Posts Tagged ‘enjoyment of reading’

Reading differently

September 11, 2021

Just a few brief thoughts here as I realised the other day just how much the act of writing this blog for the last decade or so has changed the ways I read. Not in any dramatic fashion, because as a lifelong student of literature, once the bug had bitten me in my teens, through three different degrees at universities and a lifetime’s career, I feel that I have always sought to go below the surface. But for a long time, in the middle part of my life, I ‘just’ read books… one sometimes leading to another.

Now there is a greater deliberateness to my approach. Yes, I’ll allow myself to be sidetracked by a sudden discovery, but there’s more of a sense of planning to what I read and when, as I’m increasingly conscious of limited time. I’ve set some time aside this November for reading the new Olga Tokarczuk novel The Books of Jacob, which is finally scheduled to appear in English translation – and I’ve resisted buying the French version which is already out there because I like the work of her English translator Jennifer Croft – and there’s a part of me that remembers, every now and then, that I need to live long enough to read the final part of Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust trilogy…

So I read a little more carefully now, with a slip of paper and a pencil to jot down ideas and thoughts, links and comparisons and anything else that occurs to me as I read. And I rejoice in the modern technology which means that if my phone is with me, I can look up words and references instantly, without leaving the sofa, and I do look things up rather more than in the past.

I’m thinking more about what I’m reading, with the discipline of this blog in the back of my mind: my promise to myself was that every book I read would get a post, and I don’t think I’ve broken this rule. And, if I’m honest, I’m getting more out of the reading that I’m doing, which can’t be bad.

Pleasures of reading…

March 26, 2016

I can’t really think of anything more enjoyable than reading. The other evening I was home alone and feeling a little under the weather. So I curled up on the sofa with my current book (Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads, since you ask, and I’ll review it when I’ve finished it), put some Bach on the hifi and spent a very enjoyable two or three hours.

I can read pretty much anywhere – on the sofa, in bed, in the smallest room, out in the garden on the bench in the sunshine. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know my tastes are pretty catholic. Reading is often accompanied by music, sometimes by alcohol too – a session with a really good bottle of beer is hard to beat. Perhaps I’m too easily satisfied?

I’m also interested in the state of mind I gradually shift into; tranquil, restful, de-stressed but quite alert: I’m often deeply engaged with what I’m reading, thinking about ideas, sometimes pausing to reach for the iPad to look something up that is relevant at that moment, perhaps the book I’ll move on to next. Incidentally, I never thought I’d enjoy having a tablet that much, but it has displaced the need for dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and sits next to me on the sofa, replete with potential knowledge. Sadly, there’s still no replacement for the huge atlas. Don’t suggest Google Earth, it’s not the same. I often make notes on what I’m reading, sometimes for future reference, sometimes as preparation for my next blog post.

When you think about it, while reading, your mind is engaged, often with a kindred spirit, and sometimes with one of the better minds on the planet. And you can commune with someone who has long left it, too.

Sometimes I binge-read. This often happens when I’m ill and laid up in bed – I’ll work my way through several books in very short order, perhaps the same author or genre. It also happens in summer when it’s wonderful to be out in the garden, I’ve caught up with all the gardening jobs and it’s too hot to do anything else. And when I’m away on holiday.

Then there’s the physical pleasure of a new book: pristine cover, unopened pages, virgin territory. If you think about it, there’s something different about the newness of a new book, which you don’t get with other new things in quite the same way. Opening a new CD, DVD (if you still buy those) or a new gadget or garment doesn’t have quite the same thrill for me. A book becomes mine slowly and through quite a different process.

There’s a bit of me that’s uneasy at the thought of all this work and pleasure eventually going to waste, as it were: after I’m gone, all those thoughts, all that thinking and analysis, all those electrical synapse connections or whatever they are in my brain, will just vanish…

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