Absolutely Not a Book Review

Early this year, I decided to write a little list of things I want to accomplish throughout the year. Not resolutions, per se, but just a few things that I would like to do. Things that may or may not improve me or my life. I even wrote them out on a sheet of paper, checklist-style, and stuck it to my fridge so that it’s always at the forefront of my mind.

I won’t share the whole list, because quite frankly, it’s none of your damn business. However, one of the items on that list is to read six books. Not a lofty goal by any means, but a goal no less. Something small to strive for. And of course, me being me, I dove into this task by choosing the most difficult book that I own: Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing by Ian Bogost.

Now, I have read this book before, several years ago, and I remembered it being a very intellectually challenging read. My line of thought here was that I’ve become much more interested in philosophy in the intervening years, so maybe it’d make more sense to me this time around. I don’t think it worked out quite that way! In all honesty, I thought that I’d written something about this book the first time I read it, which I was planning to pop in a link to and call it a day. But I hadn’t written about it before! Oops!

To back things up a bit, Alien Phenomenology is a book about object-oriented ontology, which suggests that every object in existence is equally as important as humans and should be given the same level of reverence. As a human (presumably), you’re likely thinking that’s completely mad. But I think it’s a very interesting dive into one of the many branches of metaphysics.

Sadly, I’m a pseudo-intellectual at best, and as such most of the material goes right over my head. To say that I had to read many paragraphs and even whole pages multiple times to try to make sense of them would be putting it lightly. It didn’t help that I read most of the book on my lunch breaks at work, and the lack of any private spaces at work meant that there was almost always someone else chattering nearby, which made it even tougher to comprehend. I’m sure the folks nearby could see smoke pouring out of my ears as my brain struggled to keep up.

All that said, I have read this book twice now! And I’ll probably come back to it again in a few more years. I like the idea of thinking about how objects exist, in both their own ways and in relation to each other, independent of any relations to humanity. It boggles my mind, and the book makes sure to clarify that it’s supposed to! As humans, we are naturally incapable of truly understanding the experiences of anything non-human. But it’s fun to think about!

Anyway, I’m glad that I revisited Alien Phenomenology, even if it made my brain hurt more than anything. It may not have been the most fruitful choice of literature, but it’s totally different than what I normally read and made for a nice change of pace. I’ll definitely move onto something much lighter for my new book or two, but I definitely plan to re-read another Ian Bogost book, How to Talk About Video Games, before 2024 is over.

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