A Grad Student’s Plea for Standard-Sized Books

As a PhD student, reading is a daily activity.  And not just reading, but reading as much as you can as quickly as you can.  Training to speed-read is like training for a marathon–each book is a new opportunity to improve upon the overall time it takes you to understand: the author’s argument, the sources he/she uses to substantiate that argument, and how that argument is broken down into sections.  The point is to know what you need to know, whether for class or a paper or, generally, exams in as little time as it could possibly take you to know it.

Sitting all day reading creates its own problems–and many of them are strictly physical.  I find that I move around a lot while I’m sitting, trying to find new positions.  I also find that I get tired to easily from inertia, and I need to get up and move around periodically to keep myself from drifting off.

Sometimes it isn’t the act of reading, but the book itself that makes reading a challenge.

I actually believe that there is such a thing as a “perfectly sized” book.  To me, it would be the following: around 300-400 pages long printed on a paper of standard thickness (no see-through thin paper or construction paper consistency), between 9 to 10 inches long and maybe 6 or 7 inches wide, and hardcover (easy to hold open to take notes).

Unfortunately, I find many books I am required to read fall outside of these ideal dimensions.

Take this:

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This book is a must-read for a seminar for this week.  I left this placed on my lap table to demonstrate its dimensions.  I am all for creative printing, but if I need a literal lectern to read the book, that creativity may need to be rethought.

Then, there’s this problem:

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This is the classic “it should have been more than one volume” situation.  Not only is this book big, it weighs enough to qualify as practice equipment for the university shot-put team.  No joke, it actually gradually cut off circulation in my legs when I tried to lay it on my lap and read it.

Epilogue: Printers, remember the plight of the dogged graduate student, plowing through book after book in the office, in the living room, in the library, hunched over a desk in an uncomfortable position for hours on end.  Just say “NO” to giant books.

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