QUESTIONS for the Avid Reader

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QUESTIONS for the Avid Reader

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Jan 16, 2019, 2:34pm


Well here we are half way through January - far enough in to get an idea of how it's going.

Many of us start the year with resolve and reading plans. If you did, is it working out? Let us know the highs and lows, the pitfalls and progress.

My resolution - get into the correct year.

Editado: Jan 16, 2019, 3:32pm

I was going to resolve not to set any unrealistic goals for myself. But then I realised that that would be self-defeating. :-)

I’ve got a start on a couple of reading ideas I wanted to explore, but I’m not really showing any signs of being a reformed character where library management is concerned.

Use the public library, read your library books first
- moderate success. I’ll probably have to take at least one of the current batch back unread or extend it.

Clear the TBR
- Only one read from the pile so far, and that was a Book Club book. But I did read the two books that I got as Christmas presents.

Cut down on buying books
- I’ve bought and read two e-books and ordered four physical books since the start of the year. That is probably fairly restrained for the time of year (I didn’t stay in York for the book-fair), but it doesn’t sound much like cutting down...

>1 SassyLassy: get into the correct year - That was so much easier in the old days when practically everything we did involved a handwritten date. By the end of the first week of January you had messed up so many cheques that you got into the habit of remembering what year it was...

Jan 16, 2019, 7:20pm

So far I am doing quite well on all the reading goals I set.

Have at least 50% of my reading be books that I already own
- I have yet to read a borrowed book this year. I know this isn't going to last, but making a concerted effort has been a nice way to start the year.

Increase the amount of non-fiction I read, aiming for at least 10% of my reading to be non-fiction
- It is early days yet, but so far I am hitting this goal as well.

Read more of the ebooks I own (20% of my reading in that format would be nice)
- This one is definitely a work in progress. I got a Kindle Paperwhite at the beginning of the month, and it has been helping with this goal, as I find reading the eInk screen to be much nicer than reading the same ebook on my phone or my iPad.

Be more mindful about my book acquisitions
- I won't say I am not going to buy/obtain any books this year (that would be ridiculous), but I am trying to keep it much lower than in previous years. So far, things are going well. I am participating in #theunreadshelfproject2019 on Instagram, and they have monthly challenges. January was no buy, no borrow, and I have been sticking to that. I've extended the "no buy" aspect of things to also cover freebies, and the one exemption to the "no borrow" I have made for myself is I can borrow the book my book group is reading in February.

Like I said, the intention with this isn't to stop buying books for an extended period of time, but more to kickstart the other reading habits/goals I have made for the year. If I'm not buying or borrowing books for a month, my only choices are to read what I own, or to not read. And I am not going to just stop reading.

Jan 16, 2019, 4:26am

No particular goals other than to read down more of the books I already own, rather than placing impulsive library holds. So far, not so good—of the four books I've read or am reading in January, three were library ebooks and one a friend I swap books with just mailed me.

But oh well. I don't believe in quotas or mandatory reading (unless it's for work) or keeping count or any other "should" type of activity... All reading is good reading if it's books I want to read.

Jan 17, 2019, 7:48am

I do not have reading resolutions per se (besides the usual one to read my own books) but I am planning to finally catalog my library this year. But then I had been planning to do that since I moved 8 years ago... :) Maybe this is the year.

Jan 17, 2019, 12:15pm

I'm struggling with this right now! I don't make a lot of reading plans or resolutions, but I do like to try to get to about 20 books from the 1001 books to read before you die list (about 25% of my reading) and I always end up joining group reads on LT. Once I join a group read I feel strongly compelled to complete it, but sometimes in a way that keeps me from the reading I'd rather be doing. So this year, I'm trying to lose the guilt about group reads. It's hard because often I feel like I'm letting others down if I bail on a book, but I'm just going to try to strike a good balance.

A good example is a group read I just joined of Jill Lepore's THese Truths. After starting this 900 page book, I realized it just wasn't something I wanted to invest all that reading time in at this point. So I am going to bail on it and maybe come back to it when it suits my reading mood.

Like ANnie, I'd like to get back to cataloguing my books. I use my catalogue all the time, but for some reason, stopped updating it last year. I'm really upset with myself because it will be such a pain to go back and update it all, but I really want the record to refer to.

Editado: Jan 17, 2019, 1:50pm

I do not have any 'reading goals' and like lisa, do not believe in 'should' when it comes to my reading goals. I'd like to read more than 50 books a year, but if I can't and I don't, I will not feel lilke I failed. I will say that I enjoyed my time reading, and am just blessed if I have more time!

Love this All reading is good reading if it's books I want to read.

Jan 17, 2019, 2:50pm

My only goal for the year is to make a dent in my TBR pile. By the numbers it looks like I'm doing that (4 out of 6 books were owned pre-2019) except two of those books were acquired in December.

I've also accumulated a CR wishlist which is in addition to my other wishlist (mostly made up of pending releases of series I'm reading or authors I like). Of the four books I bought on the weekend, only one of them was on my wishlist. And neither of the books I've borrowed was on my wishlist either.

The TLDR version is that I don't like my chances of reducing the TBR pile by much!

Jan 17, 2019, 4:10pm

No reading plan as such, as I know it doesn't work for me. But I do want to try to read library books, books I already have and e-books as much as possible. This is because in the last couple of years I've tried to get rid of quite a lot of my old books (please don't throw me out! It's just that I realised that there were books I was only holding on to because they were books, rather than because they meant something to me, and I decided I didn't want to give them the shelf-space any more - being a booklover doesn't mean that I have to love ALL books), and it turns out to be quite difficult. Charity shops don't exist here (Belgium) in the way they do in the UK, and whilst I can take my English books to a big expat charity booksale twice a year, it's really hard to get rid of books in other languages (and even if they're books I don't want, I can't bear just to throw them out). So, I plan to think more before buying, and end up with fewer that I don't want to keep.

Oh, and all this getting rid of books has left my catalogue in a sorry old state which I'd really like to sort out. At some point I also stopped catalogueing my new acquisitions too, and I would love to be up-to-date.

Jan 17, 2019, 9:08pm

I'd like to get back to reading "the years of my life," that I started last year. (Reading from my TBR piles books published in each year of my life, starting with the year I was born). I did get through 1950-1953 last year. Now though, all my physical books are packed away, so I can only read ebooks and library books. So no goals until I can unpack my "real" books.

Jan 17, 2019, 2:08am

I'm always trying to read more of the classics and I am still wanting to read more "globally." I started reading Anna Karenina quite a while ago, so I guess my Russian tome helps kill two birds with one stone. My other reading resolution is NOT to buy and drag more books home from the library where I work!

Jan 18, 2019, 7:20am

I've got my three standard goals - read a bunch of books (I made my goal 200 this year, after blowing away 150 last year and the year before. Yeah, I read a lot - though some of them are very small books), discard a bunch of books (I made it 60, after successfully discarding 50 books last year - this is books I've read and am either certain I never want to read again or I have them as ebooks), and read Books Off My Bookshelf (BOMBs). That goal is also 60, after beating 50 last year.

Number goals work for me - lists don't. If I say I'm going to read these particular books they immediately become immensely uninteresting and everything else becomes much more attractive.

Broken down, I'm supposed to read 5 BOMBs and discard 5 books each month. However, I was in the middle of a clunker at the turn of the year (The Ne'er-Do-Well, by Rex Beach) and it's taken me half the month to finish it. So my BOMB and discard count so far is 1, and everything else I want to read is a reread. Another goal I set (because it really helps with the BOMBs) is that I needed to read a BOMB for every reread, in advance. I'm slightly abrogating that rule for a while, and allowing myself to use up the 14 rereads I'd paid for last year and didn't use (that is, I read 14 more BOMBs than previously read books last year). I may not hit my interim goals in January, but I expect I'll catch up soon.

Jan 18, 2019, 10:22am

Thus far my goal to read randomly and rashly is proving to be highly successful. It's a stretch goal I know, but hey - I'm the girl for the job.

A 6-book haul from the secondhand charity bookshop when I'd just popped in for 'a quick look' in my lunch hour was a great start to the rash side of the goal. I've read one of them already, but a flurry of orders I've had in at the library for ages have all come in at once so I'll have to park the rest of them for a while. Which brings me nicely to the random part of the goal, as they were ordered from a random perusal of the ridiculously long wish list I keep on Amazon to keep track of interesting book bullets from here and reviews in the weekend papers.

>6 japaul22: Jennifer, you're point on reading group guilt is exactly why I can't join a RL reading group, even though I love the idea of them. I'd find it very hard to read something I'm not enjoying or isn't my genre just because someone else has picked it as a group read.

Jan 18, 2019, 3:15pm

>12 jjmcgaffey: I'm glad to know I am not the only one who cannot do goals based on lists of books. I mean, I have a list of books I own and have not yet read, but it's less of an "I will read these books" list than it is a "needed a way to count the unread books to get a number" list.

Really, the only book list I have managed to stick with consistently is the list of books my IRL book club is reading, and that's because I want to be able to intelligently participate in our monthly discussions. And I am only in the one book club; any more than that and I think my list aversion would sabotage my reading enjoyment efforts.

Jan 18, 2019, 4:03pm

Let's see:
  • Reading Owned-But-Unread books: I've read eight so far. Not bad! (Though many have been novellas or short novels)
  • Reading in non-English: I've read books in several languages, though not in any of my weaker ones. Must do better.
  • Reading globally: UK, Netherlands, USA, Sweden and Nigeria, so far. I can do better, though.
  • More by women: 7/13 items read so far by women. On track!
  • More genre fiction: only one, I'm afraid. Must do better
  • Genres outside my comfort zone: none so far. Must do better.
I'm getting there ;)

Jan 18, 2019, 6:40pm

I don't have any "firm" plans, but I like to vary subject matters, writers' countries of origin and languages, etc. And I try to avoid skewing too male and Western. I'm happy with my mix so far this month. I do want to read more poetry, as well as books written before the nineteenth century. I've just finished a collection of poems by Al-Ma'arri, a medieval Arabic poet, which ticks both boxes. Although the translation was too modern to stretch my language skills (One of the reasons I wanted to read more older literature was to get more confortable with "archaic" language.), I discovered a new (to me, obviously!) writer and expanded my knowledge of Arab literature and culture, which is a start.
Because last year, I started relying mostly on my local public library and I live in France, I read very few books that weren't written directly in French or translated into French. This year, once the Scribd subscription I was promised as a Christmas present comes through, I should be reading more books in English.

Editado: Jan 18, 2019, 9:16pm

>9 rachbxl: No worries! I have had to weed my home collection several times. I like to hand off my books to good homes and to those who want to read them. I still own too many books though, including lots of e-books.

My reading goals include re-reading a lot of the Newbery books I enjoyed in the past. I also made my booklists for the 2019 Challenge group, which really forces me to read some things I would not have picked up myself. I am also doing ROOTS again this year, to attempt to read my own books instead of always selecting the exciting new ones that I come across.

Jan 18, 2019, 12:10am

>1 SassyLassy: No goals. Zip. Nada. It's going well ;-)

Jan 19, 2019, 3:04pm

Its winter and I read more in January and February and so I count on making a good start to the year. I have three reading categories and being an organised reader I have a list of the first forty books I want to read and I have managed to read seven so far. Not too bad

I have read 2 books and 2 plays from my Tudor category, 2 science fiction books and one book off my shelves.

Jan 19, 2019, 4:37pm

Goals -

read 100 books this year.

half of them to be from my own shelves (and then removed from the house!)

abandon any book that does not grab me in the first 50 pages.

try not to bring more home than I weed out

have read 6 so far, 3 of them from my TBR shelves.
Sadly, 2 were very underwhelming. I usually screen better than that!

Jan 19, 2019, 4:37pm

>18 avaland: Me too.

Jan 19, 2019, 4:58pm

I'd like to raise a question about reading books with more than one point of view. It seems to me I've read a lot of books using this technique in the last few years, and while it can be done really well, I find

1. Why is being used more frequently? (if it is - this may be my perception based on the books I've read.) But if it is being used more frequently, why? Is it a reflection of our culture being more fractured, bopping from one thread/topic to another on the internet? Why do authors use it?

2. I'm rather tired of it and sometimes resistant to it. I get all involved in one thread of the story, and the author leaves me at a cliffhanger, then I have to start over with a new story (or new view on the same story.) And then it ends on a cliffhanger, and I have to get into another story, or back into one that has receded in my mind. What kinds of stories is this technique well-suited for?

I recently read The fruit of the drunken tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras and thought this was an excellent use of the technique. Set in Colombia in the 1990s (mostly in and around Bogata), this tells the story of two individuals in two families. The Santiagos are middle class, and their youngest daughter, Chula (age 7 at the beginning of the novel) tells events from her view. The second family lives in a slum and is not given a last name that I remember. Petrona, the oldest daughter, 13 at the beginning of the novel, is a maid for the Santiagos and the only member of her family with a paying job, and tells the story from her point of view.

I liked seeing the same events from two points of view, and understanding the internal thinking and perspectives of two different characters, and the relationship between them.

I reread The Babylon Eye by Masha du Toit while visiting my dad, and discovered after reading the first two sections of the next novel, The Real, that I didn't want to reread it. I need to think more about why, but I'm curious about what others think about the first two questions.

Editado: Jan 19, 2019, 10:16pm

>22 markon: Interesting observation and question. I don't think I've read anything in the last year or two that has used that technique, but it does niggle a bit at my mind. I'm going to have a think and return.

ETA: Back. It seems to be a "thing" now, especially in YA. Perhaps the lists below might remind some of us what we have read and help stimulate the conversation.... (interesting advice about when the technique is most effective).

Jan 19, 2019, 10:20pm


>13 AlisonY: this is a lovely goal. My long term plan is to get here, but would require some brain rewiring.

So, my goals.

Ok, background: I have a list and I'm hoping to follow it (Two parts: James Baldwin and Rome to Renaissance. See my thread) There are three main strategies. (1) the list should be underwhelming, or appear so. This way I can have a bad month and potentially regroup. (2) the list should be self-reinforcing. I mean reading one book should put me in the mindset to want to read the next one (3) bail option should always be open. This should be fun and if the first two things workout, it likely will be. Curiosity is natural and can be manipulated to a degree. : )

Q1 answer: Too early to know. For Baldwin my goal was a biography I finished this am. So, so far all good. I'm interested, but his writing better draw me in. Will see. Rome really starts in February. My only goal this month was to finish the New Testament. Done - but momentum came from last year.

Jan 19, 2019, 10:23pm

>22 markon: I'm mixed on this. It means the author has to repeatedly draw me in, like a short story collection. Can be really annoying, but can also be terrific. Depends on execution, of course.

Jan 19, 2019, 10:33pm

Question 1:
I don’t usually set reading goals. I tend to get distracted by shiny new things, whether they are recommendations that I pick up from everyone’s threads, or suggestions that I see in some of the publications that I read. I do have a few specific books on my shelf that I’d really like to get to this year, and maybe I should have a goal to read more from my shelf...but then we run into those shiny new things, and my goal is out the window. I’m just going to read what makes me strings attached.

Editado: Jan 19, 2019, 11:38pm

I had the usual urge to finish off some I am well into. My work routine has changed a bit and lots with it, and less access to tv etc. So I hoped I'd be reading more -- but no, not so, really. Often that wish to read more - really its like a kid wanting a chocolate swimming pool or something, a bit freaky maybe. I was thinking of recent years reading - and one very lovely patch was when I was reading Tolstoy's Wise Thoughts and Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - and Dickinson, Rimbaud, Blake and Raine -- a rhythm of living and thinking, imperfect even then I'm sure, but a steady course for a while, has been well deflected by storms -- a the turn of the year i started those Wise Thoughts again, added to it a similar book by Henri Nouwen, have picked back up Shunryu Suzuki's not always so, am rambling along when i can with what I can (actually away from my library a lot, but with kindle), and if I have a goal it's to be with my chocolate swimming pool more, its not about more chocolate at all really, its about enjoying the chocolate i have, in moderation, and feasting, in moderation, on living, on each breath, and how some are lost in what i have to do, but respected, touched, to stay close to the more, the dream of chocolate. Chocolate as in whatever, as in whatever is needed and possible, the infinite.

and actually reading 52% female authors.

Jan 19, 2019, 12:19am

>22 markon:, >23 avaland:
I don’t know if the following has any relevance to your question (and I know very little about literary criticism), but I just finished The Death of Truth by NY Times critic Michiko Kakutani in which she relies on certain literary trends to explain Trump. As she explained it, “post-modernism” posits that there is no one objective truth; every person (character) has his own truth. Nothing is real and everything is real. It’s up to the reader to decide. So maybe the use of multiple narrators/points of view is part of the post-modernist literary movement.
I personally usually like books narrated from multiple points of view (assuming it’s otherwise a good book).

Jan 19, 2019, 3:48am

Generally I find books with multiple points of view and/or with ,multiple times and places, much more interesting than n

What I do not like is the current trend in historical fiction to add a modern character so the reader can relate to the book, Usually the historic event is interesting enough without a modern character The People of the Book is an exception, where for the most part the modern character is essential to telling the story (tho the ending completely ruined the book for me)

Examples of multiple points of view that happen to be on my bookshelves that I think work well include:

Cloud Atlas


Olive Kitteridge

All The Light We Cannot See

Gone Girl

Life of Pi

Jan 20, 2019, 5:08am

>22 markon: >23 avaland: I'm not sure if this is quite the same thing, but as a genre fiction reader (particularly science fiction and fantasy) I am rather used to novels that will switch from one POV character to another. Sometimes the switches are on chapter changes, other times they will occur more frequently, at scene changes within a chapter.

Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive novels have multiple viewpoint characters (and multiple timelines). The frequency of the changes in viewpoint character vary, but after three books there are currently six or seven primary viewpoint characters and another half-dozen or so secondary ones.

James A. Corey does a similar sort of thing in his The Expanse novels. Viewpoint characters trade off on chapter breaks, and there is a regular rotation between the viewpoint characters.

I noticed some viewpoint character switching in Whose Body? as I was reading it. Most of the story is told from Lord Peter Wimsey's POV, but there are a few switches when necessary (usually accompanied by some level of stylistic shift as well, based on the character).

Jan 20, 2019, 7:39am

>22 markon:, >30 shadrach_anki: I agree with shadrach_anki - multiple POV is (and has been) more common than not in F&SF. I'm currently reading David Brin's Startide Rising, which has many many many POVs, switching on chapter breaks - and some "chapters" are literally a paragraph long, as a character's POV becomes briefly important. I've read a few books from a single POV, but it tends to be awkward and complicated - there are things happening out of POV-character's sight/knowledge, and if the author sticks firmly to a single POV we have to learn about them sideways and usually late. Which is accurate to reality but can even derail a story if knowing something is necessary for the next action, so we're left hanging until POV-character learns it (I have only vague memories of reading books like this, at least in part because they tend not to be very good).

Yes, I remember some of those not-Peter scenes in Whose Body? - very much what I'm talking about above, things that we-the-readers should know and Peter shouldn't, for story flow. So the book jumps to another character who knows/can see those things, rather than trying to contort the story so that it can all be told from his POV. And that's not a recent book - 1923, actually.

Is this one of the distinctions between "literary fiction" and "genre fiction"? I don't read literary fiction, so can't say.

Jan 20, 2019, 10:53am

No I don't think so - the ones I mentioned above are not sci fi/fantasy. BTW Why are we always separating books into labels/genres? I know it was done to help publishers sell books and bookstores to organize. But it does a great disservice to the many reads in the genre department that are head over heels better than the ones that aren't. Also a disservice to many readers who say 'I just don't read sci fi', not realizing what they might be missing *Just saying - I read 'literary fiction' and most genres, often not paying attention to their label (That might make an interesting AVID question - do you separate books into groups; what genres do you read/not read)

*full disclosure - I rarely read Mystery or Romance; never read Westerns so Im guilty of doing that as well

Jan 20, 2019, 8:50pm

>23 avaland: Thanks for these links. I'm going to take a look at them and come back.

>25 dchaikin: Yes, Dan, it does depend a lot on the execution. I'm trying to figures out why it has been bothering me more in the last year, but don't have any good answers yet.

>28 arubabookwoman: That, I think is one good reason to use the technique: to tell a complex story with more than one viewpoint. This is what I find so effective in The Fruit of the Drunken Tree, because the characters telling the story have widely different backgrounds, and also different experiences, but come from the same country.

>29 cindydavid4: Yes, the three I read and remember from that list use the technique well.

>30 shadrach_anki: >31 jjmcgaffey: I also read science fiction and fantasy, and this technique is often used to inform the reader about what is going on in different places so we have a picture of the overall action. I'm going to have to go through my reading list for last year, and try to list for myself which novels I read used this technique, and which ones I enjoyed it in and which ones I didn't. Maybe I'll see a connection then.

>31 jjmcgaffey: >32 cindydavid4: I agree with cindydavid4 that this isn't a technique that distinguishes genre fiction from "literary" fiction. A good story is a good story, period.

Thanks to all who have responded already.

Editado: Jan 20, 2019, 9:59pm

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and The Woman Next Door use shifting POV. I think the technique works especially well when you have characters in conflict who seem to be unable to reconcile their differences.

Is it more prevalent now? And what does that mean? I don't have the quantitative knowledge to say. But they are very interesting questions.

Editado: Jan 20, 2019, 10:57pm

>34 nohrt4me2: I don't know if it's more prevalent now, or if I'm noticing it more.

Here is a link to an article about a problem with multiple POVs in science fiction and fantasy: interrupting the story flow. That's what made me give up on Wheel of time in the first doorstop of a novel, and give up on George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series as well - that and what I think is poor writing - though I got through the first 3-4 novels before that happened. He's a good storyteller.

Another one for mysteries.

And some blog posts, beginning with (#1 & #2) on Point of View that I want to read.

Jan 20, 2019, 10:39pm

I suppose you could argue that multiple-POV has its roots in epistolary novels, which takes you back at least to the eighteenth century.

I don’t have any strong objection to it - although I do get a bit bored with the convention of “victim’s POV” in crime fiction. (“Little did X know as she heard a slight rustling in the bushes that three hours later she would be on the patholoist’s slab...”)

Jan 20, 2019, 1:48am

>35 markon: The problem with ASOIAF wasn't the multiple POVs, it was Martins tendency to go on and on about the details of a house banner, or describe every food in a banquet. Learned to read passed them. A good editor could have done wonders for the books and who knows he might have finished them by now..

Editado: Jan 20, 2019, 4:11am

A lot of sweeping epics (including LOTR) change POV. The Morte d'Arthur and The Once and Future King. And maybe The Mists of Avalon? Beowulf does, too probably Ivanhoe, though it's been a long time.

I think in really long works like that that the shifting POV is a relief. Also necessary to pull all the strands together.

Not a fan of JRR Martin, books or TV show, though the TV show cuts out a lot of the detritus (so you can concentrate on the rape, flaying, child abuse, executions, and incest).

Jan 21, 2019, 4:00pm

As I usually do, I've set a goal in the ROOT (Read Our Own Tomes) group to read a certain number of books that were already on my TBR shelves at the beginning of the year. But I've lowered my goal this year from 100 to 80. 100 was entirely doable, but I feel like it put on a bit too much pressure, and I wanted to feel a little more free to read new books while I was still excited about them, and to have less incentive to pick up a short book instead of a long one just so I could count it towards my goal. I'm not sure it's actually changed much of anything for me so far, though.

I also set a goal there of reading at least five books that have been sitting on the TBR shelves since before 2007, when I joined LT. It's disturbing just how many volumes I have that qualify. But I haven't read any of those yet. I have some in mind that I want to get to this year, but they're intimidatingly big. (Which is probably a large part of the reason why they've gone unread for so long!)

I'm also continuing to follow my one-in/two-out method of TBR reduction, since it served me well last year. Right now on paper it looks like I'm doing good with that, but I've got some books coming in the mail that will put me a little bit in the red. Nothing I shouldn't be able to make up for fairly soon, though, and I'm optimistic about ending this year with fewer unread books than I started it with.

Jan 21, 2019, 4:08pm

Also, for my part, I like multiple point of view just fine, and sometime better than single POV. I think, really, this may just boil down to a matter of taste, and trends in such things tend to change in unpredictable ways. If it is becoming more prevalent, or more prevalent in literary fic specifically, I'm not sure I'm inclined to see a deeper meaning in it than that.

Jan 21, 2019, 11:00pm

>28 arubabookwoman: I find those comments really thought-provoking....

>32 cindydavid4: To get just a bit off topic for a sec: Genre is mostly driven by marketing. And marketing & segregation of types of books/stories is driven by the consumer who desires to easily find the kinds of books he/she prefers... This placement is also furthered by having different publishers & imprints for different kinds of books, and certain looks or artwork...etc all to help the consumer find like books. From my observation, a large percentage of the reading population is pretty happy going straight to their favorite "section" of the bookstore. If they are lucky, there will be a talented, terribly underpaid bookseller to point out some good cross-pollination between the sections.

I think it's up to us as readers to move around the library and bookstores to explore possibilities, or hang here among other readers (hopefully some who do not read exactly as we do).

>35 markon:, >40 bragan: I like to read books about popular culture, especially how books and literature fit into that, and such trends always have something to say about what's going on in our culture. I think, as you note, markon, the more interesting question here is whether the multiple POV book is trending now, and if so, why? And why so prevalant in YA? I find the comments in >28 arubabookwoman: intriguing but is that the answer? The speculating is deliciously fun, isn't it?

Jan 21, 2019, 1:55am

>41 avaland: yeah I know about the marketing stuff, that is also reader driven as you say; but I find it often pigeon holes an author or a book. And yeah I do tend to go to my fav sections, but I am open to explore more - which is why I am here (and have been on reading sites since the days of Table Talk!) - to get different author and reads!

The multiple POVs don't bother me;its the ones that are in first person, when the subject or plot cries out for third person! Just read a couple that were just too much in the characters head. Stepping outside and writing in the third person I think helps the author show rather than tell a story.

Jan 22, 2019, 6:17pm

>28 arubabookwoman:,>41 avaland: are you all thinking it’s (changes in POV) a symptom of attention spans? Or is it more like make each reader more comfortable by letting them (think they) choose the truth?

Jan 22, 2019, 9:42pm

I like what someone above suggested, that it's indicative that people are willing to.look at a situation from a variety of POVs.

Jan 23, 2019, 5:47am

>41 avaland:, >42 cindydavid4: Speaking of marketing and genres - I was deeply amused when Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar (multi-trilogy series) books abruptly moved from YA to adult SF in the bookstore when she wrote a trilogy that featured a homosexual hero. Not sure what happened in libraries at the time - and now her stuff tends to appear in both sections, in bookstores and libraries. I haven't noticed if Vanyel (the hero in question) tends to be in adult more, or shows up in both places.

Jan 23, 2019, 12:10pm

>42 cindydavid4: I agree, it indeed can pigeon hole an author or book.

>43 dchaikin: I might posit that any current trend might have something to do with giving voice to those who may not have had one...fairness, equality... (an oversimplification, but there it is). And maybe that connects with what Jean notes, the willingness to see a situation from other POVs.

>45 jjmcgaffey: Placement could be because of an imprint change (hasn't she always been published by DAW?) or an arbitrary move by the bookstore, and might depend on where one is in the country... YA has it's own themes and there is definitely a significant crossover with SF&F. Most bookstores don't overthink things.

Oooooh, we are all so bookishly energetic and social in January!!!

Jan 24, 2019, 1:47am

I definitely don't have any new goals for my reading this year. Continuing from other years I want to read authors from 50 different countries and keep my reading as diverse as possible in general. I did a good job of that in 2018 despite falling back on undiverse comfort re-reads, so hopefully it goes at least as well this year.

Jan 27, 2019, 3:47pm

>48 tonikat:

I'm definitely a dystopianary-ist! Don't know what it is about January that makes me want to read so much dystopia.

Jan 27, 2019, 8:08pm

>50 lilisin: What is it about dystopian and January?

Hmm, subzero temperatures, burst water mains, more snow than is comfortable, car not starting, bad transpo, craving carbs and caffeine, no sun, dried out sinuses, huge heating bill, wearing bulky fleece and long underwear?

I like winter, but this one has turned mean pretty quickly.

Editado: Jan 27, 2019, 8:59pm

>49 cindydavid4: yes, thats fab. There is also one on the dark side of the poetry boom which tickles me.

>50 lilisin: :O good luck with that, some current affairs in there?

(if another version of his post appears then apologies, it disappeared somewhere)

Jan 27, 2019, 3:19am

>50 lilisin:, >51 nohrt4me2:
short of funds after the Christmas season? Disappointment in self once the New Year's resolutions don't pan out? Generally low-quality film releases?

Jan 28, 2019, 3:34pm

>48 tonikat: Great idea. Stealing from it and turning it into the next question:

image from Tom Gauld in The Guardian Sunday, January 13, 2019


Looking at the cartoon above, what ideas would you come up with for February: Fibuary, Webuary... you get the idea.

How about some book titles to go with them?

Jan 28, 2019, 4:25pm

For Starch, I propose a constructive look at macromolecules, e.g. Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube.

In Aprilium I intend to--finally!--acquaint myself with Ontario's official flower, the trillium, and maybe more: Trees, shrubs, and flowers to know in Ontario.

Dismay will see me taking in Jill Lepore's These truths, in the hope that sunnier skies would counteract the inevitable gloom.

Joon is a cartoon. Finish off all the Pogos, Krazy Kats etc. in therapy with Drs. Walt Kelly, George Herriman et al. then off to the beach.

Jan 28, 2019, 4:46pm

FABuary: LGBTQ-related books, e.g. The Motion of Light in Water by Samuel R. Delany.

Jan 28, 2019, 4:53pm

Editado: Jan 28, 2019, 5:17pm

>56 dukedom_enough: Sounds good! I’ve had Delaney on my TBR shelf for quite a while...


- DEBUARY - read only books by upper-class British females (Nancy Mitford, Emma Tennant, Mrs Harold Pinter ...)
- HEBREWARY - catch up with the late Amos Oz and his compatriots
- SEBUARY - time to focus on St Sebastian, if possible without reading either D’Annunzio or Derek Jarman
- CABUARY - from Sherlock Holmes to The sun also rises - a quest for fiction that is not safe in taxis
- RABUARY - Lucky Jim and other books that couldn’t have been written without the 1944 Education Act
- ARABUARY - over the desert with Lawrence, Thesiger, Freya Stark and co.
- SCARABUARY - Mysteries of the Pyramids

Jan 28, 2019, 5:18pm

FIBruary--books about hoaxes. Good time to read Lee Israel's Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Rachel Dolezel's memoir about passing for black (which fits my year's reading theme of racial passing), In Full Color.

The Guardian also has a list of its top 10 literary hoaxes here:

Also recommend Orson Welles's weird but ever-entertaining documentary, "F is for Fake."

Editado: Jan 28, 2019, 6:31pm

Warning: NSFW

My best friend and I, February-haters both of us, have been calling February "The F-Month" for 40 years, so I respectfully submit:

Granta 115: The F Word ed. John Freeman
The F-Word by Jesse Sheidlower
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Chill the F*ck Out: A Swear Word Coloring Book by Hannah Caner

and if you need to branch out a bit, Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr

(Apologies for all the cussin'... I really, really hate February.)

Jan 28, 2019, 6:01pm

>58 thorold: The Motion... comes in at least two versions; the trade paperback with young him on the cover is abridged (and is the one I read). FYI.

Jan 28, 2019, 8:08pm

FREDuary: books by authors named Fred, like Fred Vargas.

Jan 28, 2019, 8:18pm

>60 lisapeet: Then you would like BADruary--read books about some really bad villains or badass women or pirates.
From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines
Women's Wicked Wit
The Looking Glass Wars
Seeing Redd

Jan 28, 2019, 8:58pm

Why it’s Fabruary of course darlings. I shall start it with some style magazines, books on make and fashion, positive gender stories, something very camp maybe, hmmmm will I survive it? I shall have to armour myself in lots of coral pink. But I may need the odd dose of other things. Yes it’s just a day dream, but then so much has been for so long. I will try to read at least one frivolous yet serious stylish and utterly fab thing now and am open to recommendations.

Jan 28, 2019, 9:01pm

Thinking ahead:
- LONG MARCH - this is the month for War And Peace, In search of lost time, The Quincunx, and other triumphs of conciseness
- RADETSKY MARCH - time for a proper look at Joseph Roth
- IDES OF MARCH - I Claudius, Asterix And Cleopatra, Robert Harris, etc.
- AUGIE MARCH - American Jewish fiction of the 50s and 60s
- MEG-JO-BETH-AND-AMY-MARCH - a month in which to read little by women

Jan 28, 2019, 10:16pm

>63 LadyoftheLodge: Ha! And let's not forget Pirate Talk or Mermalade, which is a deeply weird, profane, and also funny book (with a great cover).

Jan 28, 2019, 10:30pm

>60 lisapeet: February and July could be banned from the calendar, IMO.

Jan 29, 2019, 8:35pm

>68 lisapeet: I have a book I've never come close to reading, fiction, from a few years ago, and supposed to be good, Me Cheeta: The autobiography

Jan 29, 2019, 8:36pm

March - perfect excuse for some walking books?

Jan 29, 2019, 9:55pm

>69 tonikat: Well, there ya go--APE-RILL is coming

As for March...

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin
The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White
A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin
Ten Walks/Two Talks - Jon Cotner
The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson
All of Patrick Leigh Fermor's tales of traipsing around
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot - Robert Macfarlane
A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

And there are probably a zillion more.

Jan 29, 2019, 12:54am

>68 lisapeet: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was top on my list the year it came out. Amazing book

Jan 30, 2019, 2:42pm

It's summer here so I love February. Not only is the weather glorious (sometimes a little toasty) but it's festival time - we have a Fringe Festival, and an Arts Festival which also includes a Film Festival and a Writer's Festival!

The only book I can think of off the top of my head for Festruary is The Night Circus which admittedly is a bit of a stretch.

Jan 30, 2019, 3:21pm

>74 rhian_of_oz: How about Stephen King's Joyland?

-10 this.morning here. Now up to -4! Thinking some Jack London or books about polar exploration might be good for FeBRRRuary

Jan 30, 2019, 9:02pm

>71 lisapeet: I wonder if reading about walking could be like that second cartoon with the steps to take on too many books, step one, in this case, put down book, have a walk, sorted.

I've read Leigh Fermor, though not the most recent, may be an excuse to reread the first two across Europe. But then that brings up a lot of memories, wonder if I would. I have Solnit, mentioned on other threads, never got far in. Macfarlane I'd like to read. White my be interesting. The others too. I started writing to mention another and now cannot remember what it was, late shift, my excuse.

oh - it wasn't Edward Thomas, but it could be, in search of spring

May - all things blossomy? and of course, maybe some queens, but not royal, puhlease.

For me maybe some showers too in April. And Paris.

Not that I'll ever stick to such a plan.

Jan 30, 2019, 12:55am

>76 tonikat: I've read Leigh Fermor, though not the most recent, may be an excuse to reread the first two across Europe

ive read those two several times while waiting for the third. Its worth it, but the meloncoly feel is throughout the book - as he is an old man by this time. Still glad I read it. I would skip the biography btw - I don't mind it when a biographer digs the dirt on this subject, but after I read it, I just didn't like him very much.

Jan 31, 2019, 5:57pm

>77 cindydavid4: I've read them once I think, took a long time over them i think, going back and forth. I was a long time ago and it may remind me of then. Maybe not - some things from that time I have finished now and it was fine, can lay a ghost to rest. I liked how the spirit in those books captured his youthful enthusiasm so well. So the third does sound different and a different process I know. I started it. But then reading them also makes me think of what i have done and what i have no done, what I am not doing in some ways, regarding walking the world.

I hear what you're saying of biography, i heard that about it. And yet so many people sought him out and were treated with hospitality.

Jan 31, 2019, 6:00pm

>76 tonikat:, >77 cindydavid4: I stalled halfway on Fermor book one last year. I’ve assumed it was some kind of personal flaw. Still hope to pick it up sometime.

Fev 10, 2019, 11:45am

>68 lisapeet: Don't forget Peter Hoeg's The Woman and the Ape.

Editado: Fev 10, 2019, 12:01pm

>79 dchaikin: Dan, I realised I never came back to this -- I don't think there's any flaw in having such a personal sticking point, there may be something to learn in thinking through what it is, without any predisposition to it being wrong, or right, but just to figure out what it is. I was a young person when read him, I loved Greece, I read one of his Greek books first, I think I'd heard some of his stories on tv, when he said he set out in the spirit he did, with nothing to lose, at that age, it reminded me of something that happened to me once at that age and was happy to go with it - but there is much he does not say. In a way reading him doing it may not have helped me, a bit later and stuck, somehow I got more distant from it reading of him doing it, maybe, though there are los of other reasons for that -- so what once seemed glorious freedom, now reminds me of ways I avoided it, not to mention poetry, maybe too it gave me a glorious example against which anything else seemed a poor attempt.

(and now reading him is hard as it churns up stuff like that, and questions - maybe if I try I'll learn better and right my view of him a bit, and of me (?))

Fev 10, 2019, 4:47pm

>76 tonikat: yes, he always seemed like a good man, even in his younger works, that part of him showed. I guess I made him into a saint rather than a young man from a good family who could afford to do what he did, in other words a man with feet of clay. Still admire him and his works. Just got me to take him down a peg or two

>79 dchaikin: Never feel bad for not 'getting' a book or author; there are so many that others have told me I'd love, but I can't , either due to time in my life , my mood, distractions or just orneriness. There are so many other books out there waiting, I just can't feel guilty about the others!

Editado: Fev 11, 2019, 7:56pm

>81 tonikat:/>82 cindydavid4: i’ll have to give him another go. It’s a different kind of “freedom”, walking through Nazi Germany in 1933. It’s not like a walk in the woods. It’s more like a walk into an oncoming car crash one can’t impact - more trap than freedom. I’m not sure my head knew or knows how to process that.

Fev 12, 2019, 10:31am

>83 dchaikin: he seemed hardly to let it dint his freedom.

I did already know if his service in Crete. That something well worth appreciating.

Fev 12, 2019, 11:27pm

Keep all the fabulous puns going and the books that go with them. I loved reading these responses.

Well LT has its annual Valentine's Heart Hunt going, so in that spirit, with a bit of excess from an earlier time, and noting that in China the peony has a totally different meaning:


Romeo and Juliet, Cyrano and Roxane, Jane Eyre and Rochester, Kitty and Levin, Daisy and Gatsby, or on another level, Anna and Vronsky, and Heathcliff and Catherine: love stories all. Are great love stories still being written? Why or why not? As usual, give your fellow readers some ideas.

Editado: Fev 13, 2019, 1:23pm

Of course. Sharon Kay Penman has a great example in Here be Dragons about the marriage between the Prince of Wales (the real prince, not just the son of an English King), and the daughter of King John. There is romance and love here, as well as loyalty to your family, your country and how sometimes they conflict. Also excellent history about Welsh and English history in the 12th century.

Why, you ask? Because true love never dies (just ask Princess Buttercup and Wesley :) )

Editado: Fev 13, 2019, 2:59pm

I think it may depend on what you mean by "great love stories"...

These days, you can't really use "reader, I married him" as the end-point of a plot in mainstream literary fiction, unless you are loading it with a great deal of irony. "Boy meets girl, both die" has also rather fallen out of favour. Because we're all so much more cynical and sophisticated than we were 200 years ago. Or at least less prepared to accept the sort of assumptions about the world that Jane Austen could get away with in the opening sentence of P&P. So the classic romance has mostly been banished to genre fiction, where it still seems to be alive and thriving, as >86 cindydavid4: says.

But there are still plenty of serious non-genre novelists writing powerfully about love and passion, even if they don't take a single love story as the main arch of the plot - out of those I've read recently, Ali Smith, Javier Cercas and Andrés Neuman stand out. But I'm sure there are plenty of others I've forgotten or not read...

Fev 13, 2019, 1:25pm

Sharon Kay Penman is a serious novelist who just happens to be writing historical fiction. Just sayin.

Fev 13, 2019, 3:01pm

>88 cindydavid4: fair point - “serious” was the wrong word for what I was trying to say. No value-judgement about genre fiction was meant!

Editado: Fev 13, 2019, 10:30pm

Love stories have been off my radar for the last 30 years, so no idea, and I would tend to avoid any story about romantic love.

In my old age, I find stories about human decency more stirring. Thinking of two favorites from last year, Go, Went, Gone and An Unnecessary Woman. Both are about love, I think, of a non-romantic nature.

Fev 13, 2019, 10:22pm

Are all stories love stories, in a way. Yes, I am reading Henri Nouwen and Tolstoy at the moment.

I like The Legend of Bagger Vance (and the film of), it has romantic love and a wider love, faith. And golf. I love the film In the Mood for Love, and many remarkable films of recent years, may be boring to start listing them. The English Patient maybe. I love both the film and book Wonder Boys.

Shakespeare's Sonnets.

But then lots of poetry.

Fev 13, 2019, 1:30am

Fev 13, 2019, 2:58am

Oh, I love a good love story. But emphasis on the good—it needs to be well written and serve an interesting, propulsive plot (as opposed to a straight "romance," which is not really my thing) and be believable, which includes dialogue and motivation and description. Just scrolling through some of my recent books to see what fits the bill, I think I don't read many traditional love stories, and instead favor less straightforward relationships—the twists and turns of a long relationship, or the love that passes between family members, or friends, and, probably unsurprisingly, a lot of human/dog love stories. The last "happy ending" love story I read, I think, was Circe—and that book was NOT a love story by any means. It just ends up that way after a lot of great character progression, which I guess is what made it work for me and made me smile when I closed it.

So I guess I'd say: life is complex and messy, as is love, and that's how I like my fiction too.

Fev 14, 2019, 9:15am

>93 lisapeet: Interesting that you mention Circe (which I still haven't read yet, but hope to get to soonish). I myself do not have a romantic soul and find that many love stories just completely fail to work for me. I was trying to cast my mind back to anything I read relatively recently that could be called a love story and that did work for me, and all I could come up with was The Song of Achilles. Which does not exactly have a happy ending. But then, I think maybe I've always preferred my love stories tragic. (But not Romeo and Juliet, though. Even as a teen myself, I thought those two kids were dumb.)

Editado: Fev 14, 2019, 3:07pm

>87 thorold: I’ve just started the next book off my library pile, Ismail Kadare’s The accident, and guess what - unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s “boy meets girl, both die” (they die on page 1, so this isn’t a spoiler). Poetic justice will get you every time! This passage seems apt:
He sometimes thought that what had happened related to the familiar doubt as to whether love really exists, or is merely a sick, over-the-rainbow fantasy, a new phantasm that has appeared on our planet only in the last five or six thousand years. Perhaps we still can’t tell if our planet will accept it, or reject it as foreign tissue.
Whistle-blowers had sounded the alarm about the hole in the ozone layer, about the encroaching deserts, and terrorism, but nobody had yet drawn attention to the fragile state of love. Perhaps a few sects had been created to investigate the truth or falseness of love, and maybe this couple, Besfort Y. and Rovena St., had been members of one of these.

Editado: Fev 15, 2019, 6:38pm

Authors have been jaded about love stories a long time - see Ovid’s Amores, where he can’t bear to touch something actually romantic, but just goes on to tear up the tropes. So great love stories have been defying these anti-romantic critics for a long time too. I wonder if the underlying question is, really, how jaded are we today about everything.

But, regardless, it’s not an easy question to answer. If a book carries you away in a love story, does it become a great love story? Can it be your own personal classic? Or does that story need to reverberate through the culture (in which, it probably needs to be revisited and translated into a variety of mediums - film and music, etc)? (>86 cindydavid4: Buttercup and Wesley qualify)

Of course, on that personal level, I encounter great love stories all the time in books, but they usually have some satirical aspect lying within...exceptions focusing on jealousy.

Fev 26, 2019, 9:22pm

The only novel I've read recently that remotely fits this bill is Den of wolves, the third in a 3-volume fantasy where the main storyline is not a romance, but the ferreting out secrets that have been hidden so long they have often been forgotten, and the complicated nature of doing good and making moral choices. It takes three volumes for two wounded people to admit they love (and have sex.) It's also more formulaic - I like reading this kind of fiction as a light read.

Like many of us, I do not like fiction where the romantic entanglements of two people are the main storyline as I find them often to be sentimental and trite. Like >93 lisapeet: Lisa says, life is complicated and messy, and love is also. Romance can be background as long as character and motivation are what I consider realistic/believeable and congruent with the overall story arc.

Also, as a reminder I looked up romance and found the following definitions that I think are germane to this discussion:

1. A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love
2. A medieval tale dealing with a hero of chivalry, of the kind common in the Romance languages.
3. A work of fiction depicting a setting and events remote from everyday life, especially one of a kind popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Middle English: from Romance, originally denoting a composition in the vernacular as opposed to works in Latin. Early use denoted vernacular verse on the theme of chivalry; the sense ‘genre centred on romantic love’ dates from the mid 17th century.

Fev 27, 2019, 7:40pm

>97 markon: lovely definition. My nineteenth century novel reading mades me wonder if there should also be something to be overcome as well, or is that too instructive/calvinist? Maybe that is what developed into >93 lisapeet:'s "less straightforward" relationships.

Fev 27, 2019, 9:20pm

>97 markon: >98 SassyLassy: -- yes interesting thoughts, but, ad wanting to say this in a spirit of a sort of love and not as pedantic nit pickery >85 SassyLassy: didn't mention romance, it asked about love stories, which may side step the problem noted and allow for finding love in lots else and many other aspects of love (and how many such aspects was it the greeks had?) -- I enjoyed, due to this question, thinking again how love may be central to all stories, or its lack, and in senses beyond the connotations of Feb 14th these days.

Fev 28, 2019, 6:00pm

>99 tonikat: Good point tonikat

And with that definition, I can include The round house as a love story thought not a romantic novel.

Fev 28, 2019, 9:51pm


We've talked about bedside table books in the past, but not all of those maybe being actively read.

Thinking of the book(s) you are actually reading, no matter where, are you a one book at a time reader or a multi book reader, or does it vary throughout the year? Do you have limits on how many you will tackle at a time? Has this ever had disastrous consequences (for you, the books...?)

Fev 28, 2019, 10:05pm

At the moment I have three books on the go. I have a hard copy book (English), a book on my kindle and a French book (hard copy). I usually finish every book I start and there will be a minimum of three books being read at one time.

Fev 28, 2019, 10:08pm

I usually have 2-3 books going and an audiobook, but I've found that's my limit or I get really stressed out! I definitely started getting through books more quickly when I started reading more than one at a time - there's always something I have going that I'm in the mood to read.

I need to have them be pretty different from each other, though. For instance, I usually have a nonfiction in the mix. ANd then if I have two fiction books, one is usually a classic and one a new release. Or a mystery or similar.

Fev 28, 2019, 1:25am

I usually have a daytime book and a bedtime book going. At bedtime I tend to read easier stuff, often genre fiction or short essays, saving the more challenging stuff for daytime. Sometimes I'll have two daytime books going, particularly if one is nonfiction.

Fev 28, 2019, 1:54am

Whether I am a book at a time reader or several at once reader is very dependent on my mood. However I prefer reading one book at a time as I read through the books faster and I'm less likely to run the risk of putting a book down in the middle of it and never coming back to it. Last year I started a good thing where I was reading a book in Japanese while at work and then reading an English or French book at home and that was working really well and got me to read a record level of Japanese-language books in a year but now work is too busy for such things.

Another good thing about reading one book at a time for me is that I can follow my interests in a more linear flowing way. The book I'm reading typically inspires the next book I want to read and so forth. But when my attention is on say, three books at once, each book might inspire me to go in a different direction and that's when I get overwhelmed and just stop reading entirely.

So yes, definitely prefer reading one at a time but I've had both success and failure with reading more than one at a time.

Fev 28, 2019, 2:20am

I seem to have settled into a pattern of one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time, plus my daily reading of the Bible. The only time when I read just one is if I find one of my choices "unputdownable".

Fev 28, 2019, 2:34am

I do better reading one at a time. That said, I often have a few books that I've put down for one reason or another (like the pile of short story collections that I read part of for an award judging, and the big nonfiction book that I put down to read them) that I still consider books in progress, and do in fact at some point go back to in between other books. If that made any sense at all. And I always have a New Yorker going at all times.

Fev 28, 2019, 3:30am

I usually have 2-3 at a time, one being fiction, the other non fiction, and the third perhaps short stories. I go back and forth, and back again depending on my mood. I definitely have more going on during summer break. And like Lisa, I have a NYer on the back burner, as well as a Smithsonian and Archaeology today for the month

Fev 28, 2019, 4:29am

I am definitely more of a multi book reader, though the exact number of books I am actively reading at any given point in time is going to fluctuate. I know when I was younger I would regularly be in the middle of ten or twelve books at once (if not more), but for the past several years my active reading has capped out at about half that amount. If I had to hazard a guess as to why this is, I would point to the overall increase in the number of ongoing sequential stories I am in the middle of enjoying (television shows, comics, book series where I am waiting for the next installment to be released, etc).

At present, I have an audiobook I listen to on my daily commute (and when I'm doing housework things); an ebook novel that I am buddy reading with my mother; a physical novel (borrowed from the library at the moment); and a non-fiction work. Then there is my daily scripture reading/study, which I classify differently because it isn't something I am really ever going to be done with.

My limiting factors tend to be based on format and themes rather than strict numbers. For example, I will only listen to one audiobook at a time, though I have paused one I owned in order to listen to one I had been waiting a couple of months to get from the library when that hold came in. With ebooks, I might be reading one on my Kindle and a different one on my Nook and a third in Libby from the library, but I won't be switching between content on any given platform. Basically, I try to keep it to one book per app/platform. I actively avoid concurrent reading of books that are too similar in theme/tone; if I find that too many similarities are cropping up, one of the books will wind up "on hold" while I finish the other. I also avoid reading multiple books by the same author at the same time, even if they are in different series (exceptions have been made when rereading).

Mar 1, 2019, 5:21am

I will frequently read one big solid non-fiction for months at a time - it's usually a table book, which is to say I read it while eating, in small chunks (so I have time to digest what I'm reading). While I'm doing that, I'll also be reading lighter fiction; always one going on my phone, occasionally a different one on a tablet, and frequently paper books at the same time. I'm more likely to binge on the paper books (though I've been known to read a book straight through on my phone as well) - that is, just sit down and read it all the way through rather than read a bit and put it down for something else. This is partly because it's painfully easy to put down a paper book and forget to pick it up again, for a long time or forever (though the latter tends to be when I'm not enjoying it).

So I think my max is four books going at a time, but I'm usually focusing on one and reading the others occasionally. And my partly-read pile keeps getting higher - though it's also mixed with "I'll be reading that next...oh, look what (else) I found!".

Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 1:04pm

Interesting that most of us have much the same bad habit! I’m another one who is usually reading two or three books in different categories and/or formats e.g. a non-fiction book I want to take slowly (history, biography), a non-portable novel (library book/nice edition/physically large), a portable novel for travel (ebook/cheap paperback/audio), and maybe also a bedside “dipping” book (poetry, short fiction). And of course all kinds of permutations of those things happen. And occasionally a book I’ve started is put on ice for days/weeks/decades because something else has come along with a deadline, or just looks more interesting...

And it happened to me just this week that I found an audiobook that I’d started six months ago, which for some reason had lost track of where I got to, so I ended up listening to quite a lot of it a second time. Fortunately it was good enough to justify that! (Alice Munro)

Mar 1, 2019, 1:11pm

Another thought—I read a lot of library ebooks, which aren't renewable and which get sucked back into the ether when the checkout period expires. So it's in my best interest to just read a single book at a time, especially if it's a big one, in the name of finishing before losing it.

Mar 1, 2019, 1:28pm

Typically, I'll have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go at the same time. Sometimes some poetry as well, but I don't like to read two novels simultaneously. Like others, I might stop reading a book and start on another before going back to the first, either because I fancy a change, or more likely for practical reasons (the first book is too heavy to lug outside the house, or there's a deadline looming for the second book...) I might also make space for a cookbook, which I'll usually read in one or two sittings.

Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 2:31pm

I'm definitely a multibook reader. I've usually got a phone audiobook (for when I'm doing dishes or cleaning or anything taking me between rooms), a computer audiobook, a print book, and sometimes a book of poetry for reading one or two before bed.

>111 thorold: I don't see it as a bad habit though. It works for some people and not others. Just a different way of enjoying your reading.

Mar 1, 2019, 4:23pm

I usually have two on the go - one in my handbag and one when eating lunch at home (which can be bigger because I can prop it up). If I introduce a third it's usually one I'll read straight through.

Mar 1, 2019, 6:14pm

My plan for now is Plutarch in the morning, Audio to and from work and then Baldwin in the evening. Will see how that works. (Historically I’ve tried a lot of different things, even one book at a time - actually I did that my whole life until LT)

Mar 1, 2019, 1:19am

I usually have two or three going at once: one on my Kindle and a couple of print books. It just depends on what I have going on at the time and where I am. If I am traveling, I usually take along my Kindle and also one print book, on the off chance that something weird happens to my Kindle (which happened to me last summer. It just decided that it could not find the books that I had downloaded to it.)

Mar 2, 2019, 2:27pm

In college, I could juggle umpteen books and still read novels for fun. I don't want to read more than one book at a time now that I'm old. For me the pleasure is being so immersed in the book that the "real world" drops away, and it's hard to read many books at a time and maintain that intensity. Though maybe some people can do it.

Mar 3, 2019, 11:37pm

I'm a very strict one book at a time reader. I don't really understand how the minds of all you people who keep multiple books going at once work, but, hey, infinite diversity in infinite combinations, as the Vulcans say. :)

Well, all right, I say "strict." The one exception is that sometimes if I have a book structured with little bite-sized snippets -- like dictionary entries or single-page articles -- I might keep that around to dip in and out of in spare moments, especially if I'm expecting to have a lot of disconnected spare moments. There was a period of time, for instance, when I had three cats who had to eat three strictly enforced and entirely different diets, so every time I fed them, I had to stand there and keep them from diving into each other's food bowls until they were done. I found books with entries I could read for ten minutes at a time and not have to concentrate on too hard a handy distraction while I stood ready to shove cats around with my feet.

Editado: Mar 3, 2019, 12:47am

>119 bragan: "Shove cats around with my feet." God, anybody with more than two cats has been in that boat. My mother's death and the inability to say no to our kid's animal sob stories has left us in old age with four cats and a series of double baby gates, air locks, and check points in addition to foot shoving.

For those in this situation who need short reading bits, stories by Saki or essays by Fran Liebowitz work well.

Mar 3, 2019, 1:00am

Oh Saki stories are great as are O Henry stories

Mar 4, 2019, 6:45pm

cats - mine insist on eating the others food, specifically prescribed for said cat - or the dog food, which one car is allergic to and which my German-Shepard-like dog can’t relax enough to eat when we’re awake...

Mar 4, 2019, 7:24pm

One of my cats can't eat food with grain (she throws up, regularly). So there's plenty of grain-free food around, bought some...and found that my _other_ cat throws up eating the grain-free! Argh (though he's not nearly as constant, just now and then)! They get dry food, a measured amount available all day. Looks like I'm going to have to buy both kinds and hope they don't go nosing in each other's bowls (they don't all the time, but will occasionally).

Mar 4, 2019, 7:51pm

I now have only one cat, and sorry as I was to say goodbye to the other two -- they both died at ripe old ages -- I was glad to finally just be able to dump some dry food in a bowl and leave it alone.

Alas, those days are done once again. My problem now is that my remaining cat was just diagnosed with diabetes. He's now supposed to eat his food in two carefully measured daily meals with no snacking in-between, and get his insulin shots at the same time. But try explaining this to him, when he's used to eating a few mouthfuls at a time and coming back to the bowl for the next hour and a half until he's finished some amount of it, and then saving the rest for later in the day. So now I have to keep putting the food dish in front of him over and over, trying to get him to eat half his daily allowance at once.

Also, I was informed that it was very important to give him the food/shot at intervals exactly 12 hours apart, consistently. An annoyance for anyone, but I work constantly rotating shifts, and I live by myself. With my work schedule, this is going to range from mildly inconvenient to massively disruptive of my life and sleep, to literally impossible without the use of a time machine. "Well, just do your best," said the vet.

Sigh. That cat is so ungrateful for everything I do for him, too. But it is really nice when he lies on my stomach and purrs when I'm reading on the sofa.

Mar 4, 2019, 8:25pm

This cat discussion is cracking me up. I have four cats--the oldest is 13 years old now, the youngest is 6 years old. The old man is supposed to eat grain free due to allergies, so they all eat it. The youngest is supposed to eat the expensive food from the veterinary clinic, but they all love it--like a gourmet dinner to them. What we go through for our furry babies!

Mar 4, 2019, 9:00pm

>124 bragan: My dog has diabetes, so I feel your pain. Same situation - needs to eat and get a shot every 12 hours. We've been doing this over a year now and have found that we can fudge it an hour or so when we need to. He's really doing great, which makes it feel worthwhile.

Editado: Mar 4, 2019, 9:20pm

>126 japaul22: Fudging it by an hour or so is an inherent part of my plan. It's the only way I can possibly make it work when, say, I'm switching from evening to night shifts. If I stay awake for an extra hour every night and feed him right before I go to bed, then by the time of my first night shift, he'll be due for the shot when I get home at 8 AM.

Yep. This is what my life has come to.

(I feel like I should apologize for derailing this thread with all the cat talk. But I regret nothing.)

Editado: Mar 4, 2019, 10:15pm

Hahaha this is my kind of thread. I have two cats (15, 13) with inflammatory bowel disease who are supposed to eat special prescription food and hate it; one (11) who has lately been losing his hair so I'm trying to keep him off the most recent kind of food until we see the vet, in case that's the culprit; one (8) who is lukewarm about most of the wet food on offer but eats everyone's scraps in the middle of the day, and an almost 8-month-old kitten who eats anything that isn't nailed down. We buy them all expensive stuff but what they really love is 69-cent Friskies in the can. The oldest and the youngest will both eat the dog's food if I don't watch them, and the dog is a tremendous cat food thief, so I spend a lot of time HOVERING.

Editado: Mar 5, 2019, 3:58pm

Question 4 response:

Because I am a mood reader, I am a multi-book reader. Usually I have three or so books ongoing at anytime (sometimes more). The more common combination is a nonfiction book, a crime/mystery novel (that one usually bedside) and a non-genre, "literary" novel. But, I can sometimes have a poetry collection or anthology hanging about, or a short story collection nearby to occasionally dip into. This is not to say that any one of these selections might not become all-consuming pushing all else aside, as a Joyce Carol Oates novel did recently.

>118 nohrt4me2: My house would be neater if I could just force myself into that one book at a time thing. Note also above my comment re: books becoming all-consuming and overtaking the others. :-)

Editado: Mar 5, 2019, 9:23pm

I've done both - in my early LT days I was trying to focus on one book at a time, but that seems right out of the window, long long gone. In fact my reading is very all over the place at the moment, just look at my lack of completeds this year. Usually I have at least three books on the go, but clearly many never get finished - which means that technically there is a very long list that may be completed, gone back to. At the moment I am travelling quite a lot, 'great' I thought 'I'll focus on just a few', but I've had to increase the number I brought. Maybe I've become a mood reader, or maybe, I prefer, that I am following my feelings, the moment, and at the moment that is good for me. But as I'm travelling that urge I had tonight as I returned to where I am staying and saw blossom and sky and fields to read Edward Thomas' In Search of Spring was denied as I have a hard copy that can't come to hand until I'm home.

My head may be neater if I focused more? But then messiness can be creative, they say.

I had to stop listing what I'm reading on my threads and profile as it seemed to put me off, and then just gets bothersome as I drift.

Oh - and I kind of care, yet also don't.

Mar 5, 2019, 9:17pm

>129 avaland: "My house would be neater if I could just force myself into that one book at a time thing."

If you live long enough (and it's a different age for everyone), multi-tasking or -reading just becomes impossible. I discovered while cooking Xmas dinner that just listening to the radio while making a pork roast with grilled veg was dicey.

So multi-read as long as you can!

Clutter bugs me, but I try to remember what one of my heroes, Texas Governor Ann Richards's said, that she didn't aspire to have "she kept a neat house" engraved on her tombstone.

People who come to my house may have to move stuff around and toss a few cats aside to find a seat, but I trust they'll enjoy the coffee and conversation!

Mar 5, 2019, 9:57pm

>131 nohrt4me2: Oh yes, I've already found out that around cooking/baking. Clutter does not bug me, and I love the Ann Richards quote!

Editado: Mar 5, 2019, 10:46pm

I am also a mood-reader & thus a multi-book reader.

I often have a non fiction book going, and at least two novels, genre or otherwise, and an audiobook. And stacks from the library because I just have to read this one and this one and this one . . .

So tomorrow I must return Black Leopard Red Wolf since it is on a hold list at the library. It's good, but I can only read small chunks at a time.

>129 avaland: Clutter bothers me, but I live in the midst of it and also love the Anne Richards quote!

Mar 6, 2019, 7:14pm

>131 nohrt4me2: That is a great quote! And that particular sentence will not be appearing on my tombstone. Anyone coming to my house will have to be comfortable with books piled on most flat surfaces, including the dining table, and probably they will leave with a few cat hairs stuck to their clothing.

>127 bragan: No regrets! This is also my kind of friendly conversation.

Mar 6, 2019, 7:18pm

I used to have more books going all at once when I was working full time as a faculty trainer and conference presenter. I was always looking for new material and read tons of academic books. Now I am working part time as online adjunct faculty, so the academic reading is now a lot less. I am happy to be able to read whatever I want whenever I want. I am rediscovering some childhood favorites. (I do not regret retiring from the full time academic rat race, and I can teach my classes wherever I can get an internet connection, including a cruise ship.)

Mar 11, 2019, 2:44pm


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

"Call me Ishmael."

"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking."

" 'Take my camel, dear...' "

Great opening lines all. Like opening chords in music, a great first line hooks us, gives us that tingle that lets us know this is going to be a worthwhile ride, that this will be the book consuming our time for the next while.

What is your favourite opening line? Did the rest of the book live up to it?

While you're at it, there's just a little over a month to get your entry in for the 2019 Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest, your chance to come up with the worst opening line.

Check it out here:

Editado: Mar 11, 2019, 3:40pm

Out of the really famous ones you find in all those lists of great opening lines, my favourite is probably “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”.

A few I like that don’t get quoted so often, all from great books in their very different ways (although it’s interesting how the first two somehow seem to go together...):
The door of the Drones Club swung open, and a young man in form-fitting tweeds came down the steps and started to walk westwards. An observant passer-by, scanning his face, would have fancied that he discerned on it a keen, tense look, like that of an African hunter stalking a hippopotamus. And he would have been right. Pongo Twistleton—for it was he—was on his way to touch Horace Pendlebury-Davenport for two hundred pounds.
(Uncle Fred in the springtime, 1939)
He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull. His voice was deep, loud, and his manner displayed a kind of dogged self-assertion which had nothing aggressive in it.
(Lord Jim, 1900)
Beginning this book (not as they say ‘book’ in our trade—they mean magazine), beginning this book, I should like if I may, I should like, if I may (that is the way Sir Phoebus writes), I should like then to say: Good-bye to all my friends, my beautiful and lovely friends.
And for why?
Read on, Reader, read on and work it out for yourself.
(Novel on yellow paper, 1936)

Editado: Mar 11, 2019, 3:40pm

One of my favorites is "There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he very nearly deserved it." (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

I do enjoy reading the Bulwer-Lytton entries each year.

Editado: Mar 11, 2019, 4:12pm

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." Still sends shivers down my spine for some reason 1984

Mar 11, 2019, 4:20pm

“It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

Editado: Mar 11, 2019, 7:33pm

"It was the day my grandmother exploded."
-Ian Banks, The Crow Road

An above average read, but I doubt any writer could live up to that first line.

Mar 11, 2019, 7:52pm

"I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why."

At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft

Mar 12, 2019, 4:45am

>138 Jim53: Mine too.

"The man who was not Terence O'Grady had come quietly." And yes, the rest of the book (and the series) lives up to it. Agent of Change, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Mar 12, 2019, 9:32pm

"'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."

From The towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley. I adored this book, but it won't be for everyone: it caters to people whose sense for the absurd is finely tuned. My review of it is here. If Wodehouse-style humour appeals to you, give this one a try.

Mar 12, 2019, 10:03pm

I enjoyed Amy Hempel’s collectes stories last year.

Opening line of the collection:

“My heart—I thought it stopped. So I got in my car and headed for God.”

Another favorite opening line to one story (title story to The Dog of Marriage)

“On the last night of the marriage, my husband and I went to the ballet.”

Mar 12, 2019, 12:25am

Lindsey Davis is very good at first lines (and any lines really, she deserves a much larger readership). These are from her Falco series.

"Nobody was poisoned at the dinner for the Society of Olive Oil Producers of Baeticca--though in retrospect, that was a quite a surprise." (A Dying Light in Corduba)

"I had just come home after telling my favorite sister that her husband had been eaten by a lion. I was in no mood for greeting a new client. (One Virgin Too Many)

"I find it surprising more people are not killed over dinner at home." (Nemesis)

I love a long first sentence too. Donald E. Westlake's are quite good and this opening to his novel Don't Ask is a favorite.

“Stuck in traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge out of lower Manhattan in a stolen frozen fish truck full of stolen frozen fish at 1:30 on a bright June afternoon, with construction out ahead of them forever on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, with Stan Murch on Dortmunder's left complaining about how there are no decent routes anymore from anywhere to anywhere in New York City–”If there ain't snow on the road, there's construction crews”–and with Andy Kelp on Dortmunder's right prattling on about global warming and how much nicer it will be when there isn't any winter, Dortmunder also had to contend with an air conditioner dripping on his ankles.”

And there's there classic fiction long opening line (following a very short sentence, but I'm counting it). Here's the start of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell.

“To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood. In a country there was a shire, and in that shire there was a town, and in that town there was a house, and in that house there was a room, and in that room there was a bed, and in that bed there lay a little girl; wide awake and longing to get up, but not daring to do so for fear of the unseen power in the next room; a certain Betty, whose slumbers must not be disturbed until six o'clock struck, when you wakened of herself 'as sure as clockwork,' and left the household very little peace afterwards."

I'd say all of these books lived up to the opening line, and some, like the Gaskell, speak SO clearly to the voice and character of the entire novel.

Editado: Mar 12, 2019, 2:20am

I've always been partial to "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink"—I Capture the Castle—but that's mostly because it's the only one I can remember off the top of my head.

Mar 12, 2019, 1:50am

"Marley was dead, to begin with." A Christmas Carol

Mar 13, 2019, 3:13pm

Not really one sentence, but I really like the first paragraph of The Bird Artist by Howard Norman.

My name is Fabian Vas. I live in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. You would not have heard of me. Obscurity is not necessarily failure, though; I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living at it. Yet I murdered the lighthouse keeper, Botho August, and that is an equal part of how I think of myself.

The book was quite good.

Mar 13, 2019, 3:41pm

Also loving the CS Lewis one in particular.

I like the opening line of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides:

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960, and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Peroskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

And of course the opening line to Pride and Prejudice is a classic.

Mar 13, 2019, 1:30am

I don't remember the rest of the book very well -- in fact, I had to spend a couple of minutes reminding myself just which book by this author it even was -- but I've always remembered the first line of Greg Egan's Distress:

"All right. He's dead. Go ahead and talk to him."

Mar 18, 2019, 2:06pm

The responses to these questions always add to my reading lists. First it was titles, now opening lines - dangerous!

Thanks to lisapeet for suggesting this next question:


If you were searching out books before the internet, before books were suggested to you in your various feeds, how did you discover that next book? Periodicals like the TLS and The New York Times Review of Books were definitely one source, but how did you discover backlist books and books from small presses, which the mainstream review outlets may have missed?

Once you found that book, was there a particular "genealogy" to your reading? Did one source lead to another?

Do you still use these sources?

Editado: Mar 18, 2019, 3:18pm

It’s not as though the internet suddenly became the book-finder’s paradise from one day to another - we’d had the web, email lists, and usenet, for quite a while before Amazon and AbeBooks started up (Amazon’s UK and German sites only started in 1998; I think I got my first modem somewhere around 1993), and even longer before most magazines and reviews were on the web, and LT only arrived around 2006.

So it was a fairly gradual shift. I can certainly remember getting book recommendations through usenet groups and then ordering books by post, for example. And subscribing to paper journals by mailing or faxing them a form printed off from their website...

Before there was internet at all, my main way of discovering interesting books was browsing the shelves of the local new and secondhand bookshops and whatever libraries I had access to. And from time to time a trip to visit bookshops elsewhere, e.g. in London or Köln.

Second most important was probably reviews of new books in the newspaper, which there was more time to read in those days, and reviews in magazines for special-interest stuff. Lists from interesting specialist bookshops where I was a regular customer would come in the post three or four times a year. I had phases of reading the TLS and NYRB, but I usually got so far behind after a few months that I ended up stopping the subscription again. When I got interested in American LGBT fiction, I subscribed to Lambda Book Review for a few years.

Book to book links were key, of course: if I’d found interesting books from a particular publisher, I might well keep a lookout for other things they had published, and similarly for authors or titles that were mentioned in other books in a context that made them sound worth checking. Of course, that kind of link mostly takes you backwards in time, which is great when you’re mostly buying old books.

I still browse shelves when I get the chance, but there aren’t anything like as many interesting bookshops around as there used to be. I still get ideas from the Guardian Books page, but I look at it online. And I still can’t make it through a TLS or NYRB in the interval between two issues!

Editado: Mar 18, 2019, 3:20pm

Bookstores: a well-run bookstore was gold in that era (and still). For SF-fan me, reviews in genre magazines, e.g. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, or Analog. For non-SF books, reviews in The New York Times.

Mar 18, 2019, 3:32pm

>153 thorold: ...additional:
- flea-markets, bookfairs, and exhibitions
- personal recommendations from perfect strangers in bookshops (“don’t read that, try this”) - it used to happen to me all the time, but it hardly ever does nowadays. Perhaps you have to look young.

Mar 18, 2019, 7:03pm

A lot of my pre-internet book searching centered on browsing the shelves at my public/school library or at one of the local bookstores (or the bookshelves in my own home; my parents had a bunch of books in addition to all the books we children had). I also eagerly awaited the monthly book order forms, and the annual school book fair was a major highlight. I would pore over those flimsy newsprint fliers, circling everything that sounded interesting.

Book recommendations from friends, family members, and teachers/librarians also informed my reading. Sometimes I would go on the hunt for a book that was mentioned in a book I was reading. Maybe it was in the bibliography, or maybe it was just mentioned by one of the characters in the story. And I would always keep an eye out for new (to me) books from favorite authors.

My current book searching efforts follow a lot of the same general pattern as they did in pre-internet days. I still wander around libraries and bookstores, but I tend to come with a list these days (much like I did when going to the school book fairs), and that list is generated by checking the library website, or from discussions with friends/family/online book community. So...less truly random browsing in physical locations, but other than that, not much difference in the end results.

Mar 18, 2019, 11:21pm

I read a lot of magazines, especially those that had book reviews. But a lot of it was a happy discovery of just browsing, and finding a new book by a favorite author. I would go to the library and browse (which people don't really do much these days) or walk the aisles of bookstores--new and used--then looking for those books at garage sales or the library because new book buying was beyond my means for the 1st 35 or 40 years of my life.

Mar 18, 2019, 11:42pm

Before the internet, most of my books came from libraries and browsing in book shops. There was always the adverts at the back of many novels that might stimulate you to go out and buy more. Also of course the lists of previous books by the author that you are reading. Books on books were also a source. Life for the book searcher is so much easier now, but less interesting. I miss the browsing in bookshops and strangely enough I miss the requests and the search by the assistants in the catalogues for the availability and then the inevitable "we can order this for you" which tended to put a brake on my book buying because there was usually something else in the shop that I could take away with me.

Mar 18, 2019, 12:41am

Libraries and bookstores, and yard sales. I occasionally read SF magazines, but seldom ended up with book recs from them (at least, as far as I recall). Suggestions, or gifts, from my parents. And always the new one by a favorite author (I had, and have, a lot of favorite authors).

I still browse the New Book shelves in the library when I go in - but these days, that's two or three times a year (usually when there's an event in the library) rather than twice a week. And there's an awful lot of old(er) books on the New Book shelves these days, not sure why - I keep seeing something by Favorite Author! oh, the one that came out last year. What about this year's? I do request books occasionally - though more often ebooks than paper ones these days.

Mar 18, 2019, 12:42am

My friends in junior high and high school all read, and we got recommendations from each other, or told the librarian we wanted more like Pearl Buck or Vonnegut or "Jane Eyre" or Poe or Anthony Burgess.

My 12th grade teacher used to bring in things she thought I would like: Scandinavian novelists, unexpurgated Chaucer, Faulkner.

When I majored in lit in college, I made recreational reading lists from stuff we didn't get around to reading in class. Or I picked books next to items on my list in the library stacks.

For about a decade I read everything the NYT Sunday supplement told me to.

I only get a fraction of rec's online even now.

Mar 19, 2019, 9:35am

I find that the internet has *expanded* my sources rather than replaced any which my TBR pile and wishlist reflect. The main impact of the internet for me is that I think I read more broadly (widely?) now than I used to.

Mar 20, 2019, 6:25am

It's often strangely hard to remember what life was even like before the internet. But I remember how I found books then. I browsed library shelves, and the shelves of bookstores (usually tiny little mall bookstores like Waldenbooks and B. Dalton), and I picked out books that looked good, or that were by authors I knew I liked, or that were on subjects I had an interest in or was researching for school. There were also sometimes mail-order catalogs. But if those places didn't have a book, I might not even know that it existed. I genuinely don't think it would have occurred to me to seek out particular titles, as opposed to just settling for whatever happened to be available. Although if I did ever truly need something specific, I did know you could get bookstores to special-order things for you, or get them via inter-library loan.

Editado: Mar 20, 2019, 12:29am

My dad was a librarian for my entire childhood, so we had a lot of eight hour days in the library while he worked during the summer or other school breaks. Looking along the shelves was 100% how I browsed and kept browsing into adulthood. Then after high school I was assistant manager at an independent (new books only) book store. Shelf browsing continued as I re-alphabetized or dusted shelves, but also you just saw so many books through what people bought, what they special ordered, etc...

When I got sick and had to quit working I had a bit of a book browsing crisis. I was so used to books being shoved under my nose at great volume. After that I spent a couple years catching up on books by authors I already liked and then some time reading mediocre books in genres I mostly didn't like just because someone recommended them and they were easy to find.

Thank goodness for LibraryThing helping to turn that around, even if my to-read list is an unmanageable monster.

Mar 20, 2019, 8:01pm

I selected books to read by browsing the shelves at the local library or at bookstores. I especially liked to go to Little Professor, a small bookstore that had free coffee and cookies. The guys there knew me and would often suggest titles, since I went there almost every week. I also was a frequent patron at the second-hand bookstore, and the owner also knew what I liked to read and would tell me when new books came in. I am one of those people who will read cereal boxes or car manuals if there is nothing else to read, or if I get caught somewhere without a book (horrors!!).

Mar 20, 2019, 9:54pm

>164 LadyoftheLodge: I went to university carrying four books, and read three of them on the plane on the way over (coming from Arlington, Virgina to London, England). When I got there, the school library wasn't open yet (still on summer break), and I couldn't find either the town bookstore or the town library (too busy trying to settle in to go looking much). I finished my fourth book, and by the second day thereafter I literally had the shakes - nothing to read! I borrowed a book, a Grisham, from my roommate - the only Grisham I've read (after reading that I knew he wasn't my cup of tea), but it saved me. I found the store and library before I finished it, whew. It was really weird - I do mean literally, my hands were trembling until I had problems signing my name, and the shakes went away when I had a book to read.

Mar 23, 2019, 6:47pm

>165 jjmcgaffey: I once finished the only book I had with me when I was waiting for my flight at an airport--before I even got on the plane! That meant the whole trip with nothing to read! (What was I thinking??) I went to the airport bookstore and picked up something there to get through the flight, then I had to find something else when I got to my destination (I think it was an academic convention.) That was way before the advent of ebook readers--mine now contains many books, but I still like to have a print book in hand. When we were in Hawaii last year, I left the paperback that I finished in the Little Free Library on Waikiki Beach!

Mar 24, 2019, 5:35am

Yes, ereaders (and phone apps) have greatly alleviated that particular problem. It may not be the book I really want to read right now, but there's basically always a book available...

Mar 24, 2019, 1:57pm

>165 jjmcgaffey: Laughing while reading your post. And sympathizing, especially because the same happened to me once. I was in a Spanish speaking country and my Spanish is not nearly good enough to read in this language, but I did as the other alternative was two or three days with no reading. (And I was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, not a city famous for its bookstores...) When I got back home, the first stop I made was at an electronic shop and I bought an e-reader: I would not let this happen to me, never again.
>167 jjmcgaffey: And well, you're right, it might not be the book I really want at that time, but this has allowed me to open my reading horizons, and sometimes make nice discoveries!

And you remind me that I need to replace my e-reader, as the one I bought after my trip to Honduras has dying a few months ago. But the one I want to buy is out of stock, and I am starting getting nervous. What will happen if they do not restock before the summer break???

Editado: Mar 24, 2019, 2:59pm

>161 rhian_of_oz: I agree; I haven't stopped using my old methods of finding new books, the net just expanded it a hundred fold! I am lucky to live in a place with a huge used bookstore, as well as one of the best Indies in the country, Changing Hands, now in its 45th year!

Which reminds me - other sources pre net were book groups, either sponsored by bookstores, libraries or school.

BI (before internte) I browsed my local library every week, walking the mile with books home to finish them the next week. Librarians were my source of enablers and they did a great job! I also went with my dad every month or so to the local bookstores for reads.

I also was in AP classes through High School, and the teachers often recommended books that I'd like. Later on, it was NYT book review, and a great little publication called Common Reader, a monthly catalogue that included little known books (mostly from the UK) by authors I didn't know but came to love (Elizabeth Von Arnim among my favs) Bas Bleu was another catalogue, which is still in business

Dalton and Walden bookstores had large selection of sci fi/fantasy books and the booksellers there often discussed books with me and recommended what to read next

I didn't find the internet till 2000 when a friend showed me how to use it. Somehow I stumbled upon Salon Table Talk book forum. Oh my - I spent many happy hours among very well read folk from all over the world who fed my hunger for new (to me) books and authors. I still have online friends from that site (who also were on Readerville, and now Book Balloon which you can find here on LT)

Also discovered book searches; best of them being Book Finders. With these search engines, no book is out of print! Tho I have to admit I miss those 'eureka!' moments when I book I had been looking for suddenly appears; those old ways of browsing yield did many such surprisises.,

Once you found that book, was there a particular "genealogy" to your reading? Did one source lead to another?

Oh my yes, from an early age! Reading Jungle book led me to Kim which lead me to learn more about India through non fiction books, then reading Far Pavillions. Discovering a used copy of Here Be Dragons at a library sale, and reading every other book that author wrote (waiting impatiently for her next one!) Id think of this as chain links that spread in all directions from one book to two to eight and on and on. I still do this - from a fiction, to a history or travel, to a bio, all from one book.

Mar 24, 2019, 3:42pm

World Book Encyclopedia used to issue Yearbooks reviewing significant doings from the previous year. I’d scan its discussion of books to find stuff I hadn’t heard of (which was a lot). Some were books that sold well enough to later be made into movies. Others fell into obscurity. An example of the latter, which I found at my local library and enjoyed when I finally read it a year or so ago, is North to Yesterday by Robert Flynn.

Mar 25, 2019, 7:00pm

My reading kind of "grew up" about the time I joined LT. Keep in mind I didn't read much as a kid. So a son of my mother's boyfriend lent me the first book I got excited by, in high school. I pulled The Covenant from my sister's shelves while I was in college because she talked about it. I discovered A River Runs Through It in a Smithsonian magazine. I spent a lot of time wondering about the dusty history books in my college library, and have a specific memory of picking one up in my college bookstore while waiting in line to sell my textbooks. (It was The Name of Rose, so actually fiction. We were in line so long that I got really into it and simply walked out after selling my books, only realizing a few minutes later I hadn't paid. Also, the store gave me so little money for the books I sold that I started keeping my text books, especially from my history classes.) My wife got me to read Terry Pratchett. Years later I remember taking a lunch break from work to browse a library and stumbling across a collection of Dostoevsky's short stories - Notes from the Underground marking a change in my reading. And I have some bookstore memories. But what was unique about all of these experiences is that I wasn't overwhelmed with books then. There was no cynicism or skepticism on bad books, no selectiveness. It was all discovery. The books were just there, all open for my reading and I had my whole life to read them.

I didn't do that much online before I joined LT. Just before LT I got into the NYTimes book review. But really LT coincided with my discovery that there were many many more books I really wanted to read then i could actually read, and many many books i wished I had already read. I'm not sure how this would have gone differently without the internet. The good thing is that I've learned I like reading about books.

Last note, when I joined LT in 2006 I had 258 books on my list of books read (over about a 16 year period). Since than I have added 746 to that list (over almost 13 years). So my reading dramatically changed before and after.

Mar 25, 2019, 1:31am

One specific type of book search that I think the internet is very good at resolving is books that feature a combination of several specific subjects: when you want to read a book that is about First Contact and mathematics, or that are second-chance erotic romances set in Australia, or novellas by Japanese authors. Finding new authors or books similar to ones you already know about is easy in meatspace, but targeting books and authors when all you have is a list of necessary features? Either you know the right people/librarians/booksellers, or you don't.

This is not just a matter of expanded metadata having become searchable (e.g. Librarything's tagmash; Goodreads' "shelves"), but also an increase in something akin to "friend's recommendations": online, you have access to the writings of so many people who have enthused about the precise combination of subjects you are looking for -- often in listicle form. There's always someone who has read what you are looking to find out about.

Mar 26, 2019, 2:10pm

>172 Petroglyph: "Meatspace"?

Still reeling over the casual disgust and contempt for the physical world that this term conveys, and what it says about our attitude toward humankind.

The days of confronting my own geezer-hood come thick and fast now. Zoinks!

But now I know why we old people die: We want to.

Sorry for the sidetrack.

Mar 26, 2019, 5:25pm

>173 nohrt4me2:
"Still reeling over the casual disgust and contempt for the physical world that this term conveys, and what it says about our attitude toward humankind" (emphasis added)

I think you're reading too much into that word, the emphasized portion in particular. I find that meatspace is a useful (and cheeky) antonym for cyberspace/online spaces (especially in contexts where the online space has possibilities lacking in the physical realm, though that doesn't have to rise to the level of "disgust and contempt"). Until the advent of the internet, no such term was needed; and I avoid the term IRL because it implies that online interactions are somehow not (or less) real.

>"But now I know why we old people die: We want to"

Ok, now you're definitely exaggerating.

Mar 26, 2019, 7:29pm

"Meatspace" is a new term for me too. Happy to join the senior citizens group myself!

Editado: Mar 26, 2019, 12:30am

>174 Petroglyph: No offense to you personally intended. I need to remember to mind the generational linguistic gap.

Maybe exaggerating a little about death. But age and infirmity does reconcile one to Deadspace. It is a gift to be thankful for a good life ... and thankful not to regret mortality.

Mar 26, 2019, 1:40am

Meatspace is originally gamer speak, yes? I always think of that as going hand in hand with that late 90s surge in early online culture, kind of wannabe=transgressive-from-mom's-basement.

Anyway, I thought I ought to chime in here since I'm the one who asked the question in the first place. I'm very fascinated with the idea of reading genealogy—now we have so many book recommendations and reviews and lists thrown our way, but once upon a time you found out about a book somewhere, and tracing those lines really interests me. I grew up in a very bookish household—my dad was a college professor, my mom was a very wide ranging reader, both of them having come of age in that particular urban Jewish '40s and '50s culture that put huge stock in books and intellectualism. So there were always books all over the house that were never off limits to me (ask me what I thought of Fear of Flying at age 13!) and they supplied me with all the appropriate books for a '70s kid, The Phantom Tollbooth and Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time and The Dark Is Rising, all that good stuff. As far as finding books on my own, I spent a LOT of time at the library, pulling miscellaneous interesting things off the shelves, and in our local college bookstore. I subscribed to Kids' Magazine and Cricket, and then Fantasy & Science Fiction, and through that got into underground comix. Went to work in an underground comic/sf store after school as an early teen. And read my parents' New Yorkers and NYT Book Reviewand my mom's Ms. Magazine. The NYer was a huge conduit for books. And in high school I had lots of friends who had older hippie brothers and sisters who read a lot, and we traded books constantly. And in college—art school—I was exposed to a ton of stuff.

At some point, probably through kids' mail order, I started getting A Common Reader catalogs, which were another major point of departure for me—they came out every three weeks with mini reviews of curated, eclectic, wonderful books, and I'd sit down and circle the ones I wanted and figure out how I was going to pay for them all. Those, in turn, primed me for my gateway online book forum, Readerville, and that led me to the book Internet, and here we are.

I'm thinking about all this because I'm writing an essay on James Mustich, the guy behind A Common Reader and his new book, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die, which I'm writing for Bloom. Technically it fits because he's over 40 and this is his first book, but it's also a musing for those of us over 40 and beyond about how we found the books we found, how we became capital-R readers, without that digital ubiquity.

Or it's going to be, anyway, once I write it. Which I have to do in the next few days to make my Bloom schedule, oy. But I had a great lunch with Jim last week and have transcribed an hour and a half of noisy audio, so I have all the pieces. I just have to write the grout, as I think of it. It's all there in my head, just not very organized yet.

At any rate, thanks for the thoughtful answers. I've loved hearing about people's reading genealogy, and have been getting fantastic responses everywhere I've asked (which has been everywhere, since it's a great way to make small talk).

Mar 27, 2019, 3:10pm

I just spent some fun minutes looking up the etymology of 'meatspace'. There is some debate as to whether William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) is the first use because he refers to 'meat' in opposition to cyberspace but doesn't actually use the term 'meatspace'.

Mar 28, 2019, 5:30am

>177 lisapeet: I'm not sure what a "reading genealogy" is, but it sounds interesting.

I was always partial to books about runaways, freaks, pirates, and castaways as a kid. Probably can make a jump from those to my lifelong pull toward dystopians, psychothrillers, science fiction, etc.

Mar 28, 2019, 6:51am

Reading geneology is a new term for me as well, but I get the idea - think of a family tree. Starts with one book, that leads to two more similar author or subject, that leads to similar subject but non fiction, etc., At least thats my take. Yours works as well!

Editado: Mar 28, 2019, 10:34am

Yes, re reading genealogy (it's my own term, so I guess anyone can define it however they like)—the books that led you down one reading path or another, and also where you found a book—what shelf you pulled it off of, who handed it to you, what was it about the cover that made you pick it up, etc.

For instance I can pinpoint the three books that changed the way I read fiction, shifting me from a strictly absorptive reader to a critical one—"Wow, you can do that to tell a story?": E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, John Irving's The World According to Garp, Ann Beattie's Chilly Scenes of Winter, all when I was 13-14. Now, Ragtime I remember my dad giving me—he was a big one for putting books into my hands, bless him—and Garp I picked up of the new books table at the big old Barnes & Noble in NYC on a trip in with my parents, probably after having read a review of it in the NYT or New Yorker. But Chilly Scenes of Winter? I have no idea. I still remember the paperback, which means it was mine and not a library book, but HOW on earth did I discover that one? Maybe I read a review and bought it at the local university bookstore or on a NYC trip, but I frustratingly can't remember. So to stick with the genealogy analogy, it's like knowing the name of a particular ancestor, and about when they emigrated, but not what town they were from.

Mar 28, 2019, 10:37am

One of my favorite responses to that question was one coworker, who's probably in her mid/late 60s, who said she was a huge movie fan as a kid and would go seek out the original book that any film was based on, and then all the work from that author. So the movie The Grapes of Wrath led her to the book to all of Steinbeck, etc.

Editado: Mar 28, 2019, 2:29pm

>182 lisapeet: Ah! A friend of mine (also 60s) is "reading the movies" right now. She is reading Night of the Hunter right now, the movie of which is a long-shared favorite of us both.

We had very similar childhoods in chaotic households. In comparing notes, we found that we gravitated to similar books as kids. The Boxcar Children, for example, was therapeutic for both of us in the same way at age 10.

We have certainly influenced each other's reading choices.

Hmm. I like the idea of making some kind of "genealogy" of the people behind my favorite books. Alas, I cannot remember who told me about Willa Cather.

Mar 31, 2019, 7:49pm

>183 nohrt4me2: I like this genealogy idea too. It was fun to think back over how I got ideas for reading "before Internet and Kindle" and of course before LT.

Willa Cather--yes, I learned of her books when we read them in a reading group, mainly teachers. Death Comes for the Archbishop was the first one.

Mar 31, 2019, 8:20pm

>184 LadyoftheLodge:
I learnt of Cather when I googled "female authors 1920s". That led me to Rebecca West and Edith Wharton, too.

Mar 31, 2019, 9:21pm

>172 Petroglyph: >173 nohrt4me2: >174 Petroglyph: >175 LadyoftheLodge: >177 lisapeet: >178 rhian_of_oz:

From the first chapter of Neuromancer:

"...a tangible wave of longing hit him, lust and loneliness riding in on the wavelength of amphetamine. He remembered the smell of her skin in the overheated darkness of a coffin near the port, her fingers locked across the small of his back.
All the meat, he thought, and all it wants."

Rather OT, but I wonder how many computer enthusiasts came to reading fiction through an interest in Gibson.

Editado: Mar 31, 2019, 2:26am

DELETED, never mind...

Abr 2, 2019, 4:18am

>186 dukedom_enough: Um...ew? I'm a computer enthusiast and an avid reader from before that...I have a couple Gibsons that I keep trying to convince myself to read. That quote doesn't make it any more likely! I don't like noir - hadn't classified Gibson as that, but the quote sure sounds like it (sex and drugs, whee).

Abr 2, 2019, 9:01pm

>188 jjmcgaffey: He's kind of cyber-noir, yeah. I've just read Pattern Recognition and liked it a lot, though there's also the element of schadennostalgia (I just made up that word but I think it's kinda good): Lookit what he thought could happen, and lookit what did happen! There's probably a better word but I can't think of it just now because: middle age.

Anyway, I came here to thank you all again for the great responses--they all got me in the right frame of mind to write this essay, which is priceless in my book. And here it is (the essay, not my proverbial book, which I most definitely haven't written): Discovery Channels: James Mustich, A Common Reader, and 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.

Abr 2, 2019, 3:20am

>189 lisapeet: Very nice read, Lisa! I would have overlooked Mustich's work as just another listicle, but the way you describe how the list unfolded--and how.Mitch time he took!--makes me want to read it. Thanks for sharing.

Abr 3, 2019, 11:15am

>190 nohrt4me2: Thanks! Yeah, I think that book is a hard sell marketing-wise, since the reading public is so inundated with lists, reading challenges, etc. But this is something really different, and I'm happy that I could make the case for it. Plus it was just fun to revisit A Common Reader, which meant SO much to me in the days before the Internet. I credit it with being a major stop along my journey from office manager to editor/writer—and it was fun to tell Mustich that. People love to hear when they've done something that's touched folks' lives, though I get the feeling he has no dearth of that when it comes to the catalog. He said he has eight filing cabinets in his basement full of correspondence about it, including from the years since it closed.

Abr 3, 2019, 11:23am

>189 lisapeet: >191 lisapeet: Thanks - that was very interesting. I didn’t know about A Common Reader - obviously one of the many things that didn’t make it across the Atlantic in the days before the internet.

Abr 3, 2019, 2:52pm

>188 jjmcgaffey: >189 lisapeet:

Noir is probably integral to cyberpunk, I fear. And too many people, including some tech billionaires, seem to be all too simpatico with that attitude toward "meat."

Gibson's later books portray women much better, I believe. The Peripheral is quite good, but maybe much too on point in our current moment.

Abr 4, 2019, 1:26pm

>189 lisapeet: as I mentioned above, Common Reader was one of my top enabers in my pre internet reading. Wish Id kept those catalogues; maybe items weren't my cuppa back then, but now might be (tho I suspect they might be listed in his book?) thanks for that article, very interesting

Abr 4, 2019, 1:48pm

If I may be excused for being meta, this Common Reader discussion brings to mind The uncommon reader, by Alan Bennett. Apparently it's a humorous novella about Queen Elizabeth II who discovers reading for pleasure.

Disclaimer: I have not yet read the book myself, but I will, soon, in a few weeks or so. (It's somewhere on the pile of "to read when you're not sure about the next book"). Though I have no idea how much of Mustich's list the novella is based on.

Abr 4, 2019, 6:02pm

>195 Petroglyph: No relation between the two books at all, but the novella is amusing. I read it back in 2016, and while the queen is not specifically named, it's fairly obvious who she is supposed to be.

Abr 4, 2019, 8:04pm

>195 Petroglyph: Go for it. It will only take an hour of your life, and you'll come out of it with that wonderful, slightly wistful Alan Bennett smile...

That reminds me, a couple of years ago I read a fun little book written in the 1920s by the German poet Klabund - Deutsche Literaturgeschichte in einer Stunde (German literary history in one hour). It didn't quite live up to the title, but it came very close. A tongue-in-cheek guide to everything you really need to know about everyone important from Walter von der Vogelweide to the Manns. There's nothing new under the sun!

Abr 4, 2019, 12:18am

>195 Petroglyph: I love Alan Bennett and that is one of my favs.

Abr 9, 2019, 2:31pm


On LT everyone is a reader. Think back though. Can you remember a time when you couldn't read? - How did you learn to read?

Abr 9, 2019, 5:59pm

I have no clear memory of a time when I didn't know how to read, nor can I recall how I did learn, though I am fairly certain that learning happened when I entered elementary school and not before. At least in terms of a formalized process. Both my parents read to me regularly when I was a child, even after I had learned to read for myself. Well, the later reading was probably a bit more incidental, as I have four younger siblings who would be read to, and I was likely listening in.

Editado: Abr 9, 2019, 7:40pm

>199 SassyLassy: I'm pretty sure I learnt in my first year of primary school, when I was 4. In the UK we had the Peter and Jane series of Ladybird books in school, and I clearly remember learning to read with those. Nursery school wasn't mandatory in '70s Northern Ireland, and I don't remember anyone trying to teach me before that (hope I'm not doing my parents a great disservice there).

I have 2 older sisters who are 5 and 9 years older than me, so maybe there was a natural need / want to catch up with them, but I would say I'm definitely the bookworm of the three. Perhaps becoming one of life's readers is more nature than nurture after all.

Abr 9, 2019, 9:06pm

I can’t remember not being able to read, although of course there must have been times when I couldn’t. I can very clearly remember the pleasure of being read to, in English and German, and listening to stories on the radio. We always had lots of books around, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to reading the titles and authors on the spines of the books on the shelf and wondering about what might be inside.

Officially I must have learnt to read at primary school, because my father (being a teacher) always said he disapproved of parents who mess up carefully designed lesson plans by teaching their kids stuff out of proper sequence. But I’m pretty sure I must have been able to read before that. The school probably didn’t notice, they would have been too worried about my mixed-up bilingual condition, something they wouldn’t have had much experience with in those days.

Abr 9, 2019, 9:31pm

I remember being excited about learning to read in first grade only to realize I already knew how to some degree.

In those days (1950s, U.S.), the conventional wisdom seemed to be to read to read to kids, but to leave teaching reading to the experts to avoid "bad reading habits": moving your lips when reading silently, following words with your fingers, not learning the correct "sight" words, etc.

My kid learned to read at four or five from watching "Between the Lions" on PBS. He was obsessed with the Braille system after we visited a Library for the Blind booth at a book fair when he was six. He would fill practice notebooks with "translations" of Harry Potter into Braille.

Abr 9, 2019, 9:50pm

I was taught to read in primary school (age 5/6), but I distinctly remember being happy that I knew most letters already -- I'd been spelling out words for a while and "reading" after a fashion. In preschool I corrected my teacher's misspelling of my name and I also remember going through some early-readers books before official reading lectures started. One of those was also used at school as instructional material, and I complained that I was bored with that particular one; the teacher made me read it out loud to class to prove I already knew it.

So no, I can't really recall not being able to read. Having difficulty spelling out words and sentences, yes. Having letters being entirely opaque to me, no.

Abr 9, 2019, 10:56pm

In the 1950’s, there was no preschool where I grew up, so my first exposure to formal lessons was in kindergarten when I was 5. But my mother was a great reader, and read to me and my brothers all of the time. We were great fans of the Bobbsey Twins, and I remember at school the Dick and Jane books being too easy. On a side note, we had come from Ireland, and the teacher finally told my mother not to help me with spelling, because she wasn’t spelling things correctly... colour vs color, etc. My mother was quite annoyed. :-)

Abr 9, 2019, 11:09pm

When I was three I spent a year at the Marjorie Daw nursery school, and I began learning my letters there. By the time I got to kindergarten I was a bit of a pain in the nether regions, I fear, as I picked things up quickly and loved to show off.

Abr 9, 2019, 1:24am

I can't remember not knowing how to read. I have a vague memory of my dad sitting on the floor with me and teaching me when I was four or so, but that might be conjured up from what my mom has told me... I don't have a ton of childhood memories that go back that far. Apparently I was a precocious reader, which was accentuated by the fact that I was small for my age, and people used to comment about this little tiny girl reading poetry sitting in her stroller. Or, again, at least that's what my mother told me. I have the feeling she built up a fair amount of mythology around my being SPECIAL. I think I just really liked to read.

Abr 10, 2019, 11:54am

My mom always says I was reading by age 4, but I have no recollection of learning to read. I don't remember ever working on it so I think for whatever reason it came pretty naturally to me. I know my husband also was an early reader - his mom remembers him reading out of a newspaper at age 4. This has sort of given us fits as parents because though both of our boys have always met their school benchmarks for reading, it has taken (is taking) a lot of work - reading together every night, practicing sight words, trying to find just the right books to tempt them . . . . My now 9 year old is doing well, but still would rather have me read books like Harry Potter to him rather than struggling through on his own. My 6 year old is reading very simple early readers.

It's been very interesting for me to observe my kids learning to read and see all the work that goes into it for the average (or even slightly above average!) reader. It's something I don't remember personally at all.

Abr 10, 2019, 6:39pm

My mom and dad read to us constantly when I was a kid. Our house was a "print-rich environment" in eduspeak! We always had books, comics, catalogs, magazines. We learned to "read" by telling the story along with the pictures. Sometimes my dad would deliberately make mistakes or try to skip sections, and we would correct him.

The small branch library was within walking distance of our house and we went there constantly. I was in the summer reading program every summer, and I remember sitting on the floor listening to the librarian read aloud during storytime. I remember the high ceilings and those wooden slant-topped kid reading tables and little stools! When the branch library closed, there was the bookmobile on Friday afternoons.

I do remember learning to read (formally). I remember coming home from school with one of the "Jean and Johnny" reading series (Catholic school version of Dick and Jane) and proudly reading the first pages to my parents (as in "Look, look. See Spot. See Spot run. Look at Spot and Puff!") That was a great and memorable day in my life, and I have not stopped reading since then. (People who don't like to read puzzle me greatly. I know that sounds judgmental, but there it is.)

Abr 10, 2019, 10:29pm

I really can't remember.

Abr 10, 2019, 1:27am

My memories start when I was about 2, so I can definitely remember not being able to read. I know I could read a bit before the formal teaching time (age six, first grade).

I have very distinct memories of not being able to read some of the things I most wanted to read though, Asterix comics! I'd sit on the floor in the hallway in front of their book shelf and stare at the pages willing myself to understand them.

>208 japaul22: I didn't start reading chapter books on my own until I was about 9. I loved having my parents read those to me too, not because they were a struggle to read on my own, that just seemed like a good distribution of labor! I always read lots of comic books and word-heavy picture books on my own. Eventually I felt pressured to read chapter books simply because everyone in the family read a lot. The first one I tried to read on my own was awful but luckily the second was The Hobbit.

Abr 11, 2019, 11:43am

>211 mabith: My son who loves to be read to (he's 9) is sort of like that about everything. He really loves one-on-one time and I'm happy that he'll let us reading together be part of that. It's a really wonderful way to end our days every night, so I hope he lets me read to him for a long time to come!

Abr 11, 2019, 1:14pm

>212 japaul22: It's definitely special time! My mom and I kept it up until the end of 6th grade (she started working nights then), so it can certainly last a while. It helped that our advanced course teachers kept reading aloud to us in class.

Abr 11, 2019, 7:55pm

My college students loved being read to! You've never really appreciated "The Raven" until you've heard Christopher Walken read it on YouTube.

Abr 11, 2019, 3:08am

>199 SassyLassy: I don't remember not being able to read, but I do remember the first book(s) I could read by myself - Little Golden Books, specifically The Poky Little Puppy. And half a dozen others - one about a hen - but that one stuck, for some reason. And since it was a big deal that I was reading it by myself, I presume I was being read to quite a lot - like many here, our house (houses, really) was a print-rich environment.

I got to school and was given Dick and Jane, and _hated_ them - there's no story there! Too easy. Then my sister went to kindergarten - she'd been reading for a couple years by then, probably Golden Books - and was firmly told that kindergartners couldn't read. Apparently (I learned this last year) she therefore decided that what she'd been doing, and enjoying, wasn't reading. It took _years_ for me to convince her to read for fun again - handing her every book I thought she'd enjoy, and I finally snagged her (though I don't remember with what).

Editado: Abr 12, 2019, 7:50pm

>215 jjmcgaffey: The Poky Little Puppy is one of the first books I remember reading and loving as well. Also A Child's Garden of Verses, and the first poem I remember loving/memorizing, Robert Louis Stevenson's "Happy Thought":
The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
Still a life-organizing sentiment for me. If I were ever to get a quote tattoo, that would probably be it.

And actually it seems that The Poky Little Puppy had a lasting influence too. A few years after I got my beloved dog, I happened to take a second look at the book cover, and... well. I most definitely didn't set out to get a dog who looked like the Poky Little Puppy nearly 40 years after the fact, but it's a pretty cool coincidence:

Abr 12, 2019, 9:22pm

I remember when I first thought I knew how to read. Not the last misjudgment in my life.

When my mother would read out loud I’d listen carefully and after a while had each of my little storybooks memorized along with the exact moment to turn the page. With this accomplished, I realized I’d mastered reading and proudly announced the fact! I remember being annoyed to learn that reading was something else entirely.

So, it wasn’t until school and “My Little Red Story Book” that learning the art began. After a slow start, I took to it with relish.

Abr 12, 2019, 11:19pm

Interesting to see how many people don't remember not being able to read. And here I had the impression I was unusual in this respect! Although, I admit, I don't actually have lots of clear memories of my very early childhood. Now that I think about it, though, a lot of the ones I do have involve reading...

My mother tells me that when I was three I seemed to be quite able to read the copy of The Real Mother Goose I insisted she perpetually have checked out of the library, although it's very possible that (like dypaloh) I just had the thing memorized. I do, however, remember being rather proud of being able to read the sign on the door of my first grade classroom. I also remember finding my reading lessons terribly tedious... Why did they keep making me spend all day spelling the word "cat?" Who doesn't know how to spell "cat?" :)

Abr 12, 2019, 12:35am

And there was the time I was in the car with my parents and (they tell me...I almost have a memory of it, but it's likely a memory of the story) suddenly yelled "Stop!". Dad hit the brakes and looked around for the problem, then asked me - I pointed to the stop sign just ahead and said "That's what it says!". No idea how old I was - something over two and under six, is about all I can say. Probably closer to the low end.

I can, however, date my earliest memory that is actually a memory and not a story rather precisely - it was the summer I turned 3. It's completely pointless, but it's my first memory - sitting on the top of the playhouse my dad made from a packing crate, looking at my new white sandals.

Said sandals turned up the next spring on the roof of the playhouse - I'd left them there, and they'd been buried under the snow. Not sure if I disliked them or just forgot about them... Their return, however, is a story, not a memory. My parents told us stories of us as kids a lot; a great many of my "memories" either are stories or are highly colored by them.

Abr 12, 2019, 2:18am

>216 lisapeet: I loved A Child's Garden of Verses too! We had a "big book" version of it, with lots of colorful illustrations. My sisters and I had some of them memorized, especially the one about the swing, and the one about the Land of Nod (which I personally found sort of scary back then). We had lots of Little Golden Books too. I think the one about the hen was The Little Red Hen as in "Who will help me bake the bread? etc). We read those books so much they were falling apart.

Editado: Abr 12, 2019, 2:50am

>218 bragan: Who doesn't know how to spell "cat?"

Hadn’t thought about this in years, but your comment pulled it out of my memory’s dark attic:
One year, just before the Super Bowl, Dallas Cowboy linebacker Thomas (“Hollywood”) Henderson claimed that Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw was so dumb “he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a’.”
I remember it made me laugh. But the Steelers defeated Dallas, Bradshaw was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player, and I lost a bet on the game. I guess Hollywood and I were the dumb ones.

Abr 13, 2019, 8:18pm

I could read before I went to school, I think it was being read to as we looked at the pages, and trying together, I have a memory of sitting on my Dad's knee reading the paper with him, I remember Richard Scarry picture books and lots of others. I think it fascinated me. But I am not sure I remember not being able to read as such, examples of that and text as just marks. But the process has had its quirks, english pronunciations wrong in my self taughtness. But i have memories that must predate reading as i don't think I didn't have to learn. I can remember learning or practicing, I suppose I can conjure a feeling of not getting it, what that must have been like and why i would try more, that seems there in an non specific way I don't especially remember . . . but then do we especially remember things that have meaning (I have no idea, but think in some ways probably, yes) and the marks we don't understand may not have that unless something gave it that?

Abr 14, 2019, 2:49pm

I don't specifically remember learning to read, though I do remember reading "homework" in that my mum had to sign off on the number of pages I had read each night.

When I was around 4 or 5 my mum would buy me a Little Golden Book when we went grocery shopping, but I'm not sure whether they were to read myself, or for her to read to me.

Abr 14, 2019, 4:56pm

>203 nohrt4me2: In those days (1950s, U.S.), the conventional wisdom seemed to be to read to read to kids, but to leave teaching reading to the experts to avoid "bad reading habits": moving your lips when reading silently, following words with your fingers, not learning the correct "sight" words, etc.

What!!?? I never knew that idea existed!As a teacher myself, I have always thought of parents as being a child's first teacher, so actually welcome their exposing children to books. There is not one right way to learn to read, for most children its a combination of factors so its not a big deal if they learn differnt ways in school or homw.

I loved being read to, and think I actually started to read in Kindergarten (tho I think I learned Hebrew letters first; in nursery school at our synagogue, I remember the teacher showing us each letter and teaching us how to remember them. I don't remember the same with English ABCs.I have wondered if this early into to symbols made it easier to latch on the English letter and words). I know by the time I was six I was going to the library every week with my sister to check out books. If I couldn't read them yet, she'd read them to me.

I remember having to see a reading teacher when I was in second grade - apparently the school I went to in 1st taught using sight words and I didn't have much phonics background. But I caught up very quickly, and never looked back!

I strongly beieve that early exposure is the best way to teach a child to love reading and want to be a reader. Its hard now, with all the tech distractions, but the preschools I teach are rivited whenever I am reading a story, and end up looking at the book and pretend that they are reading themselves

Abr 14, 2019, 6:44pm

>224 cindydavid4: I think teaching methods 50 or 60 years ago were much different. Our first-grade teacher spent a lot of time teaching us how to open a book properly, how to turn the pages, and correcting the angle at which we were holding the book while reading silently. For a long time, I thought you weren't reading "correctly" if your book was on a flat surface.

I got in trouble in third grade for taking the reader home and devouring it in one go.

Learning at the same pace as everyone else and not reading ahead seemed to be important.

Things seemed to loosen up once we got to fourth grade.

Abr 22, 2019, 9:34pm

>223 rhian_of_oz: I remember having my parents sign off on what I read too--number of pages. What a laugh! I was always way ahead.

>225 nohrt4me2: I also had that kind of thing in school, about holding the book at the proper angle. I also got in trouble for reading too much--when I was in 4th grade, I read more books than anyone else in my class and had more stars on my book report chart. The teacher did not believe I read 26 books when the other kids were reading five books.

Abr 22, 2019, 10:06pm

>199 SassyLassy: Q7

First grade. My parents believed that if I need to learn earlier, the plans for kindergarten will be changed (they did get changed a decade or so later) and refused to teach me anything about writing, reading or counting (kindergarten dealt with that), letting the official program do it when the specialists thought they should.

I was in the minority in first grade - most of the kids could read... kinda (Bulgarian is phonetic so syllable-reading is common and is a common way to learn to read; people that do not read much may syllable-read a lot - especially with longer words but sometimes with any words). By the end of the year, I was one of the very few in the class that did not need to syllable-read new words and that could read a complete sentence/chapter without syllable-reading.

Abr 23, 2019, 2:37pm

>227 AnnieMod: How interesting.about Bulgarian! I always wondered if Spanish readers--Spanish is also more phonetic than English--might learn to read phonetically.

For a short time, my son went to Catholic school where "phonics" was emphasized more. He was reading in kindergarten. Switching to public school, which emphasized phonics less, didn't seem to mess up his reading at all.

Abr 24, 2019, 5:05pm

>189 lisapeet: three weeks later I just stumbled on your post. Lovely article, Lisa. Think I just might pick this book up.

Abr 24, 2019, 5:36pm

Hmm. I’m frustrated with my reading speed whenever I try to read fast, so maybe I haven’t really learned yet.

I remember not being able to read in kindergarten and I “remember” my mother praising Sesame Street for teaching kids to read before school. (Did she really say that?!!). So, maybe I did learn something from watching tons of Sesame Street. I never remember being hindered because I was unable to read, but suspect I was an unenthused student of any effort to make random sounds from symbols. But really I don’t remember and just suspect it was a long road.

My daughter came into kindergarten already a reader and was the only reader in her class - care of a good preschool, to an extent. My son attended the same preschool and wasn’t reading till a bit later.

Editado: Abr 24, 2019, 10:12pm

>229 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan! Jim is such a sweetheart, and I have such a soft spot for A Common Reader—it was a fun piece to write.

And Jim pens a great review—it’s a really fun book.

Maio 4, 2019, 9:05pm

Time to move on to another page. Follow the yellow brick link:
Este tópico foi continuado por QUESTIONS for the Avid Reader Part II.