Tracking your reading…

I was not around to do a year end post and it is perhaps too late to do that now, but I do have to try. 2014 is the first year in which I have kept a systematic record of my reading. I have reviewed or written about every single book that I read in the past year (except the three that I read in December, which I will review very soon) on this blog.

I tried to track my reading on Goodreads as well, but that didn’t really work for me and I stopped updating my Goodreads account after a few months. I don’t know why I didn’t take to Goodreads, but whatever the reason, blogging about my reading was a lot more fun.

I read 35 books last year, not a particularly big number, but then it is not about the numbers, now is it? Seven of these books were re-reads and 23 out of the 35 were non-fiction. I enjoyed them all, except one (The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs which I thought was a bit painful.)

My favourite book of the lot? Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is a brilliant book and it will stay with me for the rest of my life. The other books that meant a lot to me were The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, Cooked by Michael Pollan and Provence 1970 by Luke Barr.

I discovered two writers last year, David Sedaris and Laura Bradbury (and by this, I mean writers that I liked enough to want to go look for all their books.) Sedaris is by no means a new writer, but he was new to me. I discovered Laura Bradbury through an Amazon book recommendation. She’s written two memoirs, (My Grape Escape and My Grape Village) both set in Burgundy, France.

The recommendation came up because I’d bought Encore Provence by Peter Mayle earlier in the year. I looked up the two books and I found that they didn’t have many reviews, but all the reviews said the books were wonderful. So I picked them up and now I’m waiting for her next book…I don’t want to say anything more here because I plan to write a proper review of both the books.

It was great fun to do this blog last year and I love that I now have such a detailed record of my reading…and now that my life has stopped being crazy, I hope I can get back to blogging regularly. On a somewhat unrelated note, the last three months have been tough on me for all sorts of reasons and there were so many times when being able to disappear into a book for a while made everything a whole lot easier to deal with. Thank God for books!


200 and counting…

Yesterday I published my 200th post on this blog. I know that is not a particularly big number, but it is a milestone. I’ve been writing here for eight months now and I am surprised by the extent to which I enjoy it. Writing is one of the few things in my life that absorbs me so completely that the world and it’s noise disappear for a bit.

I think that when you have read enough books, you find yourself wanting to write, to express yourself in the words that you have come to love.

For some people that desire takes the form of a book and for other, perhaps less ambitious people like me, it takes the form of a blog. I’m not suggesting that every blogger is a reader, but I am saying that every serious reader has at one time or the other felt the urge to write.

A book blog isn’t much by way of writing, but it is a start. By it’s very nature it involves a lot of book reviews. A review may seem like a writing exercise at best, but it does teach you to think clearly and to try and understand exactly what you liked or didn’t like about a particular book and why.

And then you have to put all of that in words. You have to talk about the book while being careful not to give too much away. And yet you have to say enough to let the reader get the feel of the book…It is a fairly exacting task and it takes time and effort to get it right.

I like writing book reviews. I enjoy taking a book apart in my head and trying to decide how best to convey what it felt like to read it.  This is particularly enjoyable when I find a book that I love. Every time I finish a book like that I have the urge to grab everyone I know and say, “You have to read this! It’s wonderful.”

This blog is perhaps an excuse to do that.  I don’t know if any of you have noticed it, but nearly all of my reviews on this blog are positive. That is not because I like all the books that I read, but because I don’t read books that I don’t like.

If a book hasn’t grabbed me by page fifty, I abandon it. Sometimes, I get stuck in the middle of a book and I put it aside. I may pick it up again or I may not. The point is, I don’t force myself to finish a book that I am not enjoying and I do not review books that I don’t finish. So, in a sense, all my book reviews are book recommendations as well.

I often mention the books that I am reading in my journal, but I have never kept such a complete record of my books as I have here on my blog. While I’m not particularly concerned about the number of books I read in a particular year and things like that, it is nice to be able to look back and see the variety of books that have engaged me this past couple of months.

We book bloggers are a weird bunch. While other people are recording their lives, we record our books, almost as if the most important things that happen to us, happen inside our heads while we have them firmly buried inside a book…I don’t know if these are the most important things, but they are certainly the most interesting.

Why would you read the same book again?

I often hear people saying that they don’t re-read books, either because they don’t see the point or because they don’t want to waste time on a book that they’ve read already when there are so many other books to read.

Like any serious reader, I too wonder how I am ever going to find the time to read all the books I want to read. I know that I could read so much more if I didn’t keep going back to the books I love. But then I like going back to them.

I fall in love with a book every once in a while and it feels like such a tragedy when the book ends. I can’t bear the idea of putting it aside and never looking at it again. I have to read it and relive it a few times before I feel like I have experienced it properly.

I have been re-reading books ever since I was a kid. Whether it was Little Women , Anne of Green Gables, King Solomon’s Mines or Around the World in Eighty Days…Each of these books was a world that I enjoyed tramping about in and I was always game for a return trip.

The list of books on my ‘to be re-read’ list has morphed and changed over the years but the list itself is a constant. At the moment, it includes books like Arthur C Clarke’s Space Odyssey series and several of his other books, Aldous Huxley’s Island, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, David Grayson’s Adventures in Contentment and so on…

And then there are writers like James Herriot, P G Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett, Agatha Christie and Helene Hanff, all of whose books I will happily read again and again.

I go into a familiar book knowing exactly what happens and that is the very thing that makes it so much fun the second time around. I enjoy the book more because I don’t have to worry about what happens next. I can focus on the characters and the dialogue and enjoy the words and the world that they help create.

Perhaps I should admit here that people and characters matter more to me than plot and action. Maybe that is why I like memoirs so much. And my favourite kind of novel is one that has characters with depth and substance, characters that I can truly care about.

While I loved a lot of the books that I read as a child, the first character that I fell in love with is Elizabeth Bennett with Mr Darcy being a close second. I must have been around fifteen years old when my great-grandmother gave me her copy of Pride and Prejudice and told me that it was her favourite book.

It didn’t take me long to understand why. I have read it many times since and yet each time I am caught by the characters and their world and I read feverishly until I stop myself and try to go slow in an effort to make the book last a little bit longer.

The next book that I fell that crazy in love with was 84 Charing Cross Road.. The author, Helene Hanff used to re-read books all the time. She says in The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, another beloved book, that,

“While other people are reading fifty books, I’m reading one book fifty times. I only stop when at the bottom of page 20, say, I realize I can recite pages 21 and 22 from memory. Then I put the book away for a few years.”

I’ve had to put 84 Charing Cross Road away for that very reason. But I enjoyed living in that book. It was my first encounter with someone outside my family who was as crazy about books as we were.

Reading a book is more than just entertainment or a way to pass the time. It is an experience and some books are so good that I have to go into them again and again just to live in that world for a bit.

But it is true that all books are not as good the second time, even the well-loved ones. Some books hold a magic for us because of a particular time or place in our lives when we read them, a magic that cannot be recreated a second time.

I think this is particularly true of the books we read as children. I discovered this recently, when I tried to read King Solomon’s Mines. I have such fond memories of this book and I was sure I would enjoy reading it again…I didn’t. I couldn’t even finish the book. And it made me feel awful, like I’d gone and messed up a wonderful memory.

And then there are books that suffer from over-exposure like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. I love these books and I have read them both a couple of times.

But I’ve seen the movies so many times, thanks to my kids who were obsessed with both of these series and would watch nothing else for months on end that it is going to be several years before I can go back to them and find them fresh again. But I know I will go back to them someday and that I will enjoy them thoroughly.

If I love a book, I will read it again. I have to read it again. Not doing so is like throwing away a treasure after holding it just once. Or to quote Anne Fadiman who put together a whole book called Re-readings,

“…the reader who plucks a book from her shelf only once is as deprived as the listener who, after attending a single performance of a Beethoven symphony, never hears it again.”

I’ve been away for a while…

But now I’m back and I hope to get back to posting regularly again. The last book I read was Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Cracked From Side to Side. It is a Jane Marple mystery and it was entertaining but nothing very special. I finished it few days ago and I have been reading magazines ever since.

I get Intelligent Life on my iPad every month and I haven’t read the last three issues. So I’m reading my way through that. Then I’ve been reading a bit of National Geographic. They started a series this May called ‘Feeding 9 Billion’ about food and agriculture and the desperate need to rethink the way we grow food. I am finding this particularly interesting.

Then there’s the fact that The New Yorker has opened all it’s archives to the public for the summer. This is stuff that usually only subscribers get to see and I’m not a subscriber. I like the magazine, but I don’t want to subscribe because I doubt that I would have the time to actually read it. I like what I have been reading and it is a nice change of pace, but no matter how good the magazine, it is still a bit insubstantial when compared to a book.

I picked up a new book yesterday. It’s called Dearie and it is a biography of Julia Child written by Bob Spitz. I’ve long been interested in Julia Child. I’ve read My Life in France and I really enjoyed it, so this is a book I very much wanted to read.

I’m about five chapters in and I find it interesting, but it was slow going at first…Much as I tried, I couldn’t get all that interested in the story of Julia’s grandfather’s life and then her father and her mother. Most biographies are written like this and I understand the importance of the story of the family that a person comes from, but it honestly bores me and I often find myself skipping ahead to what I think of as the real story.

Anyway, the real story is about to begin, so I will get back to my book. Happy reading, everyone.


Monday Musing: Reading outside your comfort zone…

This is not something I do, really,  because books for me are comfort and I hate tinkering with that. But there is a case to be made for reading outside your comfort zone. It is entirely possible to pick up a book that you wouldn’t normally read and end up loving it. How else do we discover new writers and new perspectives on life, stories and characters. So maybe this is an exercise that we should all indulge in every once in a while.

My comfort zone can be summed up as biography-memoir-history-science-travel with an occasional dose of fantasy, science fiction and the classics. It is a fairly broad area of reading, as you can see, but it is mostly non-fiction. I should read a bit of fiction every now and then, particularly contemporary fiction.

Ever since I started this blog, I have been reading other book blogs, listening to podcasts about books and reading and generally trying to be more aware of all the new books that are being written instead of following my time honoured policy of staying in the past.

And I have found that there is a lot of interesting fiction being written these days. There seem to be several new novels that don’t stick to the old rules and the old genres. So many of them have the sort of characters or plots that I have never come across before and I am intrigued. I have been looking these books up and adding them to my TBR pile. I may not like them, in which case I will abandon them without a qualm, but I do want to try reading a few of them.

The only one of these that I have read so far this year, is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It is a romantic story and it reads almost like a rom-com and it is as such, way out of my comfort zone. I only picked it up because the character of the protagonist is so very interesting and I’m glad I did, I enjoyed the book. I didn’t love it, but I liked it enough to enjoy reading it.

So maybe I should try reading a few more contemporary novels.

Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Connecting with the Author

Back when I was a child, I used to read books with no real awareness of who the author might be. As I grew into a teen I began to wonder who was writing these books that I enjoyed so much. What sort of people were they? What was it that made them want to write books? What had been the starting point of this particular book and so on.

I was very curious, but there was no real way to answer to these questions. Authors in those days were not the celebrities that they are now. The author biographies that came with the books were no more than a paragraph long and author interviews were nowhere near as common as they are now.

All I knew about Agatha Christie, for example, was that she had written 76 books of detective fiction, her most famous characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, she was married to an archeologist and she was made a Dame in 1971.

There was no way to find out anything more. So the books pretty much had to stand on their own, which is, of course, a good thing. I don’t think the author’s personality or their life experience should have a bearing on a book.

But what bothered me was that there was no way of connecting or engaging with an author and learning about their inspiration or their writing process…unless you could make it to a book signing somewhere, which wasn’t even a possibility for a lot of us.

Things are, of course, very different now. Most popular writers are celebrities and a simple internet search will tell you a good deal about any writer. Most writers have their own websites, they are on facebook and twitter and connecting with an author is easy enough.

I hear a lot of author interviews and author talks on the radio these days and I find that hearing an author talk about a book enhances my experience of reading it. An author will not make me like a book that I would dislike otherwise, but hearing an author speak about a book that I love, makes my experience of the book even better than it would have been otherwise.

And sometimes, hearing an author speak is enough to make me curious about their books at least. I heard Niall Williams on the BBC the other day. I had heard of him before, but I had only a vague impression of the kind of books he wrote and I had never really bothered to find out more.

What I heard was an interview about his latest book, History of the Rain. He talked about his book with so much charm and such engaging honesty (there is a personal story that inspired the book) that it made me want to go get the book right away…

This isn’t the first time that I have felt like this. There have also been instances where the author has turned out to be more charming than the book. Nonetheless, I think connecting with the author adds to the entire experience of reading.

The Classics Club

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Revisiting the Classics) I have been reading King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard. I’m only a few chapters into it, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly. And I can’t help thinking that I want to read more of these books.

A few years ago, I bought a whole bunch of classics, thinking that these are books I want to read again and get to know properly. They have sat on my bookshelves since then, untouched, sharing space with the Children’s Classics versions of themselves.

I wanted to read them, I still do, but I simply haven’t picked them up. There are just too many other books to read. I hear about something new every day and I am always adding to my collection of books…

It has become obvious that I will not read any of the classics that I want to read, unless I make a conscious decision to do so. And when I say classics, I’m not talking only about the books that I read as a child.

There are others that I have long been curious about, books that I have heard a lot about, but never read, like The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and many, many others.

These are all books that I want to read, but I just don’t seem to think about them when I’m trying to decide what to read next and I can’t help feeling as though I’m missing out…

A fellow blogger recently told me about The Classics Club,

This is a online community intended to inspire people to read and blog about classic books. You can join the community any time you want. All you have to do is commit to reading at least 50 classics over the next five years. Which books you choose is entirely up to you. The idea is to make a list of 50 books (or more if it suits your fancy) and read them alongside whatever else you normally read.

Now I have never been one to force myself to read a book. I read books because I enjoy them, not because I want to learn something or because I want to prove something. I am not fond of reading challenges and lists of “must read” books. They make reading feel too much like work.

But this is a list I want to make and read my way through. There is a long list of books on the classics club website that you can choose from, but there is no need to select titles only from that list. You can add and subtract as you wish so long as you keep to the fundamental goal of reading classic literature.

Fifty books over a five year period is just ten classics a year in addition to everything else I want to read. That is perfectly doable. And it is nice to be part of a community that values good writing. It is, after all, the quality of writing and the universality of a story, an idea or a character that makes a book a classic. 

I have been working on my list since yesterday and I will put it up here as soon as I’m done. If any of you want to join in, please let me know.

What is more important, character or plot?

The question posed on Booking Through Thursday this week is: 

Which is more important when you read — the actual story or the characters? I’ve read books with great plots, but two-dimensional characters, and I’ve read multi-layered characters stuck in clunky stories, and I’m sure you have, too. So which would you rather focus on, if you couldn’t have both?

If I read a novel, I want to read about interesting characters, not just good or bad, but characters who could very easily be real people, with depth and complexity. No matter how good the plot is, it can never compensate for the lack of well developed characters.

An intricate plot is a wonderful asset for a novel, but for me, reading has always been about the characters. If I don’t connect with the characters, if they don’t seem believable to me, I won’t get very far with the book. Besides, the very worst thing is a story in which the characters are doing wildly improbable things or making decisions that are way out of character just to keep the plot going.

The ideal situation of course is to have a story in which plot drives character and character drives plot…But I’m the sort of person who would happily read a plotless wonder just because I like the characters so much.


The thing about e-books…

I love physical books and a lot of the books I buy are second-hand, so each of them is unique. I’m fond of book covers and I like the sight of my bookshelves. Each of my books carries the memory of the time and the place where I first encountered it, the time that I first read it, what I was thinking and doing at the time…it’s like a piece of my life and it has a unique personality.

E-books on the other hand…they are extremely convenient.  I love that I can buy a bunch of new e-books and not wonder where in the house I am going to keep them. I love all the options my e-book reader gives me to change the background and the font, the ease with which I can copy and preserve my favourite passages and so on.

But the problem is that none of my e-books have any personality. They are all locked into a single device and much as I love my smart-phone, I cannot look at it and feel connected to all 750 books on it.

How many books do you read in a year?

I have no idea. I have never made a list or counted the books I read. I could easily do that but I doubt that it would really be reflective of my reading because I would only count the books that I finish.

And I spend quite a bit of my reading time dipping into books and reading them in bits and pieces and not really bothering about finishing them. I finish all the fiction I read. I finish all biographies and memoirs.

But there are books on science or travel or maybe a collection of essays or letters that I tend to only read a chapter or two at a time. I finish them all eventually, but sometimes it takes years.

Then there’s all the time I spend re-reading my favourite books. It wouldn’t do to count them over and over, now would it?

I always want to read more than I do, but I’m not all that concerned about the number of books I read. I want to remember which books I read and what I thought of them, that is the why of this blog after all, but I don’t think the number matters.

What prompted all this reflection is this community I came across on LiveJournal called 50 book challenge, the idea being that you set out to read at least fifty books a year. That doesn’t sound like a lot of books and it isn’t, really. But I guess the kind of books you read would determine how quickly you get to that figure.

Do I read at least fifty books a year? I have no idea. It would be interesting to find out, but I don’t think I would set myself fifty or any other figure as a goal. I don’t do well with reading goals. I am very much a mood reader and I like to take my time and savour the books I read and setting a goal would just get in the way of that…

A Wodehouse binge…

I have been on a bit of a Wodehouse binge for the last couple of days. Part of the reason for this is that I have been reading P G Wodehouse : A Life in Letters and falling ever more in love with this charming, genial, incredible genius of a man.

I always thought he was a brilliant writer, but it was when I read Performing exchange of letters between him and Bill Townend who was a close friend of his from the time they were in school together…that I began to truly appreciate the man.

Townend was a writer too and most of the letters are about the art and craft of writing, characters, plot development, language and the creative process. But there is a lot of Wodehouse the man, there as well and as I read that book, I found that I liked and admired him probably more than any other writer and definitely more than most people I know.

So reading this book has brought on a lot of nostalgia. That combined with the fact that I have recently acquired several of Wodehouse’s earliest books…the ones written before 1923; they are all past copyright and in the public domain now…has led me on a binge. I am reading all of Wodehouse’s school stories.

I began withTales of St Austins which I hadn’t read before and then I read Mike at Wrykyn, over three sleepless hours last night and now I’m five chapters into Mike and Psmith. Both of these are books that I have read before, but that does not in way diminish my enjoyment of them now.

Mike is likeable anyway, but Psmith is a wonderful character. Everyone talks of Jeeves and Wooster, but Psmith is by far my favourite Wodehouse character. He is intelligent and quirky, witty and irreverent and quite mad, while somehow also being a good person and a loyal friend. The more I read about him, the more fascinating I find him.

I think the best thing you can say about a fictional character is that you wish that person were real and that he or she was your friend. Well, I wish Psmith was my friend…

How important are the reviews of a book?

I’ve never cared much about reviews. I pick up a book if it looks interesting. I read the synopsis, I read the first couple of pages and if the style of writing appeals to me, that’s all I need to know.

I got a goodreads account recently and I was idly looking through the reviews of a couple of books that I’ve wanted to read and a I came away feeling thoroughly confused.

How is it possible that a book is brilliant, passable and painful all at the same time? How can one reader’s opinion differ so dramatically from another?

I looked around some more and I found that there are books that I adore that quite a few people have thought were awful. Someone said about Pride and Prejudice that, “This book is quite possibly the most insipid novel I have ever read in my life. Why this book is so highly treasured by society is beyond me. It is 345 pages of nothing.”

Pride and Prejudice is most definitely not an insipid novel. But perhaps it wasn’t the right book for this person. Not every book is going to appeal to everyone. There are all these award winning novels, for example, that a lot of people think are brilliant…I keep hearing about them, but I don’t pick them up because I am not particularly fond of fiction. If I were to push myself to read these books for whatever reason, I probably wouldn’t like them (I’ve tried this a few times, so I know.)

So getting back to the question about the reviews, I look at these one star, I absolutely hated the book, kind of reviews and I cannot understand why that person bothered to finish the book in the first place.

Fifty pages in and I know for sure whether I like a book or not. If I don’t like it, I stop reading. There are so many, many books out there, waiting to be read. Why plod through a book that you don’t like and then waste more time writing a scathing review?

So yeah. I don’t pay attention to reviews…


How do you decide what to read next?

This is the question of the week on Making up for Monday, a week long meme hosted by An Avid Reader; A Wannabe Writer.


How do I decide? It depends on my mood. I always have a long list of books I want to read and I keep adding to it. So I look through my TBR list and pick something that I’m in the mood for.

I usually have a minimum of three books going at a time because there is no telling which of them I will want to pick up at any given time.

I am also not particularly driven to finish books. I read most books at one go, but there are others that I like to dip into and read a little of and then I go on to something else.

I guess it helps that a lot of the books I read are non-fiction and can be read in bits and pieces…

I am not comfortable reading time sensitive books. The very fact that there is a deadline by which I need to finish the book is likely to rob me of my enjoyment of it. That is why I don’t do so well with library books. I often end up returning them unread or half read.

Musing Mondays: I never write in my books…


Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by Should be reading.  here’s what I’m thinking about this week.

I don’t write in my books and I don’t like it when people do.  I know that is the way some people like to read. They like to underline things and make notes and comments in the margins…The fact that they write in their books does not mean that they don’t care about them.

In fact there are several people famous for their love of books who’ve been known to do it. Helene Hanff and  Anne Fadiman, two of my favourite writers of books about books have happily confessed to writing  in their books. Hanff even used to write in her library books…

To each his own and all that, but I hate it when I find books that have been written in, underlined and highlighted. I like to leave a book exactly as I found it. Any thoughts I might have about the book will go into my journal and any passages that I want to remember, I will copy but never will I take a pencil to my books.

What about you?


I have a book hangover…

meme 22

I finished reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin three days ago and my head and my heart are still in 1865. I have abandoned the other two books that I had picked up around the same time that I picked up this book and I am unable to read anything else.

I started reading The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin and I am just not able to connect with the book despite the fact that Anne Morrow Lindbergh is one of my heroes. The book is written well and at any other time, I’m sure I’d enjoy it. But it is just not speaking to me right now.

I hate being between books…

Do you have to like the characters in a book to enjoy reading it?

Not necessarily. But I have to like someone. It is hard for me to read a book or watch a movie in which the characters are difficult to like.

People are flawed, sure and they make mistakes. I like characters that are flawed. It makes them more realistic. But they need to have some redeeming qualities, something that makes me connect with them.

I remember when I was reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson…Jobs is not a likeable person by any means and Issacson is quite honest about that. But his mind and his genius are so fascinating that I couldn’t stop reading.

I was thinking about this because I’m currently reading a book in which I am not quite able to like or connect with any of the characters and while there is still enough in the book to make me keep reading, I feel none of the eagerness to get back to reading my book that I have when I’m reading something truly fascinating.

It is not possible that every book I pick up will be fantastic. I know that. But I guess I don’t see the point of reading a book that I am not enjoying…

the thing I miss most about being a teenager

One of the things I miss most about being a teenager is staying up at night to read books. I would stay up until two or three in the morning, just me, my reading lamp and my book and I would read for hours on end. I loved the quiet of the night and the freedom to ignore the world and disappear into a book.

There were many nights like that, but there is one that really stands out in my mind. I must have been about sixteen or seventeen. I was in high school and I had an exam the next day. I had stayed up to study, but math was boring and I was not in the mood for it. So I put it aside and picked up a book.

It was The Gold Bat, one of P.G Wodehouse’s school stories. I only intended to read one chapter, “just to get a feel of the book,” I told myself. But it was so engaging and so very funny that before I knew it, I was deep in the book with no hope of turning back. It was around eleven in the night when I picked it up and two in the morning when I finished. I didn’t get anywhere with the math, but I went to bed feeling ridiculously happy.

There is nothing stopping me from doing it now other than the fact that my thirty plus year old body cannot cope with the lack of sleep the way my teen age self could. So I don’t really do it. But now that I think about it, it is not the night-time reading that I miss…it is being carefree enough to be able to read for hours whenever I wanted.


How many books do you read at a time?


Making up for Monday is a weekly meme hosted by An Avid Reader; A Wannabe Writer.

The question this week is: “How many books do you read at a time?”

I am incapable of sticking to one book at a time. I usually have two, three, sometimes as many as five books going on at a time. I’m not sure why I do this…maybe it is because I am interested in so many different things that is hard to stick to reading about just one.

Besides, reading is a very mood inspired activity for me, so reading two or three different books at a time gives me a book for each mood and each time of day. I have no difficulty keeping the books straight because I read non-fiction most of the time.

It does sometimes happen that a book gets abandoned because I got too interested in the other stuff that I was reading, but if I liked it at all, I will get back to it and finish it.

And then again there are times, like now, when I come across a book that is so good that I cannot imagine reading anything else until I finish it. That book at the moment is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals.

Do audio books count as reading?

This was the question asked on an episode ofBooks on the nightstand that I was listening to yesterday (episode #263 aired January 15th 2014). The hosts of the show (Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman) were of the opinion that it does.

According to them, listening to an audio book counts as reading because while you may not be physically reading the book, you hear and absorb it exactly as the author wrote it. You hear every single word exactly as it was written and you have an opportunity to visualize the places and the characters in the book the same way you do when you read it yourself.

The voice of the narrator may add or detract something from the experience, but otherwise it is the same as reading the book. I tend to agree. But I’ve never quite taken to audio books, perhaps because I am so used to reading them myself that I haven’t really tried any other way of doing it.

My kids listen to audio books all the time and they seem to enjoy it. So I thought I’d give it a shot. After all, I listen to the radio while cooking and working around the house. Why not listen to a book instead?

So I got my first audio book. It is ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan. It is a book that I’ve wanted for a while and when I found that it had been read by the author himself, I knew I had to have it.

I’ve been listening to it off and on for the past month and It is…a very different way of experiencing a book. The reading is excellent and because it is Pollan himself, his words carry the same conviction that they would on the page, if not a little more.

I’m enjoying it thoroughly. But I cannot help feeling that I would absorb more of the book if I was reading it myself. Maybe that is habit talking or maybe it is because I only listen to the book while I’m doing something else, so it never gets the kind of attention that it would if it was a regular book…