Some evenings after the day is gone I get a chance to unwind by reading. Sometimes almost anything will do while at other times I know that I must find the perfect item to read. As I thought about this, I realized that there is a common thread running through my reading choices at such times.
I like to read science fiction, but not just any science fiction. I like a relatively straightforward story without multiple plot lines and without devious twists and turns. I tend to like a relatively small cast of characters who are distinct and relatively easy to keep track of. Think the book equivalent of the very first Star Wars. There are only 7 key characters, counting robots. The names are not complicated – Darth Vader and Obiwan Kenobi are the toughest and they’re a piece of cake. It’s kind of like the span of control concept in business – there are only so many employees you can directly supervise effectively; it’s about the same small number for story characters as well.
Sometimes I like to read technical books or magazines. Naturally amateur radio magazines are one possibility; another favorite is Make magazine. The contributors to this magazine come up with all manner of unique gadgets, many of which include full instructions to construct them yourself. Make also focuses on how to modify existing products to do all sorts of wondrous things. The concept is that if you can’t take something apart and improve it you don’t really own it.
I enjoy comedy, of course, but there are few really enjoyable comedy books. I guess that this occurs because so much humor is topical in nature; a parallel would be music – “Alice’s Restaurant” was hilarious in the sixties; it’s not quite the same today. Few books are able to carry comedy on a long term basis.
I mentioned that there was a thread, and it was so obvious that I never realized what it was until recently. What I really look for in my reading choices is something that engenders hope. Good science fiction often is based on the concept that things can and will get better. Yes, technology will change and make certain things not only possible but also commonplace, but it is the human spirit that truly holds the key. The same is true of Make. Real people can do innovative things and then share them with others. This brings to mind the days of Tom Edison or Louis Pasteur; ideas were shared with others and great things were the result as opposed to today when the first priority is to keep a new idea secret until it can be patented.
There is always hope, we just refuse to see it at times. There are always possibilities. There is always something exciting or interesting if we just keep our eyes and minds open. That’s what I enjoy in life and what I seek in my reading choices.