When should you post to social media, and why do we do it at all? In BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe the journalist and author of The End of Your Life Book Club details the books that have moved him and his friends personally. Among the books he discusses is an obscure title “Zen and the Art of Archery,” which was the inspiration for the classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Published in 1948 by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, it describes getting rid of the self in knowing when to release an arrow. Technical skill must yield to instinct, and so it is an art achieved best by becoming one with the moment, in the Japanese sense of oneness. The practice then applies to other things, including reading. Why is reading an art? Schwalbe makes an interesting analogy in saying that in youth one’s reading is like seeing the moon from an alleyway, high up there in a slice of sky. In middle age it is like seeing it from a parlor. In old age it is like seeing it from a courtyard. Everyone brings their own experience to the reading, and the art is learned in a lifetime of connecting the dots. Or periods. He also employs humor, as in the anecdote relating to his own archery skills: “I once shot an arrow at a target and hit the bullseye…of the other guy’s target.” He writes about digital media too, as he did for The New York Times. His house is cluttered with books everywhere, candidate for a hoarder’s TV show, perhaps. But you can fit your own 100 books on one iPod or iPhone, and travel everywhere with them, downloading them as needed. Narrator for Will’s book is actor Jeff Harding, a veteran of stage, TV, and film. Both have mastered their respective arts, making this a “must hear,” although Schwalbe also points out that fav authors, like fav artists or musicians, can only be arrived at by individuals experiencing widely and encountering them. And that requires curiosity, a rare element in our winner-take-all culture.
AUDIOBOOKS TODAY: The author of “The Untold Story of the Talking Book” makes the point that listening to books rather than reading them in print isn’t cheating. Do you agree?
WILL SCHWALBE: I don't think audiobooks are cheating at all! I think we are all wired differently. Some of us are more visual/print oriented and some of us are more auditory. I do still sometimes love to listen to audiobooks. And I love the voice of the man who reads my books, Jeff Harding. He brings out things in the text I didn't even know I put in. I should add that part of the reason I tend to prefer print is because I've become quite hard of hearing, and so print is just easier for me. I often read first thing in the morning before I even get out of bed, and before I've put my hearing aids in. Plus I think all forms are here to stay—printed, ebook, and audio. The more ways that books are available the better!