The what I’m reading post…

I have no coherent thoughts to share. Given the lack of time this week for anything other than catching up after ACRL, I thought I would share some of the great things I’ve been reading.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, so I picked it up from Powell’s (yay!) when we were in Portland for ACRL. I love his other books, although this is nothing like them so far. It’s technically fantasy, but reads like historical fiction mixed with Plato. I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s frankly amazing that I restrained myself to two books for myself and two books for E (Firebird by Misty Copeland & a beautiful book of illustrated nursery rhymes). That actually left D some room to pick up a book for himself.

I also recently reread North & South by Elisabeth Gaskell to help me sleep. Not because it’s boring, but because it’s familiar and I was stressed over too many upcoming deadlines. Up next is Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, I think. We really enjoy Parks & Rec, so I’m hoping this will be as smart and funny as Leslie Knope.

More work related reading includes lots of stuff on instruction. I’m slowly poring through Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning and re-examining Teaching at Its Best for all the writing that is happening. Both are excellent and full of great advice, but I’m realizing the support gaps at MPOW. We/I need structured peer review and support, along with the expertise of our new educational services librarian. I’m ready to spend a chunk of time and some hard work on improving my teaching this year, if only I can carve out the time.

The Information Diet

The chapter on data literacy proved to be disappointing, so it took me a while to get back to the book and finish it. Overall, it is an interesting premise, but the metaphor/concept wears thin in several places. The book was written for the general public, but would have benefited from less anecdotal evidence and more depth that scientific research could have provided, notably in library and information science, psychology, and neuroscience. He basically ignores, or is unaware of, the face that librarians have been working to improve the information and data literacy of students and professionals for decades. Similar to the diet fads that come and go each year, Johnson’s proposed solutions for mindful consumption are not built to last. This is one of those human problems that does not have a simple answer. In my opinion, it’s a challenge for educators, academics, and parents to value information as a resource and provide appropriate skills, metacognitive strategies, and rewards for consuming information thoughtfully.

Basic Premise

  • information diet includes all the information that we consume
  • We need to be conscious and manage our information diet thoughtfully.
  • Lots of parallels with food – our information is highly processed, we should strive for local sources of information and to affect change locally,

Interesting points

  • There are some great and compelling examples, but he often provides facile and uninformed explanations. Unsurprisingly, these focus on information consumption as the root cause. Human behavior is rarely so simple to explain.
  • people create their own realities by consuming information that only affirms their biases and beliefs – see the book The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you
  • information overload and mindless consumption of junk information resonates with a lot of us, but his analyses do not lead us to meaningful solutions or conversations; instead he relies on superficial sound bytes cobbled together to inform a very slim section on creating a “vast rational conspiracy”


  • the practical implementation section of the book is weak; it could have been far stronger and more informed had the author read Kahneman & Tversky’s Thinking Slow and Fast.
  • his chapter on Information, Power, and Survival especially misses the importance of being information literate, that is understanding how different types of information are created, disseminated, valued, as well as the roots of our scholarly and news products and their rapidly changing future track. I’m guessing he has no idea what librarians do.

In case you made it this far, you probably need a laugh. Go check out one of my favorite posts ever.

By Heather L. Coates

2 comments on “The what I’m reading post…

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