The worthiness of learning: choosing the right book for the task at hand

Airport lounges are funny places: microcosms of society based around perfume and whiskey. On a monday morning there are more people travelling for work than to play, but still an eclectic collection of the suited, the bearded and the plain confused (i score two out of three for those who don’t know me).

As i got ready to leave the house at four thirty this morning, i faced the book dilemma: i’m almost three quarters of the way through Arnold’s biography, a tome almost as muscularly weighty as the man himself, a read that clearly wouldn’t see me through the trip, so i left home bookless, a state i detest.

Well, i say ‘bookless’, but in fact i do have two volumes in my main bag:’the world in six songs‘, by Daniel Levitin (which is wonderful and i’m reading as part of the research for the ‘music in learning’ project) and ‘the mobile learning edge‘ by Gary Woodill (after meeting him in Singapore and thoroughly enjoying his keynote). The thing is, enjoyable as they are, they are ‘work’ books, books i have to think about. Books, in essence, that i don’t want to get delayed for eight hours in an airport lounge with.

So, with those virtuous works safely stowed in the hold, the task at hand was to find something suitably trivial, suitably engaging and, crucially, suitably long to see me through two flights, a stopover, possible delays and some terrible coffee in Frankie and Benny’s.

I am a snob. I realise and accept this. A snob in that i value my reading time and always struggle to get the balance between books that are ‘worthwhile’ and books that are just plain enjoyable trash. Don’t get me wrong: i love reading pretty much anything. I counted over the weekend and i have twelve tomes currently on the go (Salt and Kraken are in the closing stages, Wildwood is on a second read and Musicophilia a long term project). It’s just that sometimes it’s a guilty pleasure to know that you have twelve hours of gloriously unproductive time ahead of you and that you can invest it in something trivial, something with no expectation of an outcome, something that doesn’t require you to take notes or actually understand the plot.

But what to read? After twenty minutes in the bookshop the decision came down to Richard Branson’s autobiography or a history of Submarines. Clearly, the submarines won! I know nothing about submarines, so the chance to learn something about a subject that i can pretty much guarantee will never have a practical application was appealing!

I will, naturally, be learning, but it will be unapplied, unstructured and, honestly, just for the joy of it. Not everything has to be worthy, but sometimes it takes the honesty of the airport lounge to admit it.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Book, Choices, Coffee, Learning and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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