28 February 2010

Sunday Salon: Don't Pit TV and Books Against Each Other

A friend recently told me that she wanted to start reading again and avoid the "evil box" -- TV. I'm glad that she wants to read more because I would like to discuss books with more people in my real life and not just online. However, it aggravates me when people call TV evil. There are plenty of true evils in the world but I don't think that TV is one of them. The effect of TV has a lot to do with what you choose to watch.

In the 50+ years that TV has been in existence, the quality has changed. Yes, there is still a lot of questionable material on the air, but I've also watched a lot of shows that have made me think and sparked deep discussions between me and my husband. Also, I've read books that weren't any better than a poorly-written sitcom, and I'm pretty sure they didn't enrich me intellectually as much as an episode of "CBS Sunday Morning News" or "Breakfast with the Arts".

I think of reading and TV as entertainment choices without one being any better than the other. There are some kinds of information that you can only get through reading, but I also think it is difficult to keep up with society without watching at least a little TV. I look at people who say they don't watch TV and people who say they don't read the same way -- as if they are missing a vital part of American culture.


Life of Pi

I started "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel this morning. This is a book that my reading buddy Maestra picked as part of our goal to read more books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. So far, there is very little dialogue and not much action, which makes it difficult reading for me. Frankly, I wouldn't be pushing through it at all if I didn't have a partner. I'm beginning to think that literary fiction is not my thing. The only book I've enjoyed out of the ones Maestra and I have read together was "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis. I have a feeling that "The Life of Pi" is going to be one of those books that I won't necessarily enjoy but will be proud to check off my list.

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream

I'm also reading "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream". I actually started reading this book before "Life of Pi", but it hasn't grabbed me yet. I read a page while waiting for water to boil or something, then put it down for the rest of the day. The concept is intriguing; a guy strikes out after college graduation to see if he can get a job and improve his lot in life without using his education or any of his college or familial connections. The writing style is definitely easier to read than my other book. I don't know why I haven't sped through this book yet.

TBR LIST: As I said at the beginning of the year, my only goal is to either read or eliminate all the books that I added to my TBR list in 2008. I started with 25 titles at the beginning of the year and I am down to 24 now. It has only gone down by one because even though I've removed several 2008 books from the list, I've also moved some books from my "not at my library" list to my TBR list because my library has gotten them in. Goodreads counts them as added in 2008 because of when I added them to the first list, so I'll go with that. I have high hopes of zipping through this small subsection of my TBR list quickly because several of the books are light Christian romances. The only snag I can foresee is that some of these same romances are first books of a series, and I may get sidetracked into reading all the series books first!


Yvonne said...

Interesting comparison between TV and books. Just like with TV, there can be poorly written books. I'm just glad we live in a world where we can choose what we want to do. I've managed to juggle both TV and books.

readerbuzz said...

Lots of bad things are linked with heavy tv usage: obesity...depression...poverty....

The truth is that we spend too much time watching tv.

Dani in NC said...

readerbuzz: I've heard those same statistics about the negative results of heavy TV usage, too. I've always wondered if they took into consideration WHAT the people were watching. As far as obesity and depression are concerned, you could just as easily end up with those conditions if you replaced all that excess TV viewing with time spent on the couch reading morbid literature, couldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments about the effects of TV and literature. I have often thought that TV has received a bad rap. There is a lot of quality programming that has played an influential role in our society. Unfortunately, we too often only focus on the worst of the worst and forget to see the positive.

Scratch Beginnings has been on my TBR list for a while. I am interested to hear what you think about it in the end.

Anastasia said...

The TV vs books debate always kind of remind me of people who pit genre fiction against literary fiction (or nonfiction), and that whole thing never seemed to accomplish anything but alienate groups of people from each other. Blah blah blah. It's tiring.

So, I really liked your post. :D (And I don't understand how heavy TV usage is linked with poverty. Depression and obesity, sure. But poverty? Are people too busy watching reality shows to go to work? Eh?)

Of course, I don't understand the people who don't watch TV or movies, don't listen to music and don't read. WTF do they do all day?

Dani in NC said...

Anastasia, I'm with you. I know a couple that doesn't watch TV or listen to popular music or read. I often wonder what they do with themselves besides playing with their kids and going to church.

Kristen said...

Well, will it lower your opinion of me to admit that I don't watch tv? (Well, not now that the Olympics are over.) Honestly I don't look at it as a quality thing but as an interest thing. There really is very little on that appeals to me and the small bit that does isn't important enough to me to remember to schedule into my day.

I do think that the act of reading, even if it's a load of codswallop, engages your brain in ways that watching tv doesn't. But a break isn't always a bad thing.

As for not being up on culture from not watching, I find that I see enough info on the internet to fake it if I so choose. I don't recognize many of the young actors and actresses these days but I'm finding that my middle-aged tv watching friends don't either so I think it's more a function of age than anything else. Well, that and the fact that I haven't been to the doctor in a while so haven't had any good quality People magazine time in a while. ;-)

Dani in NC said...

Kristen: It doesn't lower my opinion of you. Just as I don't like it when readers look down on those of us that like to watch TV, I don't look down on those who can live without video entertainment. I just have trouble understanding people who can't find SOMETHING of interest on TV. You might as well be an alien with two heads to me :-).

My contention is that TV can be a lazy dullard's form of entertainment, but it doesn't have to be. If you could see the way my kids engage with me while watching cheesy 1970s fare like "The Secrets of Isis", you wouldn't call TV viewing passive!

All I'm saying is that I think reading and watching TV are both valid entertainment choices. I don't think that one is inherently superior to the other. It depends greatly on how you use them.