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Thoughts on Books

I had kind of a life changing experience this fall when three things serendipitously happened.

1. We got an ipad and decided to sell our tv. We still watch plenty of shows (I’m not anti tv, I love it) but with the new setup the tv doesn’t get left on and all of a sudden you find yourself watching one of those awful celebrity shows that come on and you are listening to Mario Lopez tell you things you don’t care about.

2. We got a coffee table. Since we’ve had kids we haven’t had a coffee table. We thought it was better to keep the space open for the boys to play. But I changed my mind last fall and picked up an Ikea coffee table to do projects on.

3. We got new books. I had some Amazon credit so I decided to buy some books that were sitting in our online shopping carts so that it wouldn’t expire while we moved to Paris.

We have a pretty great collection of books already but we’ve always kept them on the bookshelf. Something happened when we put the books on the coffee table. They were literally right in front of us all the time. So we started spending a few hours a day reading and then we found ourselves having great discussions and getting really inspired. I’ve never liked the sentiment that one form of art is better than another. So please don’t take away that our minds were suddenly opened when we started reading books instead of watching tv (I think it’s more about editing the content). But I loved that we would sit quietly together in comfy chairs reading and then talking about things we care about, it was good–our lives felt better.

Have you ever gotten rid of your tv? Or do you only watch shows if Mario Lopez is on them?

photo of our coffee table in San Francisco by Aubrey Trinnaman

  1. rebecca

    March 31, 2011

    Uh how lovely! I agree with your thoughts on books!! It's like displaying more of your clothes (hanging in the closet instead of keeping them folded in a drawer) and then wearing them more because you actually see them! 🙂

  2. Sarah

    March 31, 2011

    I love moments like that. My dad loves to buy big coffee table books about ancient civilizations, so every so often when we have family dinners a few of us will be lounging around reading about ancient Rome, Egypt, or Greece and we'll each pipe in at different times with a "did you know that in ancient Rome, XYZ happened?" and it gets some fun discussions going and piques our curiosity.

  3. laura @ hollywood housewife

    March 31, 2011

    I have a friend who has stacks of books on her coffee table (many of them photo books of her photos) and I feel just like that about her home. A place to be inspired and to talk.

    Currently, our coffee table is too small for this (we have a toddler, so I like having the room) but one day…

  4. Brittany

    March 31, 2011

    i love tv, but i am really picky about what i watch. i also really love books and i can get grumpy when i haven't had lots of time to read. i love the coffee table idea. having it out makes it so much easier to do.

  5. Renata

    March 31, 2011

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you got rid of your tv! We got rid of ours 4 years ago and never looked back. Anything you need to watch is on the web or dvd anyways.

    You've inspired me to want to read more – my attention span has always been short, but there's something so magical about a book, a comfy chair and a cup of hot tea.

  6. Celene

    March 31, 2011

    we HEART books at our house. we don't have cable T.V. so instead of budgeting for our cable bill each month we have our book budget. when my children finish reading a book (chapter books) they sign their name in the front cover as well as the date they finished it. it is so fun to flip open the cover and see who has read them! priceless memories.

  7. ali

    March 31, 2011

    Good for you. I'm trying to convince C we don't need a TV (it's on for maybe .5 hours/day) but unfortunately he's into sports. Grrr.

    And is that a wooden heart or a spade? Either way, I dig it.

  8. marissa (stylebook)

    March 31, 2011

    i only brake for mario lopez shows when he's hosting an array of incredible pet tricks. 🙂

  9. Andrea J

    March 31, 2011

    I could totally get rid of the TV except for not being able to watch sports. I wish the networks would figure that one out for me already.

  10. Kailyn Marie

    March 31, 2011

    I let my parents watch the TV, and I tiVo my tv series that I watch so I'm not getting sucked into any reality shows. But I read every single day on my Nook. It's great to be able to just read all my books in one little device.

  11. creole wisdom

    March 31, 2011

    Yes! I sort of think the TV is evil. I know that's a crazy generalization, but it just doesn't do any good for me. I watch the trash shows or else Lifetime, which is fine, but lots of mellow drama/scary scenes. I'm moving in August and not planning on purchasing a package of cable. I think I'll get netflix, though, so if I want something on I can have it. I get my news in my google feeder anyway and don't feel left out.

    I love coffee tables. It seems like they are coming back now. Yours is lovely.

  12. emily

    March 31, 2011

    I think your blog is really lovely. However, when I clicked on it today the first thing i saw was "The pee smell is gone!" in electric blue lettering. The ads at the top are a little overwhelming.

  13. jordan

    March 31, 2011

    @emily ha! I'm switching ad networks right now and am working out the kinks. They'll be back to normal soon.

  14. Victoria

    March 31, 2011

    Our TV only works on Hulu (we don't pay for any programing) which has been a sweet compromise; it allows us to still watch our favorite shows (only a day late:) and hinders us from just streaming the normal everyday crap, which has been quite the blessing this year!

  15. bedelia

    March 31, 2011

    Yeah, I gave up TV in college. Then moved back with parents, got married and had TV for about 3 years. Then we got rid of cable, etc (about 3 yearsor so now) and now only watch movies on the TV. I love it. My husband doesn't like the idea of never having tv shows again but I don't ever want to have it…I get too addicted.

  16. MMW

    March 31, 2011

    Jordan, what sorts of books do you have on your coffee table?

    I'd love to hear which books you and paul are reading lately.

  17. Cara Crowley

    March 31, 2011

    Perfectly said! I recently purchased a new coffee table and picked up a few new inspiring design books and I find myself watching less television too! A new coffee table has been life changing (not to sound too dramatic!) I arrange my current favorite books, fresh flowers, and favorite flea market finds on it. I love sitting down and spending time in front of something that truly inspires me.

  18. norah

    March 31, 2011

    I love love love love tv…too much really. But we decided to ditch the cable and go for hulu plus/netflix streaming and clear internet, saving us $120 a month. We had been paying $180 for NON premium cable/internet, so with Clear at $45 and Hulu/netflix about $10 each. There are things I miss…How I Met Your Mother and Bravo mainly, but not enough that I watch them on my computer. Hulu can be a drag sometimes, its super slow, but my house is (slightly) cleaner and my child (slightly) less neglected.
    I save books for the train ride to and from work. Its a great motivator to not drive.

  19. tiny.k

    March 31, 2011

    Love this post! We got rid of cable and bought appleTV a few months ago (just for netflix)… no regrets!

    Couldn't agree with you more… we talk and think more.

  20. Baboon

    March 31, 2011

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! We keep a TV in our bedroom and our children (almost 3 and 10 months) have NEVER watched it. It's the thing I'm most proud of as a parent. I do like some tv but I think that it's awful for children (the pace, the blinking lights, the content….ooh, I could go on forever). Our oldest has watched a couple of home videos and a few short videos of animals and musical instruments on our pc, but we hope to keep delaying other stuff as much as possible. I also notice that without tv, not only do I write a lot more but I sleep better! Every time I watch too much tv at night, I sleep really badly. And it's true that dvd or internet make a tv really useless. Plus the silence of reading, the pages of books turning….

  21. Heather Joy

    March 31, 2011

    I use to sit in front of the us a lot too! I see have a huge one, but instead of watching from there. I watch on my laptop only my favorite shows while sewing! It's so much more productive and I still get to watch some of the trashy shows! 🙂

  22. Jenni Bailely

    March 31, 2011

    I also love tv but we've gone down to the basic cable (PBS, NBC, etc) and Netflix. There are definitely things I miss that I can't find or watch until days or weeks after everyone else but for the most part it feels okay. Definitely better with kids around – much easier to control what they see and limit the "I-wants" brought on by too many commercials.

  23. Susan

    March 31, 2011

    I see "Seven Ages of Paris" on your table…that is one of my favorite reads about the city!

  24. Colleen

    March 31, 2011

    We have a television, but have no channels. We use netflicks, which makes us watch only what we want to and usually just an hour a night. It may seem silly, I love the books on the coffee table, but I am such a neat freak since we eat at our coffee table each night while we watch our 22 minutes of the cosby show. It feel like a treat not to be stuck to the tv and bill is hilarious!

  25. Denise Laborde

    March 31, 2011

    Love this post Jordan!

    In our home we have a television. It is in a room designated for television watching. In our living room we have a coffee table full of books (for big and small people) and speakers. We read and listen to music on a daily basis. We also watch movies or shows. We use our tv intentionally.

    I learned this model from my in-laws 🙂 and it works well for us.

  26. Julie

    March 31, 2011

    We don't have a tv. We decided when we got married to just skip it all together. Although we do have a projector we watch movies on-which is fantastic!

  27. mckenzie

    March 31, 2011

    We disconnected our cable last year mainly because it was too expensive. We watch shows online because our TV is also our computer monitor. It works really well. We also have instant Netflix and I have been more thoughtful about my viewing choices. We talk more and play more and get more done now that the TV isn't on all the time. I really like it a lot.

  28. Jamie

    March 31, 2011

    We have a TV but no cable. It's been that way for almost two years now, and really the only thing I miss is Glee and watching the news. I hate all the extra channels.

  29. Lacey Parr

    March 31, 2011

    Such a great idea! I can't wait to have an apartment big enough to have a coffee table!

  30. Kristen

    March 31, 2011

    I wish we could get rid of the TV and expensive cable bill and just watch shows on the internet…but my husband won't have it. If he's not home I rarely have the TV on. Although I must admit, I do like some of the celebrity shows!

  31. Yeri

    March 31, 2011

    Hooray books! Nothing made me happier as a child than going to the library to check out books.

    While I do love my bad tv, I think people should read more.

  32. Christy

    March 31, 2011

    We still have our tv but cancelled cable over 2 years ago and haven't missed it. There is always the internet or netflix!

  33. Laura

    March 31, 2011

    We also cut the cord to cable recently. We can watch Netflix Instantly on our TV (via TiVo), and we're much more deliberate and selective about what we spend our time watching. But our TV has also always been in the basement rather than the living room. It's not the centerpiece of our lives and also doesn't just get left on as white noise. No coffee table either — also because of kiddos — but you're making me rethink that idea…

  34. Amy Carter

    March 31, 2011

    with your two boys, how do you get your books to actually stay on the coffee table? my 18 month old is constantly ripping through our magazines/books, and our 4 year old uses them as platforms for his superman jumps. i'm looking forward to the day I can put the books back on the table…

    but i do love the idea of getting rid of cable… i still need my tv for movie-watching though.

  35. Miss C

    March 31, 2011

    I rarely watch tv. I will not buy myself cable and I only look forward to one show a week which I watch on my computer. Those books on your coffee table look amazing and the idea of sitting around looking at them and getting inspired is awesome!
    I always thought coffee table books were ignored for the most part. Hmmmm.

  36. megwrites

    March 31, 2011

    So interesting. We've never had a coffee table either for the same reason (more space for kis to play). But I wonder what it would be like if we did? I'm afraid another flat surface might just pile up with papers and junk, in our case. I love not having tv. We just have Netflix and only watch stuff we really want to watch, instead of getting sucked in the way you do with tv.

  37. Caitlin

    March 31, 2011

    You're so right; it's about owning your entertainment and your time. Choosing what you want, not just idly letting it be chosen by network programers. Way to go/to inspire!

  38. Jamie

    March 31, 2011

    I completely agree that books are more fulfilling than tv. There's still an interaction that happens when reading books – you can pass books along and I've never heard of a "TV club". I'd much rather curl up on the couch with a good book than find myself sitting there for hours watching "real" housewives pull out each others' hair.

  39. Elizabeth

    March 31, 2011

    I really love how diplomatically you presented this idea. TV is good! Books are also good. I have an awesome collection of coffee table books that never seem to be on the coffee table – you've inspired me to make room for them. 🙂

  40. Kate

    March 31, 2011

    I haven't had a TV for 10 years (man that sounds weird thinking about it now!), but I looove TV. I just use my computer for all TV watching, and feel like a TV is a waste of space in a small apartment. I also hate how suburban living rooms are all designed/focused around a TV. Like, "behold this shrine we all bow to". Haha. But man, I loves me some TV shows. I coudn't get through necklace making without it.

  41. littlestreetfighter's Mom

    March 31, 2011

    We keep a little thrift store t.v. in our guest room, so if we really want to see news or watch something, we can. However, people comment on how peaceful our home is b/c there is not a t.v. front and center. I need to put out more books!!! I like the ancient civilizations idea…that would be fun. jennifer

  42. heidi

    March 31, 2011

    I'm totally on the same page as you! We didn't get rid our TV, but we almost never turn it on. I think the last time it was on was the day of the earthquake in Japan. It was nice to be able to watch news coverage of that and as weird as it sounds, to be able to sit close with my hubby and to listen and watch what had happened. Yes, we could have looked at it on our respective computers, but sometimes its nice to be together. We still watch some TV shows, but ones that we download to the computer. Our TV watching is now down to less than 2 hours a week.

    I really detest having a TV on as background noise all the time. So many of my friends do that and you're right, it always ends up being some bad reality show. They defend watching them saying "It's just mindless entertainment" as if "mindless" is a badge you should wear proudly.

    I prefer not to fill myself up with mindless. I prefer to fill myself up with wonderful fiction, inspiring true stories, adventures in art, in history, in life.

    The same friends who defend the mindless-reality-show-watching say that after a long day at work, they like mindless television as a way to unwind. For me, there is no better way to unwind than to read or talk or just sit quietly and think. A glass of lovely wine helps. A favorite CD calms me down. A comfy chair out on the patio as the evening daylight fades away is even better. My hubby at arms length enjoying those same quiet moments is truly heaven. I can't say the same for the constant drone of Celebrity Rehab.

    Thanks for a lovely and thoughtful post!

  43. Kenzie

    March 31, 2011

    I love these thoughts. I only really watch shows online now because I never have a lot of time. So I probably wouldn't even mind not having a tv. I love the idea of covering the coffee table with books though 🙂

  44. Kristen Wall

    March 31, 2011

    We got rid of cable a few months ago–my house is cleaner, my mind is cleaner, and I've read 9 books in two months. I love it!

  45. LH

    March 31, 2011

    I'm 26. I grew up without almost any TV watching after about age 5. My mom was a librarian and together with my dad they decided we were all too addicted and needed a break so it went in the garage for a year (when they went out, sometimes us 4 kids would sneak out there, plug it in, and watch cartoons!) and when it came back inside, we just didn't watch it anymore except for two things: the olympics and presidential elections. And movies. We all grew into big readers though and had stacks of books in every room of the house (I often got in trouble for reading with my flashlight late at night).

    Sometime in college I moved in with roommates that had CABLE and I watched things like Friends and Seinfeld for the first time that were reruns for everyone else.

    Maybe we would have all developed the love of reading with a TV in the house, I don't know…but so far in my adult life I have never owned one and I still have stacks of books by my bed to read late at night!

    Didn't mean for this to turn into such an essay…

    P.S. I love the show LOST and religiously watched it (at other people's houses) every week so when there's something good on, I'm all about it, no guilt!

  46. Two Pitties in the City

    March 31, 2011

    When we moved in together we both got rid of our TV's as a space issue, and I love it now because our TV viewing is much more deliberate (I was having problems of not only watching bad reality shows, but re-runs of those bad shows). The only thing now is we have to ween ourselves off of the Internet.

  47. Laura

    March 31, 2011

    I'm so glad to hear how inspired you've been! The key for me is to multitask. I never watch TV without doing something else as well, even the shows I follow. That way, if I need to have some background noise on or another family member wants to watch something I'm not distracted by the TV. I've also found I get a lot more done now because when I sit down to watch my favorite shows, I can also accomplish something on the side.

  48. jess @ fushmush

    March 31, 2011

    We lived in London for 3 years without a TV. It didn't mean that I stopped watching TV as I just downloaded shows and watched them on laptop.

    However, it did mean that there was much less incidental TV watching. I would only watch shows that I actually wanted to watch rather than just watching stuff because it was on.

    It also meant that I didn't have to watch ads. It was awesome.

  49. HeRo

    March 31, 2011

    I haven't had a TV for over 2 years now and I don't miss it at all. I'm much more productive. I love that when my friends come over they pick up my books and magazines and start reading 🙂

  50. Stephanie

    March 31, 2011

    We get cable through our rent and it is so tempting! I find I waste too much time channel surfing, instead of just watching what you want. And I love the books on the coffee table. It's all about balance.

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