Tyler Cowen: What I Read

The economic professor explains his Media Diet

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various friends and colleagues who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Tyler Cowen, author, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and co-blogger at Marginal Revolution.

I get up at 6:30 AM on average, give or take, and go to my computer. I quickly check NYTimes.com to make sure the world hasn’t ended.

Then I go to my Google Reader RSS feed, where I follow around 30 blogs, but I think only around 15 or so are active. Economist’s View, Econ Log, Matthew Yglesias, Greg Mankiw, Paul Krugman, Robin Hanson’s Overcoming Bias, Megan McArdle, to name a few. From there I move on to my e-mail, which is more of a news feed than I think it is for most people, since a lot of Marginal Revolution readers send me links. Next I check my Twitter account, which I also use as a news feed. I would guess I follow around 30 active people. I don’t even know who a lot of them are -- I just somehow picked up on them.

I then leave the computer and I read--in this order--The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Financial Times in print, the actual paper copies. I’m a total paper addict. I don’t read them in their entirety, but I do spend real time with them. It depends on the topics. Like for sports, I only read about the NBA. I don't read the New York Times on New York at all. I don't read much in the second section of the Financial Times. Often I'll read just parts of articles.

Then I might check Google News, depending on what’s going on, and follow up on what I see in my Twitter feed, RSS reader, and in the papers. Throughout the day at work, I’ll check NYTimes.com pretty regularly (about ten times a day), my RSS feed (constantly), Twitter (about 5 times a day), Andrew Sullivan, and maybe the prediction market site Intrade if there’s a big event. Right now it’s health care, so I’m checking Intrade fairly often.

I also check ESPN and Chessbase about once a day. Sometimes I'll browse randomly on other people's blogrolls, like do random clicks on Andrew Sullivan's. Other critical sites for me are Arts Journal, Book Forum, Bookslut, The Browser, and the BPS Psychological Research Digest. All are regular checks.

When I get home, there are the magazines to deal with. The Atlantic, The New Republic, Harper’s, The Economist--this is all paper, pure paper, I don’t like to read any of them online--plus Forbes, Businessweek. I also subscribe to a bunch of art, music and science magazines: The Art Newspaper, Fanfare, Songlines, Scientific American, Discover, New Scientist. Entertainment Weekly I read eagerly. And I try to read those promptly, the day they arrive in the mail; as magazines pile up you end up not reading them.

In the evening I’ll check Twitter, Google Reader, and NYTimes.com again, maybe Andrew Sullivan, and check my email a lot.

I don’t watch TV much except for a few shows, and usually only on disc or Tivo. To just turn on the TV to me is unthinkable. I don't listen to radio, ever.

If I don't have a social event, and am reading non-fiction, it is likely I will read a few books in an evening. I can't read fiction nearly as fast. I love Kindle when I travel but don't use it much at home, except to finish books from episodes of travel. The pages don't turn fast enough for me, so it works best for fiction.

Right now, for example, I’m reading To Teach by Bill Ayers, The Walking Tour by Kathryn Davis, and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. I’ve just started a new book called The Future History of the Arctic by Charles Emmerson, and I’m starting Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel on my Kindle. Usually I do with books the same thing I do with magazines, I’ll see what comes in the mail that day, and I try to read it that night. Tonight [3/16/10] I'll probably read Michael Lewis’s new book The Big Short, The Future History of the Arctic, a short story in I, Robot (for teaching my class in Law and Literature) and browse a library book on the history of the baroque.

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