Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Jason Pettus Healthy Reading Pyramid (TM), explained

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So, Bookslut pointed me the other day to a column by Christine Newgard, outgoing book editor of The Daily Texan, in which she uses the USDA's "Healthy Eating Pyramid" model to recommend a regular diet of good reading to others. I loved the concept but utterly disagreed with her actual choices, so thought I'd create my own - shown in graphic form in the entry immediately previous to this one, and written in a narrative style below. This particular pyramid assumes that you will read 25 books in a given year, or one approximately every two weeks; you can of course adjust the numbers pretty easily to reflect your particular reading life.

12 books read strictly for pleasure. The point of pleasure reading, after all, is to produce pleasure, which is why I recommend that half the books you read be strictly for this reason. Any genre, any style.

3 history books. Self-explanatory.

3 science books. Also self-explanatory.

2 classics. Any book over 100 years old.

2 experimental books. Define 'experimental' however you want here - experimental writing (TS Eliot's "The Wasteland," for example), experimental layout (like hyperfiction), experimental publishing (like electronic books), etc.

2 books that inherently threaten your accepted beliefs about the world. This might possibly be the most important category of all, namely because so few people actually do it. Conservative Christian? Read a Michael Moore book. Liberal sexual swinger? Read a book by the Pope. You'd be surprised by how complex your worldview can get, simply by reading a couple of books a year by authors who piss you off.

And finally, The Big Challenge. This is another important one; once a year, I highly encourage you to take down from your shelf that giant intimidating book you've always meant to get around to reading, and actually read it. Examples: Infinite Jest; the Bible; Don Quixote; the 9/11 Commission Report; Crime and Punishment; oh, the list just goes on and on and on.

That's it - happy reading! Oh, and feel free to repost that image at your own website if you want - you certainly have my permission.