Like I said, I read a lot lately and it is interesting to see how much my reading habits have changed. I was always interested in background, but apart from the fact that I couldn’t carry around an encyclopedia, if you look at it, even if we had owned a printed encyclopedia, who would have constantly bought updates? If they had even been available!
The book that I currently read, “Hundert Tage” by Lukas Bärfuss, is about the hundred days of genocide in Rwanda. It happened from April to July 1994. If I had bought one of the two big German encyclopedias, Meyer or Brockhaus, at the time when I started earning my own money (as had intended but never did), it would have told me about a developing country that did comparatively extremely well, about a peaceful and slightly boring small country on its way up. It wouldn’t have told me anything that could have eased my understanding of the conflict.
Wikipedia has changed all that. Sure, sometimes there are edit wars about who has shot down a particular plane, sometimes there is astroturfing, but by and large Wikipedia is pretty accurate and, whether you like it or not, in the long run it will be the only encyclopedia left, because at least the commercial alternatives won’t make it for another decade.
I’ve read the main article about the genocide, I’ve read about the assassination of the dictator Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the event that started the massacres, I’ve read about the racist ideology of “Hutu Power“, about short time Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, about several specific massacres, and so on and so on. I even skimmed the articles about the first and second Congo War, just to get a feeling for the aftermath. I could do that immediately as the need arose, and it actually did arise after the first few pages of the book.
But it is not only Wikipedia. I have an offline maps application called “Maps With Me” on my tablet and my phone. Sure, you can read a book without a map, but having one is so much more convenient. When I have Internet connectivity (not now on the train, but normally, when I read on the tablet at home) I can even use Google Maps and see photos taken in Kigali.
As a result I am far from being an expert for central African history, but I feel I have a good foundation for understanding every aspect of this particular book.
Really, it is crazy how fast the world of reading has changed, has it?
The Song of the Day, completely unrelated by the way, is “Lookin’ Around Corners For You”. Hear the Tommy Dorsey rendition on YouTube.