clouds parted; music started playing; angels were singing. Oh my God, you can speed this up!”

He started with 1.5x, and it was just at the edge of what he could understand. He stuck with it, and a week later he thought he must have accidentally turned it back to 1x speed, because the book didn’t sound fast to him. “I had just normalized it. So I bumped it up to 2x.”

Now, at 3x, it’s only the confused look of people who get in his car and hear the book begin to autoplay that reminds him of how insanely fast he’s “reading.” Bilyeu, who also speaks quickly, listens to 50 books a year. He doesn’t believe that he sacrifices any substance or style (he listens primarily to nonfiction), and says the speed helps him focus on the material, instead of giving him the space to daydream or wander.

A productivity trap

As publishers see more and more interest, they’re making more and more irresistible audiobooks, and paying big-name celebrities to help draw readers. Eddie Redmayne’s narration of JK Rowling’s fictional textbook, published by Pottermore, came out March 14, and is an Amazon bestseller. On February 14, Random House Audio released the aural version of George Saunders’s debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, with a 166-person cast, including Susan Sarandon, Don Cheadle, David Sedaris, and Lena Dunham. The movie version has since been sold to actors Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, who both play characters in the audiobook.

At a February event in New York City, Saunders admitted it was the first time he was reading the book in public, and not a group of actors. He told Quartz the actors’ voices are the ones he hears now in his own mind.

In the way that film and TV adaptations imagine a world for the reader—the setting, characters’ faces, unspoken actions and glances—audiobooks do that through voice. In audiobooks, readers depend on producers and actors to predigest and interpret content for them. But the ease of that passive consumption can lead to another kind of dependence.

“Having our devices, which give us constant access to podcasts, audiobooks, radio livestream, we actually develop addictions to use them in a mindless way,” says Elana Feldman, assistant professor of management at UMass Lowell.

“Given that we have access,” she says, “People feel that they can and should use every moment of their time in a productive way. For a lot of people it means, ‘What could I also be doing right at this time?’”

Ticking boxes on a consumption to-do list in this way can actually impair longterm productivity and creativity in unforeseen ways, she warns. The mind can benefit when you listen to nothing at all. “Creativity happens in non-conscious ways,” she says. “[Psychological] incubation can happen when you’re cooking, exercising, driving, when you’re not purposefully thinking about something.” It’s difficult to achieve that when you’re filling downtime time with mental stimulation, even if it’s a novel.

And in terms of productivity, listening to books in the gym may not be the best way to learn. Even though Feldman has never specifically studied audiobooks, she says, generally, “The concept of multitasking is really kind of a myth.” The cost of switching between simultaneous tasks exceeds the benefits.

But ultimately, of course, there are far worse addictions. Says Audible’s Anderson, “Listening to too many books or magazines is probably one of the less offensive vices one might have.”