On vacation I do not read the newspapers or view the internet. It is one of the joys of being on vacation and part of my digital detox [see ‘Digital detox with a deep vacation‘ on August 10th, 2016]. We usually take a large pile of books with us and this year was no exception – our shelf of books is shown in the photograph. One novel stood out in particular: ‘Drive your plow over the bones of the dead‘ by Olga Tokarczuk. One passage that resonanted with me was ‘Newspapers rely on keeping us in a constant state of anxiety, on diverting our emotions away from the things that really matter to us.’ Many of us suffer from a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) but in practice most changes reported in the media that directly impact our lives happen so slowly that we miss very little by disconnecting for a few weeks and it releases us to think.
I used to suffer from tsundoku but now I am almost cured… Tsundoku is a Japanese word meaning ‘the constant act of buying books but never reading them’. I still find it hard to walk into a good bookshop and leave without buying a small pile of books. I did it early this month in the Camden Lock Books and left with ‘The New Leaders‘ by Daniel Goleman, ‘What we talk about when we talk about love‘ by Raymond Carver and ‘The Fires of Autumn‘ by Irène Némirowsky. I will probably read all of these three books over the coming months so it was not really an act of tsundoku. But, it’s perhaps only because there are so few really good bookshops left that I don’t buy more in a year than I can read. Although this is not quite true in my professional life, because I have started buying books on-line and the pile of unread books in my office is growing; so I am not completely cured of tsundoku. Actually, all researchers are probably suffering from it because we collect piles of research papers that we never read – in part because we can’t keep up with the 2.5 million papers published every year. And, it’s growing by about 5% per annum, according to Sarah Boon; perhaps, because there are more than 28,000 scholarly journals publishing peer-reviewed research. Of course, that’s what happens if you measure research productivity in terms of papers published – it’s a form of Goodhart’s law [see my post entitled ‘Goodhart’s Law‘ on August 6th, 2014].