Thursday, 1 February 2018

Books

How do you read? Not so much which kind of books - although that comes into it - but how deeply and with how much concentration do you read? At a recent supper party there were nine of us (me making the odd number) and the talk turned to books when I casually mentioned, that when I passed his house, I frequently saw one of the guests sitting in his window seat reading, usually in the morning. I was absolutely not making a value judgement, the man is retired and he can please himself what he does and when he does it. So books it was. The fellow guest, call him Roger for now, said that he enjoyed leisurely mornings after walking his dogs and reading was his preferred occupation. As it is mine.

“What is it you read”, someone asked. "Any favourite authors? What are you currently reading?”
The sort of questions anyone asks when it comes to discussing books.

“I hardly know,” Roger said. "I just read and read, very fast, one book down and another started. I really am a very fast reader. Ask me what I’ve read and I find it hard to tell you.” I know from discussing books with Roger’s wife that both of them tend to go for thrillers, fantasy and blockbusters. Roger is an intelligent man, has successfully held down an important and well-paid job in business, and is an active member of the Valley’s End community. 

Everyone at the table tried to keep a straight face as Roger was digging himself deeper and deeper into his reading matter hole. I saw an embarrassed smirk appear on the face of his table neighbour who is a writer herself. His wife, sitting opposite me, was trying to shush him, obviously feeling that he was showing a side of himself that didn’t reflect well on them. Roger plowed merrily on, oblivious of the reaction around the table.

When Roger stopped to draw breath, the host’s son, who had cooked us an excellent meal providing equally good and plentiful wine, (possibly partly the reason for Roger’s lack of inhibition and poor self-awareness) intervened by saying “I am a very slow reader, very slow indeed. I even leave gaps between books. Mind you, I usually remember what I’ve read; titles, authors, content, message, if there is one, and the impression the book has left on me. But, as I said, I am very slow about it."

Lucky you, I thought. Although by no means a Roger type of reader, I frequently forget the names of authors, titles of books, although I can usually put a story to the memory of a book. Since Beloved’s death I have been an avid reader, even more so than previously, going for slighter and lighter stories rather than sad and tragic ones, and yes, I have, at times, been reading the comfortable kind of thriller which demands little attention. The only thing I insist on is that the writing is good and the editing has been done carefully. And I can foresee a time when more nourishing fare will be on the reading menu again. In fact, my diet is already becoming more substantial.

What’s the point of reading like Roger? Surely even a rubbishy novel has to offer more than instant gratification, a mere way of passing the time? Too many writers produce the same story over and over again, no wonder the people who read them can’t keep track. I went into a bookshop the other day, the first time since I have had the cataracts removed from both eyes, just “to have a look”. I was planning to get rid of some books, not buy more, but, alas, that’s easier said than done; I bought a small pile, not a blockbuster among them. The gift of renewed eyesight is just too precious to waste it.

By the way, I was also going to express my appreciation of my hosts at this dinner: they asked me on my own and did not feel it necessary to provide me with a table partner. Thanks very much!



27 comments:

  1. Good hosts who knew you well enough to know not to give you a partner at table.
    I read light stuff, like Wodehouse, when I want to relax or am tired, but otherwise I like a book I can get my teeth into. I read Allan Massie's Bordeaux series recently...a bit between the two...as the subject interested me, well written, but marred for me by a couple of stock characters.

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  2. Why were they embarrassed for Roger? I bet what he reads stays in there for a while, rattles around, and comes out casually in conversation. He sounds fun!

    What do you read?

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  3. I read quickly. The last John Sanford book, I read in the evening and then n the bed in the morning, and I was done. I would certainly not say that I dont remember whatmy last book was, but I read ALOT and much of it is mindless drivel which I love at the time but doesnt necessarily stay with me forever, ya know? I often read mystery and science fiction series so when I'm onto the next book I may not remember everything that happened in the previous book six to eight mnths ago, but the character is still a friend.

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  4. I have to say that reading is one of my favorite pastimes... usually in the afternoon by the fire and at night before bed. But I'm not good at remembering authors or even titles unless it was an especially good story. And I'm pretty eclectic and will read almost anything - nothing too graphic and no horror. I do prefer fiction to non-fiction... although historical fiction is a favorite. A book will call to me much more than the TV.
    I am glad you enjoyed your outing.

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  5. I thought when you first mentioned being the ninth person, it was loaded with something to be said. While I am truthful about the different types of books, I may be a little careless about the quantities of a couple of a couple of book genres I consume.

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  6. I read very quickly. The depth of my reading depends on what's going on. When life is very busy, I read for escape - mysteries, mostly. Names of characters are frequently lost, but the plot remains in my head, and there is often a sloshing about in there regarding theme and resolution. Reading is so wonderful because of the different ways we can go about it.

    The dinner party sounds delightful. Roger is probably a lot of fun!

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  7. This is such an interesting post! I love to read, from early childhood the little black printed letters forming words and stories fascinated me. And of course there is still plenty to read - if you know what! Today with so many new books written by new writers there is often disappointment. I have piles of books at home that I bought and that are full of blablabla that does not appeal to me at all and I got tired of them before getting to the end. Some of them even made it to number one at the bestseller list, and I sometimes think, well is it just me not liking this book?
    I love books that cause me to turn pages eagerly, that I look forward to go back to them when I have again time to read, books with stories and content that stay with me - at least for some time, and books with perfect language, for me either in English or in German. I live in Israel and speak Hebrew and read everyday stuff, reading a book is harder, so here my husband jumps in and reads for me, which I love.
    Today I find myself returning to books I love and reading them again, and yes again. I try to pass on the love of reading to my grandchildren, which is not an easy task. Computer, tablet, Internet, cellphone - they prefer these. My own children always where fond of books and they still read as adults as time permits.

    Now good or not so good ones, I hope there will be always books, I mean pages of paper, with letters printed on them - I am afraid that is not guaranteed at all.

    Happy reading!

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  8. I gallop through murder stories and good science fiction for sheer enjoyment but they must be in English.
    French , Dutch or Spanish is O.K for information, anything in Italian or Swedish can be guessed at and Hungarian or Basque ignored. None of which matters, just the enjoyment.
    Poor man must have wondered why everyone had become so judgemental!

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  9. I am a moderate reader (maybe 20 books a year) and rarely remember authors and titles and it is so embarrassing to me when I talk to a good friend of mine who reads a lot and remembers everything. I hate that I cannot discuss the book after it has been put down. But it is what it is and does not stop me from reading. I read lots of stuff and great of variety, but do miss those books that grab you by the collar and do not let you go.

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  10. I also love to read. Fiction, non-fiction, cook books, books on gardening, craft books, books on natural healing, and spiritually uplifting books. Since losing my dear husband 5 years ago, I've been reading a lot of the latter in my list, especially before sleep. I love having my own 'real' books. I underline, write in dates and thoughts of my own, some are read over and over again. Books are wonderful!

    All this talk about books makes me want to visit the library, which is close to where I live, is free and a joy to visit. Fiction sounds good to me, some good romance, mystery, adventure, whatever strikes me when I read the titles.

    I also Blog 4 Books, I choose books from their lists, read, write a review and keep the book. Works for me.

    How nice of your hosts to not give you a partner. At Christmas I was the odd lady out, the rest were couples, but we are friends, and I felt like I was with family.

    Have a nice weekend dear Friko ~ FlowerLady

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  11. I say, three cheers for Roger! For him reading is probably a good escape, maybe even a guilty pleasure at times and we don't always share things that we think might make us look silly in front of others. He was honest, upfront, obviously into it.

    I'm a mixed reader. I get on a roll and read lots and plenty and all sorts of stuff (but ask me my favorite and it always comes down to mysteries set in England, old or new). I was surprised when I did my end of year book post that I read more fiction than I thought. But I have a huge pile! Some I whip through, some take much longer and in both cases, it's OK. You might be interested in the post I just got up today -- I took the NYTimes Book Review questionnaire they give their authors each week -- and that tells how I read!

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  12. I am an avid reader but find myself to be rather distracted lately, blaming it on the weather and the recent loss of my sister. How's that for sibling rivalry? Still finding something to blame on her. :( At any rate, what I AM reading at the moment (or will be in the moment I turn off the computer) is a book we will be discussing in my garden club. "Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart". It is, thus far, a lovely memoir that you might enjoy.

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  13. It’s depends on the book how I read. Sometimes I speed read and sometimes I savor every word. I am in a book club which makes me read books I would never read by myself. I like that.

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  14. I'm not a particularly fast reader as in speeding through the pages (I will sometimes reread a passage if I particularly liked it) or as in finishing a book in a timely fashion. it depends on how busy I am, how tired I am as I only do my reading in the evenings unless I don't feel well or my body has rebelled and forced me on the couch for a day of rest. or if it's frigid outside. I'm currently reading Dan Brown's new book Origin which I find follows his basic formula and doesn't need a lot of thought. Previous to this one I read one of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books as I am working my way through that series, before that a two book science fiction series. before that, The Orphan's Tale by Pan Jenoff, a story about two women who end up in a circus during Nazi Germany in order to hide from the Nazis and before that the 4th and 5th books by a new author that continue Millenium series of the girl with the dragon tattoo. So you can see, my reading is all over the place. I tend to read more women authors than men though lately it's been about 50/50. I don't have a favorite genre at this time in my life besides just fiction.

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  15. I very rarely read fiction these days. On Jeanie's recent post about books, I listed what is in my current pile, and thought I might be thought pretentious: but it's simply what I enjoy. One of the best (which I'm reading now for the second time) is Haruki Murakami's Absolutely On Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa. The lone fiction piece in the pile is The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer: a first novel that's quite well-written.

    I'm quite a re-reader, generally. Books that resonate in a special way deserve re-reading, and because I also will leave notes in margins, it can be quite interesting to see what I thought about a given book five years ago. With those favorite books, my visual memory often kicks in, and I can see certain passages o their page. It makes it easy to find them again when the page number's included in the memory!

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  16. I like real books that I can savour - if a book smells bad to me I won't read it. However, I read a lot on my Kindle which is convenient and irritating. I miss not being able to turn back a few pages to refresh my memory so am returning more and more to proper books. I have many reference books and really cannot see the point of having those stored on a Kindle.

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  17. I've never had the best memory in the first place but I have always loved to read. I would read anything in front of me from cereal boxes to encyclopedias. Unless it was a real page turner that gripped me (and even then I might not remember the title or author) they remain pretty fuzzy until my memory is jogged by the plot. I love TV and movies--same thing. If I remember anything it will be the plot. Unlikely I will remember character's names, titles, or locations--but I am more likely to remember what a character was like.

    I am probably very similar to Roger. Including the fact that, it's not that I'm not self-aware, it just doesn't bother me admitting facts about myself. If it doesn't bother me, why should it bother anyone else? I admire people with excellent memories but I don't judge them better than those of us with poorer memories. We are all so different...and we all have different gifts. :)

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  18. Nice to hear from you again, friend Friko ... One fact about myself is when reading a book, I always read the last page first cuz I wanna know ... smiles ... Anyway ... Love, cat.

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  19. Aren't we all entitled to form our own reading habits, and read for our very own pleasure? If Roger enjoys reading as he does, then he is very welcome to it - it wouldn't be for me, although some (especially my sister) keep questioning my reading habits and shaking their heads at some of my choices.
    The good thing is: There are enough books for all of us, catering to all tastes and habits.
    With my eyes worsening, I can not read as much as I used to. There is the very real possibility of surgery on the horizon for me this year. I'll "see" (!) how it will play out after that.
    As for needing substantial reading material, I long for a real good non-fiction book, one that truly captures my mind. Have not had that in a while.

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  20. Hi Friko - if I read like Roger .. I'd forget everything I'd read. I have to make notes, and highlight things ... I'm a slow reader ... I'm trying to change that - not sure how it's going to work. I even gave up reading one ... so that will return to the library - thank goodness I didn't buy it.

    In the end I kept most of my books - I tried to 'lose' some before I left ... but many were reference or educational type books. It does sound as though your friends were glad to have you with them - and that's what counts ... I bet the meal was pretty special too ... take care and with thoughts - Hilary

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  21. I'm somewhere between Roger and the host's son. I read quickly but not just anything. But I've always had a problem with recall, and when asked to name favorite books, movies, bands - I often draw a blank.

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  22. I go through stages in my reading, but lately, I have not found myself reading any books worth remembering. I recently bought a fluff type novel on clearance at a book store. I surprised myself by reading the entire book. Everything about the book was predictable and done in a style I call patterned writing where an author follows a set pattern for all of his or her “hit” books. The books are quickly produced, and most likely quickly read, and forgotten even more quickly.

    I’m always searching for a good book. What are you reading?

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  23. "The gift of renewed eyesight is just too precious to waste it.

    By the way, I was also going to express my appreciation of my hosts at this dinner: they asked me on my own and did not feel it necessary to provide me with a table partner. Thanks very much!"

    This post was valuable reading for me. As usual with you. Glad to see you in life....

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  24. I'm more and more fussy. I kick disappointments to the curb quickly after 50---100 pages in. I'm an avid library fan and input multiple lists of desires on to the library website and they email me when in or will deliver them free because of age and disability.

    Currently reading Liz Moore's The Unseen World which is hefty but brilliant. Savouring. I was married to a Roger who gobbled up books like candy and couldn't name them or tell you their content.

    XO
    WWW

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  25. What I read depends on what part of life I'm in. When I worked alone and solved problems every day for 35 years, I read mysteries, Christie, Doyle, and Bertrand Russell. When I went into hospital to remove a tumor from my heart 12 years ago, I asked my wife to bring me Robert Benchley books --oldest first ("top shelf", I said,"bound in red buckram." My strongest needs in reading depend on what's happening to me and which authors can make the world less baffling.

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  26. Nowadays I read in piecemeal. Chapters at a time over days, sort of like a radio programme. I've never had the ability to read 'straight through'
    However, once in a while I realize I have in front of me a TGR "thumping good read" that I will want to devour in one sitting. It is a rare delight, like a slot machine paying off.

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