my $1.50 find

Last night, I stumbled upon the local Barnes and Noble’s post-holiday sale — tables full of bargain-priced books an additional 75% off — and walked away with a copy of Everything Bad is Good for You, by Steven Johnson, for $1.50.  (It was tempting to buy half the titles on the table, but, keeping in mind my two full shelves of unread books at him, I limited myself to just one.)  

Everything Bad is a book that’s caught my attention before, and so the clearance price seemed like a sign to pick it up this time around.  I started it this afternoon and am finding to be a surprisingly  quick read for a book with a fairly formal, technical tone.  Johnson’s premise is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, popular culture is actual improving our intellectual capabilities.  Thirty pages in, I’m finding his argument both engaging and compelling.  

I’m currently in the section on video games, in which Johnson is working to dispel the notion that games are passive, mindless vehicles with which to pass time.  Interestingly, he describes them as a complement to books in their skill development; where reading is a solitary activity, gaming is often social.  Where books offer a pre-determined narrative for the reader to process and analyze, games offer the opportunity to make decisions that affect the story.  Where reading requires individuals to imagine a picture or place presented only in words, games offer sensory stimulation and the opportunity to improve visual memory.  Each, Johnson is saying, can play a different role in cognitive development. 

 I’m looking forward to reading more about his take on pop culture — particularly concerning television, my biggest weakness of the “bad.”  Perhaps his insights will lighten those slight stirrings of guilt I feel when I curl up in front of Law and Order: SVU instead of turning my attention to my current literary endeavor.

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~ by Molly on January 25, 2009.

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