So sorry to seem to have neglected nonfiction on Mondays lately. Do not mistake my randomness for slighting nonfiction. I am still very passionate about nonfiction and in particular what we can do with nonfiction series books. Today I want to ponder perceptions of nonfiction.
While returning from ALA last week, I spent time in the airports talking to people about what they were reading. Very interesting comments which I would have taped if I’d had the equipment. I saw many biographies, business philosophy, history, and casual fiction books. I am using the term "casual fiction" to describe some of the books I took along with me that I read, finished, and didn’t mind if I forgot them somewhere in my travels. In fact I gave away most of the Nora Roberts & like I carried to lighten my load.
What I didn’t see were the mathematical and scientific titles? Where were those books in the airport? When I asked myself why I hadn’t brought them, I realized that those are the books I don’t want to lose. Those titles I refer to again & again. I read a bit, think, ponder, hypothesize, read again, find a friend and argue. I wouldn’t want to lose those in the back of an airplane seat pocket. In fact, I plan to visit my friends Thomas and Linda to record some of Thomas’ favorite "deep" titles so you can share with me the division in my head between quick reads and deep reads.
If I were a publisher and seeking a corner of the book world to myself, I’d publish more nonfiction titles that are meant to be carried around, read, coffee-stained, bent, and used up. Remember the pocket guides to rocks, shells, leaves, trees, constellations, birds, etc.? I complained every time I had to reorder them, but secretly rejoiced in the abuse they took. These are the types of books my former students whip out of their deep cargo pockets when we meet up at the Hot Topics of the mall. Books they can think about, ponder, and compare to the physical world. Where are these books?
Marc Aronsen had some interesting points lately on nonfiction in his blog. He re-acted to the Newbery speech with Laura’s comment that most people prefer fiction reading to nonfiction. Thanks for responding, Marc, because I also sat up that night and wanted to leap to my feet denying this. Perhaps we should sit together next time as potential protestors and protectors of the public need for nonfiction.
NYC has the potential to expand their collections of engineering titles. What an opportunity! Librarians can build collections specifically to develop interest in engineering. You older librarians did this in the 50’s and 60’s with space books. Now they have identified a need for engineering books. So I ask you, "Where are the books?"
My #1 son always decried the serious lack of books on mathematics and mathematicians. He loves math and was multiplying & dividing in homeschool kindergarten because he grasps math concepts and their importance in this world. It seems to me that many librarians I meet say, "I’m no good at math and numbers." Their collections show their disinterest and self-censorship of titles that aren’t personally interesting to them. Where are the books?
I took calculus in college, but only earned a "b" so I declared myself inept and no-good at math. Simply because I don’t understand imaginary numbers and the deep philosophical concepts behind the higher levels of math, doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinating. I want to give all students the opportunity to expand their interest. So, where are the books for them?
Publishers think the market is too small so they don’t tackle these titles. Perhaps it’s because they see these books as texts that sit on shelves instead of books that thinkers want to dog-ear pages, add their own notes, and carry around with them so they can interact.
Will you think of me as boring if I tell you that I have attended many a dinner party or BBQ where the homeowner races in to grab books, brings them back to the table, and plops them amidst the potato salad so we can discuss their ideas? Have you considered the top 20 engineering inventions in society lately? Can you tell me who the great thinkers in science and math are currently?
I want more nonfiction that interacts with the reader. There are many online groups and opportunities for discussion for scientists, philosophers, and mathematical theoretics. The problem is locating them and finding opportunities for the next generation. I need some books that the next generation can carry around and discuss. Where are these books?
Having said all of that, I’m off to delve into a pile of books from Lerner and from Enslow. Yummy reading on a Monday morning.