Monday, April 23, 2012

Good enough is Better

Pat calls me out on the idea of re-reading:

I would like to defend the idea of re-reading. I don't think it is in any way predicated on the assertion I have read everything worth reading. It only means I want to read this book again now more than I want to read something new. I read for enjoyment only. What I read is not a statement about anything more than that. I have re-read the Idiot more than any other book because few books give me half the enjoyment the first time through that the Idiot did on the 6th or 7th reading.
I was working up a scathing put-down, when the following sentence popped into my head: “Spinal Tap is the film I re-watch most often.”

Ahem. How can it be perfectly acceptable to watch the same film numerous times, but not read the same book?  Beyond the size of the temporal investment (depending on the title, of course), there’s really no difference.

The Paradox of Choice, which is the book I’m reading right now, deals at length with the concept of “satisficing (it’s been a word for more than fifty years), which is essentially settling for good enough, rather than “maximizing,” which is seeking the absolute best. It sounds like settling, but research suggests that it’s a better approach for optimizing happiness, and getting the most out of each day.

This got me thinking about restaurants. I always want to try new restaurants, rather than revisit places I’ve liked, which ends up being a high risk strategy. At a place you’ve been to before, you don’t have to order the exact same thing as last time, and there’s a good chance that a creative kitchen will surprise you again and again, in the same way that a book or a film might. Plus you have a better idea of what the overall experience will be like.

This is an easier strategy in the Triangle, where there are fewer choices, than NYC, but I appreciate the concept now, and as I said in an earlier post, who we are when we pick up a book is a key driver of what we find inside, so it is a new experience each time, “a deeper communion.”

It’s still hard for me when there’s so much new stuff out there, but I enjoyed the Salinger experiment, and I think it might be fun to revisit some of the books that I loved or hated in the 1980s, and to see how the older me responds.


  1. I would extend Pat's point to the pleasure of reading every book in a series ... even if the literature does not qualify as great art, I enjoy returning to characters whom I know and like, and finding out what they are up to. This includes Anne of Green Gables, Precious Ramotswe, and Katniss Everdeen.

  2. I would still like to read the scathing put-down.

  3. As I recollect, it was something about your mama.