Saturday, December 18, 2010
TSS: How important are FACTS to you?
Hello, Saloners! You find me today on the glory of WINTER BREAK. That's right. No school for three full weeks! I am hoping to get a good amount of reading done before next semester starts, but we'll see what actually happens. First on the list? A joint read with my blogger BFF Zibilee of The Hakawati. I got the book in last year's Book Blogger Holiday Swap and haven't read it yet, so now is the time! Carpe Diem and all that.
The other day I was listening to A History of the World in 100 Objects at the gym. I am so close to done with that seriously addictive series, and I fully intend to post here when I get through it. If you enjoy history, I highly recommend this podcast! It's fantastic. Also, as we are all book lovers, there is also a companion book. While listening to this glorious series, I realized that while I love history, it is not the facts that excite me, but the romance and possibility associated with history that I love.
When I go to a museum and look at a historical object, I don't think much about the object itself. It could be a painting of a grand old dame, an old desk, an ancient vase or even a chamberpot, really. I don't think about how the object was made, whether we know who made it, how important the person was. I think about the other stuff. Who used it? How often was it used? What else was in the room with it? Who cleaned it? What serendipitous events happened that brought the object right here in front of me?
And the same thing happens for me when I read a history book, too. I loved the book 1491, for example. I think the author has gotten a little bit of backlash over his research or whether he goes too far with the evidence he has in shaping his theories. But I don't care. I like that he had such big ideas about what the Americas were like before Europeans came and lived here. I like that he felt so much passion for his subject that he opened my mind up to an entirely new avenue of thought and imagination. I guess what I am trying to say is that I love the possibility of a non-fiction book to rock the foundations of your world. I adore fiction and read it almost exclusively, but when I read a really, really good non-fiction book, it keeps me thinking for days and the ideas often stay in my head much longer. So I don't mind, sometimes, if there are leaps of faith made or conclusions drawn from small amounts of data. I just like that someone dared to go there and take me with him and change my perception of the world.
I would venture to say that this is why my brother likes science so much and wants to be a doctor. (Well... hopefully not the only reason.) But there is so much in medicine that has the capacity to wow you. The body can heal in so many amazing ways, but there are also so many things that need fixing. The more you learn, the more you are blown away by its complexity. And whenever I think of science books, I always remember Ana's review of that bizarre book Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer because I can tell that the same thing happens to her, too. Parasites are not a happy topic to dwell on. But, in Carl Zimmer's hands, they really came alive for Ana and their marvelous history really hit home for her.
And perhaps I'm doing non-fiction a disservice, separating "facts" from "wow factor." I know facts are important and that people shouldn't just make things up. I just mean that I don't read non-fiction so much to learn about the past or the science or whatever the subject might be- I read it in the hope that the author will say something that floors me and alters my thinking pattern for days or weeks or even forever.
So what about you? How important are facts to you?