Monday, October 18, 2010

Or you can use your local library and save some more

I was intrigued by Chris Guillebeau's post for the Powell's blog entitled "Skip Graduate School, Save $32,000, Do This Instead." Don't get me wrong. I do like a lot of the advice in it, and I understand he is working for a bookstore after all. But these are tight times, and for some of the book suggestions he gives you really are better off borrowing the items from your local public library (or academic library if you happen to already be in school).Your library will probably have a lot of the basics and classics Mr. Guillebeau suggests, and they won't cost you a thing (well, you already paid for them either with your taxes or tuition depending on your situation, so you may as well use them). So allow me to highlight some items from the post and tell you how to get them. By the way, another useful tool is WorldCat, the OCLC's world catalog, which now has a nice free version. Type in your book title, and it can locate a library nearby that has your book. Heck, I even have it loaded on my smartphone.

And yes, this is a basic promo post for libraries. 

So, here we go. I will present the author's suggestions, then my humble observations:

  • "Subscribe to The Economist and read every issue religiously. Cost: $97 + 60 minutes each week." Read it at your local public library, which is likely to subscribe to it already. Cost then would be free. And if you need additional information about something you read in the magazine, you can always ask the reference librarian. 
  • "Read the basic texts of the major world religions: the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of Buddha. Visit a church, a mosque, a synagogue, and a temple. Cost: Materials can be obtained free online or in the mail — or for less than $50 + 20 hours." If you go to the library, these will pretty much be free. Libraries usually keep a copy of major world religion texts both for reference as well as for readers. He does make a good point: you can often get materials free from the religious organizations (this does vary from group to group). The idea of visiting places of worship I think is a good one, and it is one I think more people should do. It certainly is one I should try out some more; besides Catholic church, I've only been inside some Protestant churches, usually because someone I knew had some function I was invited to. In terms of reading the texts, I think I have a good track record, but there are still a few more out there to read. 
  • " Read at least 30 nonfiction books and 20 classic novels. Cost: approximately $750 (be sure to support Powell's!)" Again, go to your local library. However, I will say this with a bit of a grain of salt. If the books you want to read are things you will only read once, definitely borrow them. If you think you will reread them or need them later, then do buy them. For classics, you can read a lot of them online via things like Project Gutenberg, which also has option for downloading e-books of classics to your reading device. The cost is pretty much free, unless you sprung for a reading device. Also, I would try to be a bit selective about what books to read. There are a lot of "classics" which are, to be blunt, a waste of time (or to be charitable, may not be the best for you as a reader).As for nonfiction, if all you read is Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, or Keith Olbermann (what, you thought I was just going to only mention right wing people?), you won't get very far in your education. Need help deciding what to read? Many public libraries have librarians who specialize in reader's advisory. Ask them what may be good to read. And yes, I do reader's advisory too, so you can ask me as well.
  • "Instead of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, read The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs, a good summary. Cost: $10 or less." If Jacobs' other book is any indication, this one is one to borrow, not buy. The book is not bad, just not a keeper. 
Do read the rest of the original post, since there are some good ideas there, but for a lot of the books, you can borrow them as needed.  However, if you decide to support your favorite bookstore, I am not stopping you.

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