Types of Reading

Progress, comrades, has been hard to come by here on the Bench.  Over the last few weeks, work on the dissertation has ground to a halt, I’m barely staying on top of my teaching (just one more week of class to go, though), and I haven’t bagged anything in the job/fellowship hunt.  It’s not as though I haven’t done anything: a little research here, a little reading there, a little bit of outlining every now and then.  But I haven’t moved forward, which means I’m moving backwards — treading water isn’t really an option in grad school (or at least it shouldn’t be).

Perhaps the grossest manifestation of my inertia: the books that I start but don’t finish.  My shelves bulge with books half-done, my laziness proven by the bookmarks on the twenty-second page.  This often comes from the mood I’m in: fun reading?  Dissertation reading?  Theory reading?  And so, in baby step towards general momentum, I’ve categorized my types of reading moods and plucked from the shelves books for each category.  I hope that with such organization, I’ll make progress through these books and begin anew the forward march through my dissertation, teaching. etc.  The first list:

  • Fun Reading: Che Guevara by John Lee Anderson.  Truth be told, I have very little interest in El Che.  But I received this book for Christmas (or was it my birthday?) a few years ago, and it has since sat on the shelf, its stark colors tempting me and mocking my faux-radicalism.  I accept your challenge, El Che.
  • Soul Reading: Why the Church? by Luigi Giusanni.  For the last few years, I’ve been reading the work of Giussani, the founder of a lay movement called Community and Liberation.  It started through the inspiration of a dear friend who became a priest, and it has continued as my spouse and I look into the Catholic church as a spiritual home.
  • Theory Reading: Das Kapital I. I read it ten years ago as an undergrad, but I didn’t really understand it then.  I’m following David Harvey this time around, in hopes that I can better understand the text and, therefore, the nonsense of capitalism.
  • Dissertation Reading: Rule of Experts by Timothy Mitchell.  Another one that I’ve read before, but I didn’t get it then.  And I’m not really getting it now.  I’m too dull, I suspect, to understand this crazy-nuanced treatment of colonialism.  But I have to try; my dissertation’s treatment of colonialism is BORING.
  • How-We-Do Reading: Critical Intellectuals on Writing, edited by Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham.  A selection of interviews with really smart people like Noam Chomsky and Stuart Hall and bell hooks, and really crazy people like Donna Haraway and Jacques Derrida, all about how and why they write.  (or, as Derrida would say, “write–whatever that means”).  Recommended by someone on Crooked Timber, I think.