Thursday, March 19, 2009

Turn Off the TV: What to Read on Monday Night

In August, I got a notice from my cable provider: Get a new cable box or risk service interruptions. August is a busy time for academic marketers (American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association, American Political Science Association) so I didn't get to it.

September was spent getting catalogs and direct mail out to educators. Plus, I have something akin to a social life. In October, I turned on my television to discover I wasn't getting a few stations--but none that I missed. In November, I was a road warrior (American Academy of Religion, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English). December is a busy time for everybody. Academics celebrate the holidays and tear off to Modern Language Association and American Philosophical Association. It wasn't until mid-January--a few days after the American Historical Association--that I realized I had only ten stations--fuzzy local stations and what seemed through the static to be a station devoted exclusively to selling juicers.

Finally, I called to get the new cable box. Now, I have too many stations--and I can't turn on my television without going into a remote-clicking semi-coma. There's so much to watch—most of it is awful—but I can't help flicking through to find something worth the effort.

So, I've made rules about my television watching. Rule One: I will not watch television on Monday nights--not even the news. Nothing!

If you'd like to follow Rule One on March 23, here are suggestions for what to read in lieu of your usual Monday night show at 8 pm.

  • CBS: The Big Bang Theory. It's a repeat so isn't it a better idea to spend 30 minutes with Simon Singh 's The Big Bang? You'll learn about the origins of the universe.
  • TNT: The Closer. Meet another female detective: Laura Lippman's heroine Tess Monaghan. Try Charm City--which won the Edgar and Shamus Awards.
  • NBC: Chuck. People aren't always what they seem to be--even your closest relatives. It wasn't until the last years of her father's life that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lucinda Franks discovered that the remote man she grew up with had in fact been a daring spy. Read My Father's Secret War tonight.
  • FOX: House. This show always feels like a repeat even when it's an episode I haven't seen. House is grumpy. House saves patient. Why not read a real medical drama? His Brother's Keeper: One Family's Journey to the Edge of Medicine by Jonathan Weiner. This New York Times Notable follows the Heywoods as they search for a way to save 28-year-old Steven from ASL--Lou Gehrig's Disease.
  • NIK: SpongeBob SquarePants. Bawdy humor reigns in all of Chris Moore's books. His latest is Fool.
  • ABC: Dancing with the Stars. The Los Angeles Book Review said Kiss and Tango: Diary of a Dancehall Seductress by Marina Palmer is "armchair tango.... Now that's an escape." If you really need a Dancing with the Stars fix, there's always the tie-in book.
  • TBS: Family Guy. Discover how comics work with Scott McCloud's brilliant Understanding Comics. If you can't go a day without Family Guy, read one of the tie-in books.
  • WOR: Masters of Illusion. Teach your kids some tricks with Magic Secrets by Rose Wyler.
  • WPIX: Gossip Girls. The Luxe by Anna Godgersen features pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn--in the Manhattan of 1899.
  • LIFE: Will & Grace. I'm a fan of Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch. 20-something woman meets gay man in NYC--circa 1980. The New York Times called it, "Sharp, affectionate, and hilarious." It is.
  • NET: Antiques Roadshow. Get off the couch and go up to your attic with a copy of Price It Yourself! --a guide to appraising antiques and collectibles in your home, at auctions, estate sales, shops, and yard sales.
  • BRAVO: Unforgiven. For a gritty Western turn to The Assassination of Jesse James by Ron Hansen.
  • WLIW: Lidia's Italy. Admit it: You spend more time watching other people cook than you spend in your own kitchen. Make something from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home--winner of a James Beard Book Award.

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