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Reading and academia

Reading and academia

Oct 6, 2014-

Shyam Sharma is a teacher and an education columnist. Previously a lecturer at the Centre Department of English in Tribhuvan University, Sharma is now teaching at the Stony Brook University, New York. He shared with the

Post  his reading habits . Excerpts:

How did you first come to love books?

Honestly, I can’t embrace the idea of ‘loving’ books as when it is used to imply reading for pleasure or by defining ‘reading’ as reading literature. So, I must say that I never started ‘loving’ books and I don’t. I just read books (or any other texts) for the purpose behind the act of reading, which is something I sometimes enjoy and sometimes don’t.   

What was the last book you read and how did you like it?

The last book I read—a few months ago—was Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Canadian author Margaret Hefferman. In the book she explores and explains why individuals and societies ignore realities even when there’s impending danger or disaster. I kind of liked it, but I stopped reading it when I thought I got the main point.

What are you reading right now and how is it going?

I am not reading any book in the sense of reading for pleasure and choice right now. The things I normally read include academic articles, all of which I go through for teaching, academic writing, and for understanding the issues that I study. Apart from that, I read news, conversations on social media, students’ writing, and finally, a few academic books every month.

How do you select books to read?

While going for the books to read, need comes first; so I read what I need to. Even when I choose, I choose what is most relevant to my professional work and progress. I don’t try to find time for personally pleasing reads—except when I’m reading interesting news items.

Name a book that you would or would not recommend, and why?

For anyone in the field of education/teaching, When Students Have Power by Ira Shor is worth a read.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Why?

I prefer non-fiction. More than anything else, I think that the practice of reading fiction is driven more by the elitist prestige attached to it. I never wanted to belong to that club. This is not a criticism of those who genuinely enjoy reading fiction, and this is not to imply that reading fiction isn’t intellectually beneficial either. But I distanced myself from the ‘fiction club’ because I found the whole discourse that equates ‘reading’ with ‘reading fiction’ rather absurd.

What is good writing for you? What would you say makes a good writer?

I don’t know how to define good writing in general. If I can narrow down the question in my own way to ‘academic’ writing, then I find it  effective when writers don’t beat around the bush and stick to the point. Good writers have a lot to say but organise their thoughts well, connect their ideas aptly and help the readers through process flow. It’s more about writing about issues that matter. Honesty makes a good writer.

One book that inspired you a lot and why?

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. I read the play while persuing my BA programme, and it provided me with a framework for social critique for the rest of my life.

Published: 06-10-2014 10:19

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