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How I Read

March 9, 2010

Simon published a great post today entitled “How We Read…Assumptions & Expectations.” Since I briefly mentioned this in my Sunday Salon, and have been replying to people’s comments, it’s been on my mind. Also, I’m reading two very different novels right now, Carpentaria by Alexis Wright and The Bostonians by Henry James, and it’s interesting to see how I mentally shift depending on which one I pick up.

So, I’ve decided to, erm, borrow Simon’s inspiration this morning and discuss how I approach books and reading. I might as well begin with fiction, although I’ll be addressing nonfiction later!

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Simon says*

Having said that fiction is fiction I am now wondering if I read it differently from others out there. I don’t want to be sat reading a book and be aware its fiction.

I definitely love being swept away by a novel, being caught up in the lives of the characters as if they’re real people, even myself, and being breathless with anticipation of what will finally happen, as if the ending could go a myriad of ways, rather than being firmly in the hands of the author. I can suspend my sense of disbelief well enough that even rereading books, I worry that maybe the good ending will change or hope that something will avert disaster this time (I do this when watching movies too). I’m not sure if that makes me odd, or if everyone worries when rereading their favourite Austen that maybe this time, Fate will keep the couple apart. I think that’s the power of a traditional novel, and it’s certainly how I’m reading The Bostonians. I’m on tender hooks right now, knowing that I’m one hundred pages from the end and I have no idea how Verbena’s life is going to turn out!

But there are other novels, written in what I think of as ‘modern’ or experimental styles, that I enjoy just as much, although the writing/structure/etc. is constantly reminded me that I’m reading fiction. I think Rushdie’s like that…he’s one of my favourite authors, but I don’t recommend him indiscriminately the way I do Austen. Because Rushdie’s books always have a self-consciousness about them, a playing with language and metaphor and story, that is different from traditional story-telling. I don’t think it’s a more ‘advanced’ style (have y’all ever heard my rant on the idea of ‘progress’?), but it does have different aims. And as a reader, I approach a Rushdie novel, or for the classic example a Woolf novel, in a different way. They can be just as vivid with their characters and their settings and they can have plots that keep me turning the pages, but the book never simple dissolves into its story. I am always a Reader with this kind of fiction. That’s what Carpentaria is like for me; I’m truly enjoying the book, and I find it fascinating, but the writing keeps me on my toes. I have to use different parts of my brain, and I have to work with the book in order to get a good reading experience out of it, rather than leaving most of that in the book’s hands.

I don’t mean to imply that these are two perfectly distinct styles of fiction; they’re definitely more of a continuum. And I certainly believe that traditional-style novels can be just as thought-provoking, intelligent, subtle, and full of marvelous writing…this isn’t a question of lesser/greater or highbrow/lowbrow. And it’s not a question of genre; much of the fantasy I read sweeps me into the world immediately whereas novels set in present, everyday life can be completely experimental. It’s just a difference in approach.

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While I can love fiction written in either style, I do have to be careful. Usually, I can tell from the first few pages of a book which direction it’s headed in, and I prepare myself accordingly. But if, from any prior knowledge, I think a book is going to be more traditional or more experimental, and then it proves the opposite, my brain can have a hard time overturning that original assumption. So I end up cranky with the book! Usually, in those instances I persevere for a hundred pages or so, and if I still haven’t switched reading gears, I set it aside until I’m in the mood for it (this usually only takes me reading one novel that matches my current mood before I’m ready to dive in again).

I do hope that I’m making sense! I’ve never taken a literature course at the post-high school level, so these musings are completely amateur-ish, and I’m sure you lit people are cringing at my misapprehensions or rolling your eyes at my obviousness or something like that.

To go on about assumptions, I don’t usually have high expectations about a book from other people’s gushing reviews. I know that everyone has different taste, so I tend to take that with a grain of salt. Instead, I end up with high expectations either when I’ve read and loved a different book by the same author or when I’m in love with the book’s premise (maybe a plot or setting for fiction, a topic or approach for nonfiction). There’s nothing I can really do about the author thing, and honestly my very favourite authors rarely disappoint. But the way I try to get around expectations caused by premise is to know as little as possible about the ‘blurb-y’ bits of a book going in. So, I might put a book on hold because another blogger said it incredibly beautiful imagery. But I’ll try to skip over the bits in the review that discuss any kind of plot, or even characters. And I never read the publisher’s summary anymore for fiction. (I do for nonfiction but usually only the first paragraph or so.)

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For nonfiction, my approach to a book depends on whether it’s ‘harder’ or ‘softer.’ Once again, I’d like to emphasise that there’s no value judgement in those terms! For me, soft nonfiction includes memoirs, travelogues, personal essays…the kind of nonfiction writing that focuses more on the author’s experiences, wherein I don’t expect to see a bibliography or an index or footnotes/endnotes. My enjoyment of these books is affected by how much I can empathise with the authors, and I tend to read them with my critical faculties suspended. Of course, if the author begins to express opinions that I strongly disagree with, those critical reasoning abilities will turn themselves back on and fume, and once I’ve finished the book, I evaluate the author’s worldview and biases before forming a final opinion, but while I’m actually reading a book, I’ll assume that the author’s right until proven otherwise. I think this is because softer nonfiction focuses so much on how an individual filters the world, and I read it accordingly. I also expect the writing in soft nonfiction to be strong; it should entertain me, or be elegant, or have some other quality I can admire.

For harder nonfiction, where the focus of the book isn’t the author but some other topic, I am a much harsher critic. I constantly question the sources of an author, look for logical fallacies in their reasoning, and basically break out all of my liberal arts training. I find it difficult to take hard nonfiction seriously if it doesn’t have at least 30 pages at the end of non-textual information (i.e.: that bibliography, index, etc. that I mentioned before). I’ve noticed that I’m especially critical of biographies; if an author appears too gushing over her subject, I usually just abandon the book. Also, I can get a lot of enjoyment out of reading a hard nonfiction book written by an author with completely different opinions than my own. The reading becomes a kind of intellectual debate, and I love that. I’m less concerned with the writing style; I can accept a bit of dryness as long as there’s intelligence as well (though of course, a more engaging writing style will make me love the book rather than merely enjoy it).

So whereas in soft nonfiction, my reading experience depends largely on the author’s personality and writing style, in hard nonfiction it depends upon the author’s scholarly rigour and good writing is a bonus. Once again, different parts of my brain become engaged depending on what type of book it is. Right now, I’m reading a memoir/travelogue (Kinky Gazpacho by Lori Tharps), and I’m delighted with it because it’s humorous and Tharps has brought me into her mindset, so that I’m experiencing the events in the book as if I were her. However, I’m also reading what I expected to be a hard nonfiction book (The Undressed Art by Peter Steinhart), and at 100 pages in, I’m seriously considering abandoning it, because the author is making too many questionable claims on very shaky evidence. I had expected the focus to be on drawing and art, but Steinhart keeps bringing science into it, and there are some definite whiffs of evolutionary psychology that make me doubt everything else he’s arguing. In my mind, he’s lost his credibility, and thus I’ve lost interest in the book.

It’s even easier for me to make assumptions about nonfiction than fiction, since flipping through the book, or reading the author bio can give away quite a bit. I rarely confuse a softer or harder nonfiction read (although sometimes essay collections can walk that line), so my brain is in the appropriate gear from the get-go. That being said, my expectations about the topic itself (which is more important for me in nonfiction than fiction) can sometimes be frustratingly misleading.

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I’ve already talked much too long about my own reading process!* But I find the topic fascinating, and it’s one that I’d love to see more bloggers discuss. After all, I’m sure that there are as many styles of reading as there are readers! So it’s over to you! Either comment on Simon’s post (I’ve already subscribed to those comments in anticipation of a lively discussion), which is full of wonderful thought-provoking questions which I’ve mainly managed to ignore in my own ramblings, or comment here. Do you prefer a certain style of fiction or nonfiction, because it matches your default reading mode? Can you handle different styles with ease? (My own default mode is on the traditional side of fiction and the harder side of nonfiction, although I find it relatively easy to switch over as necessary.) Do you have a completely different reading experience than my own and suspect that I’m full of hogwash? Or do you prefer to not worry about the analysing your reading, and just get on with it? Basically: how do you read? Inquiring minds wish to know!


Footnote One: Hee hee. I must have the sense of humour of a ten-year-old, because that kind of made me giggle. Sorry Simon!

Footnote Two: Is anyone else haunted by the ‘Word count’ display WordPress shows you while drafting a post?

55 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 5:44 am

    What an interesting post. I have never actually thought about me as a reader. I definitily like the idea of fiction not making me aware it is fiction and losing myself in the story as if it was real. Though sometimes if I am really lost in a story and desperate to know what happens, I have been known to look at the end to curb my impatience. I know that is so bad!
    You mentioned how you don’t like to read the blurb and I realise that I cannot read a book without it. I cannot enter a new book blind, I have to have some idea where the story is going, otherwise I get really panicky.

    I don’t mind reading different styles at the same time, but at the moment I am reading two books set in Alabama and finding it rather nice to be read two books with similarities. I find I can easily swap between the two.

    • March 10, 2010 3:26 am

      >>Though sometimes if I am really lost in a story and desperate to know what happens, I have been known to look at the end to curb my impatience. I know that is so bad!

      My mom does that too! I resist the urge, but I understand it. :)

      That’s interesting you don’t like starting books blind! I never thought of it from the other side, of needing to know where the author’s going with something.

  2. March 9, 2010 6:09 am

    Great post Eva though you have put my thoughts to shame hahaha.

    I think how we react with fiction (and non fiction) is really interesting and the assumptions that we make without realising we do it until a book suddenly points it out to you and then you take a step back.

    I can’t read more than one fiction book at once though, never have been able to!

    • March 10, 2010 3:27 am

      Whatever Simon! ;)

      I can read multiple fiction books at once, but they can’t be too similar. So, say a classic and a mystery, or a US-set novel and an international one, etc. I usually have three going; two in paper and one audio. Keeps things fresh for me!

  3. March 9, 2010 8:17 am

    Thanks for the peek inside your head, Eva! Definitely gives me a topic to ponder for myself! I think I’m pretty aware of what initially draws me to a book, but the reading experience itself is something I’ll consider more thoughtfully, now!

  4. March 9, 2010 8:22 am

    If we’re voting: I always know that the fiction I’m reading is fiction (and can nevertheless be immersed in it). Books, fiction, or otherwise, are written by writers. I have no default reading mode. I read the book in front of me.

    • March 9, 2010 3:41 pm

      Ditto all this. I can be immersed, but I’m always also going to be immersed in the fact that I’m experiencing a piece of art that is made of language, and the words and the form they’ve been shaped into need paying attention to.

      • March 10, 2010 3:27 am

        Interesting y’all! I wonder if we’re talking at least a bit at cross-purposes? I mean, I don’t literally forget that I’m reading, since there’s the physicality there to remind me. I just mean, that knowledge moves into my subconscious.

  5. gaskella permalink
    March 9, 2010 8:24 am

    Gosh what a great post. Although I think about what I’m reading much more as I get older, I still like to read first, think later.

    • March 10, 2010 3:28 am

      Thanks Gaskella! I like to read first and think later too. :)

  6. candletea permalink
    March 9, 2010 8:58 am

    Your post is very interesting. I think I can agree with your division of non-fiction books. Doing so, I have to admit that I’ve always found it hard to get into the books you term “modern” or “experimental”. I think I might have to try again sometime. Maybe it’s because they seem to require you to remain more focused and I might have to try reading them when I don’t have any required reading waiting to be done. Also, I just think I like the more traditional sort of fiction.

    As to non-fiction, I wholeheartedly agree about the harder kind. I find it that much more difficult believing such books since I started university. I think I can never read any of those books anymore without checking references and the bibliography. Sometimes the (in my opinion) blatant inaccuracy will make me feel very annoyed at the book and I’m often unable to finish it.

    I don’t think I could ever go into a fiction book without having read the blurb. I am with Vivienne in that I get all panicky when I don’t have a general idea of where the story is going. Hm, that might also explain my struggles with the more modern genre?

    • March 10, 2010 3:30 am

      I think I’m a bit pickier about experimental fiction that traditional. But the authors that do it well, I love to death!

      How interesting that there are two such distinct schools of thought on blurbs. :)

  7. March 9, 2010 9:05 am

    Very intriguing thoughts…Hmm, I know I do that same thing, in which on rereading a book (or rewatching a movie) I imagine a different ending. Sometimes I even implore the gods (LOL) to give the characters one more chance to get it right!

    I am totally immersed in the characters’ lives when I read (that is, if I’m enjoying the book), and if I’m not there, in their lives, that usually means I’m really hating the book and plodding through it because I don’t like to give up on a book.

    • March 10, 2010 3:30 am

      Oh, the determined plod. I’m trying to break myself of never abandoning a book, but I still do that plod too often. ;)

  8. Alex permalink
    March 9, 2010 9:06 am

    Hi Eva! You statement about losing interest when the ”author appears too gushing over her subject” rings especially true. I’m currently reading “The Life of Charlotte Bronte” by Gaskell and feel I’m being too soft on her because of the time when it was written and other attenuating circumstances. On the other hand, in Lovell’s “The Mitford Sisters” it was impossible to escape how she tries hard to justify why two of the sisters became hard-core fascists and how that didn’t make them such bad people after all. Like you, I’m also a very critical non-fiction reader.

    When it comes to fiction I’m more black-or-white: I read for entertainment and every book is rated on that scale. This means that certain books are like Picasso to me: I acknowledge his genius and great contribution to art history, but cannot enjoy the art itself. In that category I place, e.g. Virginia Wolfe (sorry, I know you love her), Calvino and Satre. I’ve tried them and now stay away because I don’t enjoy myself. It also means I can *equally* love and enjoy, for instance, soft YA (Hunger Games, When you reach me), high-fantasy (Songs of Ice and Fire) and canon-books (100 years of solitude, Grapes of Wrath, P&P). This usually confuses people!

    I’d also like to hear how your reading evolved with age (also gaskella’s point). Do you feel the difference? I do a lot.

    • March 10, 2010 3:33 am

      Hi Alex! Yeah-I think that’s why it’s rare for me to enjoy biographies. I’m usually alienated by the biographer’s tone, lol. I want to read Hermione Lee’s book on biography, since I loved her writing about Virginia Woolf. And one of Byatt’s novels focuses on the subject: The Biographer’s Tale. It was really neat!

      I understand what you’re saying about fiction and don’t think it’s confusing! :) If you’re in it for the story, a lot of classics are just incredible.

      I’m still pretty young, but comparing myself to my teenage reading, I’m more open-minded about experimental books. But I’m also much pickier about writing.

  9. March 9, 2010 9:45 am

    I’m with you…I like to suspend my belief when I am re-reading an old favorite. Even when I know the ending I can still imagine or hope that things will be different. I thought I was the only one who did this but I think so many of us do or we wouldn’t re-read fiction at all?

    • March 10, 2010 3:33 am

      Maybe that’s the difference between rereaders and those who don’t enjoy it!

  10. March 9, 2010 9:47 am

    Very interesting post indeed. As a former English major, I used to have anxiety when reading, even a really good novel, about an unpcoming exam or paper. Now, I find that I pay more attention to the little details and overarching themes if I am going to discuss the book in book club. Otherwise, I do not notice any pattern to my reading off the top of my head. I will think more on this and see if I notice anything else.

    • March 10, 2010 3:47 am

      That’s why I never took a lit class! lol I didn’t want to make novels work. :) Book blogging has made me pay a lot more attention to novels, which I think is a good thing!

  11. March 9, 2010 9:55 am

    I think I’m always aware that I’m reading fiction even when I’m immersed in it. Perhaps because I often read genre fiction with scenarios that don’t exist in real life – but this never bothers me. I definitely know what you mean about an author’s words disappearing into the story and how some authors just don’t do that – but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example I am always thinking while reading Virginia Woolf, and as I was reading To the Lighthouse recently I was really noticing how differently I read her books as opposed to a light urban fantasy or even most “literary” fiction. In most cases writing doesn’t actually matter all that much if that author is a good storyteller and it can vanish into the story, but the fact that I’m so aware of precisely what she’s written and paying close attention makes it a more valuable experience than with some other books. This has happened with others, she just springs to mind at the moment.

    I vary in my critical approach to non-fiction. I do give memoirs a lot more leeway than I give more factual non-fiction. And I’m extremely critical of history, especially popular history. I like books to have footnotes (or endnotes) so I can check up on things, an intensive bibliography, and an index for future reference. And forget medieval history – I know too much and I’m way too opinionated at this point to accept whatever I read, I always have extensive responses to it. ;)

    Great, thoughtful post, Eva!

    • March 10, 2010 3:48 am

      See, I can escape into genre fiction without a problem! As long as the fictional world is consistent, it doesn’t matter to me how close it is to my real world.

      I can imagine reading medieval history wouldn’t be that relaxing! When I’m reading international relations stuff, I get into HUGE mental debates with the authors. lol

  12. March 9, 2010 11:15 am

    Eva! What an amazing post. And you claim you don’t do enough “wrestling with literature” – look at yourself, lady!

    I curse you because I really want to write a whole other post of my own about this, but I’m super-busy this week & don’t have time. But this is such a fascinating subject. Traditional or experimental, fiction or non, the number-one thing that turns me off a book is bad or “meh” writing, and I too fall in the camp of “always conscious of the writer / asking myself what the writer is up to behind the scenes.” But luckily for me, my definition of “good writing” isn’t limited to a single style, genre, or goal – I can enjoy and find fascinating a wide range of modes of writing, although sometimes I do put a book aside for later if I can tell I would enjoy it but it’s not jiving with my current mood. I do also require some intellectual stimulation – I want a book to challenge me in some way, whether that be with its ideas, its style, its structure, its depiction of relationships…as my friend Alan says, I’m a pretty “thinky” person, so if a book isn’t making me wonder anything or think about anything in a new way…it’s probably not that exciting to me. I like for there to be some things about a book I don’t understand right away – that I need to think over for a while before I feel I’ve processed them. My favorite mood while reading is “intrigued.” :-) Probably why I go for so much experimental lit, but I DEFINITELY find that there are equally fascinating & intriguing things in all branches of literature.

    Thanks again for the great post & discussion!

    • March 10, 2010 3:50 am

      Aww-thanks Emily!

      I really hope you have the time next week to do a post on the topic; I’d love to see your thoughts. :)

      >>But luckily for me, my definition of “good writing” isn’t limited to a single style, genre, or goal – I can enjoy and find fascinating a wide range of modes of writing

      That’s exactly how I feel! I love books to challenge me, but maybe 5% of the time, I enjoy something mindless. Usually when I’ve just finished reading some crazy intense read and just need a laugh.

      I love how you call your mood intrigued too; I usually feel that way. My most common reason to abandon a book is that I’m bored and it’s too obvious. lol

  13. March 9, 2010 11:19 am

    I like to read a real mix of fiction, I haven’t thought about it much till your post but with ‘real’ fiction where you can escape into another world, I lose myself and read a lot faster. With this type of book it isn’t as necessary for me to read every single word.
    With what you class as ‘modern’ fiction I read slower and pay far more attention to the details, I love it when the writer addresses the reader. For me these books are often about craft – so therefore I will pick up on bad writing, grammar etc. With real fiction the story is more important than the writing (Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a prime example of this).
    In non-fiction I tend to give up on ‘harder’ non fiction far more easily, if it is too dry it just reminds me of studying and reading for my course or work. In softer non-fiction I like to google images of the people/ place/time described. I want to be able to have a visual experience to go with the text and may often google other information about the subject.

    • March 10, 2010 3:51 am

      I google images too (with fiction and nonfiction)! I also love to listen to traditional music on Youtube from whatever country I’m reading about while I’m reading. I’m such a nerd, lol.

      I agree-traditional novels are faster reads for me than experimental ones.

  14. March 9, 2010 12:16 pm

    Wow. His post, as well as yours, has got me thinking. Hmmm. This may take a bit, but I can’t wait to explore this more and see what, and how, I will share my thoughts.

    • March 10, 2010 3:52 am

      Can’t wait to see your eventual post! :)

  15. Sarah permalink
    March 9, 2010 12:48 pm

    I agree the level of immersion in a book varies, a more playful or postmodern writer like Calvino, Rushdie or Winterson obviously wants you to be aware of the language and the fact you are reading a story as well as being swept up by the plot.

    Carpenteria is an interesting example of this, as Wright delibrately tells the story without a linear narrative or concrete ideas of time and space, reflecting the Aboriginal oral tradition. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it as I thought it was remarkable!

    • March 10, 2010 3:56 am

      Oh yes; I love how Wright completely went for her non-Western tradition, although I can understand why she had some problems getting it published. ;) I’ve finished Carpentaria now, and I’m so glad that I read it, even though it took some work!

  16. March 9, 2010 1:39 pm

    I want to reread over this post and leave a more thoughtful comment later, but for now the answer to your second footnote — YES! !!!

    • March 10, 2010 3:56 am

      LOL-isn’t it evil?! I always start worrying when I hit about 900, and soon I’m way over 1,000 and realise I need to stop typing.

  17. March 9, 2010 1:54 pm

    What you say about feeling cranky when your assumptions are overturned gives me some insight into why my college-age students sometimes react in a way that has heretofore puzzled me. I think as you get to be a more experienced reader, you grow to enjoy having some of your assumptions confounded. It’s new, it’s different, it’s not the same old thing you read in the last book!

    • March 10, 2010 3:58 am

      I’d like to clarify that I love it when a book’s characters or plot or setting is different from my expectations! (For example, Origin completely surprised me, in delightful way.) My problem comes if I’m mentally prepared for a more traditional or experimental book, and then it proves to be the opposite. And usually within 50 pages, I’m back to being happy! ;)

  18. March 9, 2010 2:54 pm

    So interesting… and such fun to read how other people approach reading. I haven’t really thought about it. I might have to spend a few minute pondering this, since I do spend a considerable amount of time reading and choosing what to read next, and thinking about what I’ve just read, and so on. I ADORE reading fiction and have to remind myself to read non-fiction (although I do enjoy that as well). I too somehow think that perhaps the ending could go any number of ways, and stay on reading with bated breath, until the ending is revealed. Love that. I like to wait long enough between rereads so that I can only remember that I liked the book, but not *why*. Then it becomes such pleasant anticipation: I know something good is coming, but I don’t know what it is, but I don’t have to worry that it’s bad, because I already know it’s good! :)

    • March 10, 2010 3:58 am

      I do hope you post on the topic! :) I enjoy rereads when I only hazily remember the book too, although some novels I’ve reread so much that’s impossible! lol

  19. March 9, 2010 3:47 pm

    Great post! I recently had the distinctions between how I read fiction and how I read nonfiction brought home to me when I attempted to listen to a couple of nonfiction audio books. Couldn’t stand it! Made me realize that when I read fiction, I am perfectly willing to be guided through on someone else’s voice, creation. But with nonfiction, I most often seek to absorb the factual content at whatever pace suits me regardless of the pacing of the text. If that makes any sense. Much food for thought here.

    • March 10, 2010 3:59 am

      What a great way to phrase it Frances! I strongly prefer fiction audiobooks to nonfiction as well.

  20. March 9, 2010 4:28 pm

    Wow, what a post – and don’t feel bad about the length, obviously we all love it :)

    I would agree with you on the fiction – even with fantasy books (probably why I love urban fantasy so much!). I just get sucked in to the story and suspend all disbelief and forget that it isn’t true. I find it hard a lot of the times to get ‘out’ of the story when the book is over, too many times I end up sad and melancholy because I get so sucked in to the mood of the book.

    With non-fiction I definitely prefer the hard non-fiction and I concur that it should certainly have at least(!) 30 pages of notes and indexes and bibliographies! If there aren’t a lot of facts or it is a wild guess then I want the author to tell me, but if I see them making outrageous conclusions and pushing facts and arguments that just don’t stand up the book has got to go. (I say that, but who am I kidding, I can’t ACTUALLY get rid of a book I haven’t finished, instead it gets moved to the ‘black hole’ shelf to be picked up ‘later’!)

    • March 10, 2010 4:00 am

      Thanks Amy! :) When I finish a breath-taking novel, I feel bereft…I almost have to go through a mini-grieving process. So I sympathise!

      I’ve gotten better at abandoning books as I get older, but it’s still difficult. I find it easier to abandon nonfiction than fiction, though.

  21. March 9, 2010 8:34 pm

    I’ve never noticed the word count function in WP, but I predict that from now on I will be unable to tear my eyes away from it. :P

    I definitely have had the experience of being frustrated with a book due to its not aligning with what I expected it to be about. I think that’s why I got fed up with We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the first time I read it. I was expecting something like a haunted-house version of I Capture the Castle (which I had just finished reading), and it was, um, it wasn’t that. At all.

    • March 10, 2010 4:02 am

      You’ve never noticed it?! I think it taunts me. lol

      Having read and loved both We Have Always Lived in the Castle and I Capture the Castle, I can understand how those expectations would have been crippling! Although, how cool would a haunted-house version of I Capture the Castle be?! You should write it; I’ll read it.

  22. March 10, 2010 12:34 am

    i guess i had never thought about what kind of path i follow during my reading process till i read your interesting entry…and in the end i just came to know i am already not much into non-fiction reads hence giving a lot of space for fiction. And while reading fiction, i feel the best way is to lose yourself being absorbed by each page. And it is an amazing feeling at the end of a book when you come into your senses and see how much you gain from the book itself.

    I noticed you talking about Rushdie’s books. I always heard that he really writes well (his fame is out of question) yet i never dared to read one of his books till now. But his Midnight’s Children is in my reading list for 2010. Hope i can get the utmost taste while reading.
    Nice post as usual…

    • March 10, 2010 4:03 am

      >>And it is an amazing feeling at the end of a book when you come into your senses and see how much you gain from the book itself.

      So true! :)

      I hope you enjoy Rushdie. :D Midnight’s Children is one of my favourites, but I think it as the 3rd or 4th Rushdie I read, so I was prepared for his style at that point. If you want to ease into him, I read his YA book Haroun and the Sea of Stories earlier this year and really enjoyed it.

  23. March 10, 2010 11:27 am

    What a great post! I really identify about what you said about expecting one type of fiction but finding out it’s another. I also get grumpy at my books when that happens. But in my experience, it usually takes much longer for me to return to the offending book. Sometimes like a year. Perhaps I hold grudges? ha.

    • March 11, 2010 12:13 am

      Thanks Marie! :) lol-I hold grudges to certain authors more than certain books. Especially the ones I was forced to read in school & didn’t enjoy!

  24. March 10, 2010 5:59 pm

    What a thought-provoking post Eva! I have to admit that you are like a billion times more intellectual than me in your thinking, though. I just read, I don’t know if I switch my thinking between one type of book and the next. Maybe I should start, lol. Maybe that’s why I have such trouble with the classics… because I try to just read them for the enjoyment of reading and often I find they are too difficult to get into for me to really enjoy? I don’t know. But you’ve definitely made me think. :)

    • March 11, 2010 12:14 am

      Ohh…maybe the pacing is an issue for classics? Like, your brain is expecting things to move a bit faster? Or maybe you just haven’t found the right classic authors for you yet! ;)

      (I’m totally ignoring the intellectual comment, because I disagree. :p)

  25. March 11, 2010 4:27 pm

    Hi Eva,

    I’m still digesting this wonderful post. However, I note that you’re reading Carpentaria. That should give you an insight into the kind of things that I encounter daily in my work as an anthropologist working with Aboriginal people, as well as a taste for life in the Northern and Central Australia.

  26. March 16, 2010 6:41 pm

    I am not feeling I can coherently put my reading in a comment. I may to take this in a post.

    I find I’m pretty picky about my nonfiction. I like footnotes and tend to dislike memoirs or, as you say, biographies that are too close to the subject. That said, if it’s well done, I love it. For fiction, I tend to read modern stuff really fast but when it’s an older book, I love to space it out so I can enjoy it for longer.


  1. How I read – evolving habits through the years « Gaskella
  2. Reading Ruminations « Novel Insights
  3. BOOKS AND MOVIES » The Sunday Salon – March 21, 2010 (The “bookish-links-for-Saturday-on-Sunday” edition)
  4. One Thousand! « A Striped Armchair

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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