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Between the Covers

December 13, 2012

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

My relationship with books is one of the longest standing I have with anything. I learned to read at a young age, and for a long time, my most solid friends were books (it may sound sad, but let me tell you, that was a really awesome thing — and so many other Obies I know have expressed similar sentiments, too). While my love for books has not diminished, I am ashamed to say that reading them is not what it used to be. College life, work, and play drastically realigned the role of reading in my life.

One of the Oberlin professors I worked with at some point mentioned that the secret of college is not learning how to read everything, but rather, learning how to read the right things. Good for you, professor, for illuminating that justification for not doing all my reading as a student. That is not to say that I didn't read in college — I did, a lot, even as a cinema studies major — or that I didn't do my reading — I did lots of it but perhaps not all — but rarely did I pick up any reading, book or otherwise, of my own volition. I can count on two hands the number of books I completed outside of college-related readings in my four years of college (with the exception of the summer that I devoured several dozen young adult books to help my librarian dad learn more about his new collection — a slightly different kind of reading, but books nonetheless).

It took me around two years to get around to it again, but it's back. Not full force, but it's back. I'm reading things, specifically BOOKS, again, and that is an incredible development for me. I think my brain was just tired and needed a short rest. Wake up, mind! It's time to read things again!

And this brings me to now. After Harris tweeted a few weeks ago that he's challenging himself to complete a book a week, our friend Rusty and I decided to join him and start reading books again ourselves. Perhaps it's really sad that we needed an online communication (and an online platform) to get us back on the reading bandwagon, but the important part is that words are going into my head again (rather than just spewing out), and that's a very good thing.

There are three things about this shift that are surprising in some capacity:

  • I'm becoming much better at writing because of reading. (I guess this isn't a surprise to me, but it's a nice thing to confirm.)
  • When given the choice between reading and writing, I almost always choose writing. That is a strange thing to me, because I resisted the idea of writing/being a writer for a very long time but I continually come back to it as a consistent and preferred form of personal expression. This means that it is actually a challenge for me to sit down and read a book. But I'm getting over that.
  • Most of the books I am reading are, in some capacity or another, educational/academic.

This last point is mind-boggling and freeing and baffling and ironic all at the same time. Ma'ayan, you graduated from Oberlin with a liberal arts degree. Why wouldn't you be reading things that you learn from? Well, the truth is, I read all the time, but I'm reading things on the web. There's so much out there, and it's on a screen (which is a very different reading experience) and there's a lot of unpolished/unedited/unverified work out there (and there are comments, which isn't to say that comments are bad, but occasionally I need to read things and make my own thoughts before reading everyone else's input first).

The lovely thing about the web, though, is that I work in a profession that has a lot of changes regularly, and books might not grasp these finer points, and in many case, they will probably be irrelevant by the time they're published. I consider my reading on the web a way to keep up with the day-to-day part of my work with momentary glimmers of some timeless pieces of writing (luckily these are usually preserved in more ways than just on the web). But the day-to-day isn't all I do. Sometimes, you just need a good old fashioned book.

In rediscovering books — OH, and rediscovering LIBRARIES. I love libraries, though a deep dark secret: I was terrified of our library when I arrived at Oberlin. I don't think I checked out a single book from the library proper till I graduated, though I did utilize OhioLINK and the reserve section quite a bit, and I did check out a ton of movies. — I'm rekindling a set of embers that quieted down at some point during my first year. When I discovered video production as a first-year, I waved goodbye to the theory classes and dove headfirst into making things. I'm still totally into producing awesome stuff, but I'm starting to take a few steps back and wonder why and how we choose to make things.

Thanks to some really awesome recommendations, I'm happily reclining on a makeshift throne of books. I'm reading about media theory, the influence of pop culture, the spread of information, social communications in the modern workplace, for fun, in my free time, and I am actively seeking out related readings after I finish one book and move on to the next on my list. I'm not sure where it goes from here *sneakily eyes a possible master's program before running in the opposite direction* but I'm excited, in ways that I only got a glimpse of in these topics as an Oberlin student.

I could go on and on about what it's like to be driven so deeply to keep on learning and how being a life-long student is the Oberlin way (it really is; it's one of the reasons I was drawn to the Oberlin people in my life, long before I knew what Oberlin was), but I'll leave you with this: everything I said in this post is true and terrifying, but a great comfort to write. I didn't find these specific outlets for my new deep obsessions and curiosities as a student here, but by golly, I am proud to say Oberlin nourished and prepared me for all of the parts of that previous sentence. Oh, and thank goodness for the library network. It's a lovely perk of being part of the campus community.

So if you'll excuse me, I have pages to read before I sleep. And pages to read before I sleep.

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