Tag Archives: reading experience

Summer Binge Reading

Reading an article about summer reading I came across the felicitous phrase “summer binge-reading.” I’m not sure the hyphen needs to be there, so I took it out in my title. Let me give you the context:

“I had discovered the pleasures of summer binge-reading when I was twelve or thirteen, in the public library and its many shelves filled with science fiction and apparently endless supply of mysteries by Agatha Christie.”

I read this sentence and was instantly transported back to summer reading in my parents’ basement. Please understand that my Afamily lived in the South of Southwestern Ontario, in a city where one drove north to get to the Canada-US border crossing. Really. It was humid in the summer, humid like a swamp, probably because the city was built on a swamp, one the French settlers called Grand Marais. The only place in our house that was cool was the basement. It was still damp down there, but cool and damp, not sticky hot and sweaty. In the basement was a large yellow recliner. I’m not sure what it was made of, but lets call it fake leather. It got kind of sticky in the summer. When I was 12 and 13 I spent all possible moments of the summer in this chair in the basement reading library books and eating potato chips. This drove AMom a little crazy. “It is sunny and nice out, why aren’t you outside instead of stuck here in the basement?” “Too hot,” I’d mumble, eat another chip, and turn the page. Of course I wasn’t stuck in the basement at all. I was off on some adventure in space or in another world.

This is what I think of when I think summer reading. Now I know what my summer reading expectations are. Lots of books from the library, a large chair, and a cool spot to sit. And potato chips.


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Books Not To Read At the Cottage?

The LA Times posted an interesting anti-beach reading list: 9 books NOT to read at the beach for various reasons. Of course Jaws leads their list, especially if you are sitting on a Cape Cod beach. Beach vacations aren’t at the top of my list for summer fun, but going to camp or someone’s cottage in Muskoka or other scenic Ontario places are much more likely to happen. This got me thinking. Can we come up with an equivalent list of books one shouldn’t read in the woods, or at the cottage?

Gerald’s Game by Stephen King might have to top a list like that. I’ve only heard about this book, but it sounds appropriately horrific. Are there others?

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Maps and Books

There is an academic study of maps in fantasy novels coming out in January 2013. So. Cool. I LOVE maps in books. If a book has a good map in the front, it might be a reason I buy it. Maps were part of what hooked me on Narnia back in the day. Maps are important, not just in fantasy novels, but also in mystery novels. Sometimes the map can be the plan of a house, or of a building where the murder took place. I do get very irritated if the text of the book and the map don’t match up. Someone messed up something. This happened once in a mystery book I read. I think it put me off the author.

To be fair, I also like maps not in books. I prefer paper maps to digital maps, though the maps online are pretty cool and I do use them a lot. But paper maps have a bigger scope. You can spread them out and get an overview by standing back, then not loose that sense of the whole when you look at details. That is what I don’t like about online maps, though I’m getting used to them.

I’ve started combining online maps and reading. I’m just beginning to e-Read, as I’ve mentioned before. I borrowed an e-Book from the public library and there was a map in it! Yay, a map. BUT, I couldn’t zoom in on the map. I could see that the map existed, but the scale in the EPUB format was just too small to read. Irritating. But with a sweep of the fingers, I was in my map program and Pouf! a map of the area of London, the setting for the murder mystery was before me. I went back and forth between the book and the map program a lot. This worked because this particular author used a real neighbourhood in London as her setting. It doesn’t work if the (unreadable) map at the beginning of an epub is not of a real-world place. I hope that this non-zoom thing doesn’t become an issue in future e-reads.

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When do you stop reading?

This has been a week of questions. Here’s another. What might make you stop reading a book? Do you stop for moral reasons? Because it isn’t interesting? Because it is badly written? And what is the tipping point? What makes you say No, I’m just not going to finish this book despite the time I’ve already invested in it. Is there a tipping point the other way, where you’ve invested so much in the book that you are going to plow through until the end?

Usually if I stop reading something it is because something else has come up that is more pressing or more interesting. I might find a book heavy going and put it down for a break with the intent to go back to it, but then sometimes I never do. I seldom stop reading a book decisively, that is, without intending to pick it up agains someday. I’ve managed to get through some books that are poorly written and in the end uninteresting. But if I find those qualities in a book, it means I’m not going back to that author again (see my notes on Lev Grossman).

I’m actually a little more interested in the question of whether anyone stops reading for moral reasons. Is there something in a book, some level of violence maybe, that compels you to stop reading because of the book’s immoral tone? My dad would stop reading a book because of moral issues, and I saw him actually trash at least one book. I’m not sure exactly what his tipping point was in books. I read most of the novels he kept in the house (Nevil Shute & Alistair MacLean were his favourite authors), but didn’t get to read the ones thrown away, so had no comparison point. What is your tipping point, if any, on the moral scale?

Are there other reasons you might stop reading a book? Do tell. I’m interested.


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multi-platform, multi-books, too much multi-ing?

Today I did a quick count of the number of (fiction) books I’ve got on the go at the moment. There are four. One is an E-book, another is an audio book, there’s a library hardcover, and a used book-shop paperback. Three of the four are mysteries, and the fourth is an interesting surreal novel mostly about New York City in winter. I think I can give you a plot as-I-understand-it synopsis for each. I wonder how many books I can have on the go at once, and whether multi-reading, especially across delivery systems, will just make my life more spinny than ever.

I’ve also got at least two non-fiction books on the go, meaning I’ve read from them in the last week and I intend to finish them.

Hmm. I think I might be a bit rootless in my reading right now, more like tumbleweed instead of a firmly planted tree (think Psalm 1). I’m not sure why I ended up with six active books, usually I keep it to two or three. Maybe the multi-media thing contributed to me not realizing how many I’ve got in the air.

How many books do you have on the go at once? How many is too many in your experience?

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The Reading Experience (and Digital/Analog discussions continued)

Part the fun of reading a book is the general experience of reading. I think there is more than one kind of reading experience.

First, there is the relaxing reading experience. By this I mean the experience of kicking back in one’s favourite reading chair, beverage of choice to hand, possibly snack of choice to hand, and diving into another world. Many people think of this experience as the only possible one for reading. I don’t think this is necessarily true, but I do like this one. A lot. And in my discussions with various people around reading eBooks, it seems that they don’t really think digital books are appropriate for this setting.

Then there’s the reading to pass-the-time experience, usually done on the subway, airplanes, or in waiting rooms. Of course, for a dedicated reader, reading to pass the time can be relaxing and enjoyable. It is not the same experience, though, as reading in your favourite chair. Here digital books seem more acceptable, especially when travelling long distances. Airplane mode anyone?

Reading for information or to learn something is another experience. This kind of reading can be done in the locations already listed — but there is a different posture of both body and mind involved. When reading for relaxation, I tend to slouch down and put my feet up. No note-taking equipment is required. On the other hand, when reading and studying, I tend to sit up straighter, keep paper and pen to hand, try to tune in to pay attention to the page, and take notes as I go. Some people find it very difficult to adapt the particular posture of body and mind with digital books. Taking notes is possible, but does one want to use the same tablet for notes AND reading? Marginalia is possible, but it doesn’t have the same feel as underlining/writing in a book.

I’m still too early in my digital book experience to decide what I prefer. So far I’ve taken much longer than I would have for a paper book to read the eLibraryBook I checked out. Part of that is because I find it easier to whip out a paperback on transit than to whip out my iPad. Also there’s the whole battery thing — as in recharging. One thing I’ve done with this mystery novel on the iPad that I couldn’t do with a paperback is look up the locations mentioned in the book. The setting is in the UK, and I don’t quite have the geography in my head. So I opened up a map and then I could flip back and forth between the book and the map and get a sense of which highway the detectives were driving down. This may not enhance YOUR reading experience, but I kind of liked it.

How do digital books fit into the idealized reading experience(s) you have in your head?

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