Think about your favorite authors, your favorite books . . . what is it about them that makes you lovethem above all the other authors you’ve read? The stories? The characters? The way they appear to relish the taste of words on the tongue? The way they’re unafraid to show the nitty-gritty of life? How they sweep you off to a new, distant place? What is it about those books and authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good books and authors do not?
I tend to favor books that have a voice that I like to “listen to”. I love “Cal” in Middlesex as well as “Suyuri” in Memoirs of a Geisha. The story telling that these two characters seem to be capable of draws me in and keeps me reading with hopes that the story will never end. The authors ability to create a character and a story with such a strong voice and influence is truly magical in my eyes. I think that the times in which I read a book is important too. I read Memoirs of a Geisha when we found out we were moving to Okinawa three years ago. I had put off reading this book for over three years for no good reason and now the time had arrived where I wanted to learn more about Japan (though the book is a work of fiction). I couldn’t put it down and loved every syllable I formed in my head while reading it. In the spring of 2007 I had an opportunity to visit Kyoto with a spouse’s club. I went back to re-read some passages in Memoirs of a Geisha to help prepare for it. Once there, I went to Gion, where the geisha originated from and still perform to this day. If this book hadn’t been as memorable as it was for me I don’t know if I would have enjoyed my visit to Kyoto as much and even visited again this past February with the hubby.
Not many books impress themselves on my brain as well as Memoirs of a Geisha, Middlesex and the book I am reading now. Where The Red Fern Grows is a book I was required to read in the fourth grade and am now re-reading for the first time since then. As I read I remember what’s coming next and the fourth grade happened twenty-four years ago. I can remember the passages almost to the t and am amazed. I also haven’t been able to read it without crying at least once a reading session and hugging my dog as if I was a little girl again, realizing that he wasn’t going to live forever. Books are very very powerful!
Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (to, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
I was asked to do a guest post over at BOOKS ON THE BRAIN last month where I did write about this subject.
Yes, I have been a member of a “real life” book club. I ran a book club here on Okinawa for two years and I called it “Lit & The Island”. Pretty catchy huh? Originally it started with just a few of my closest friends and then grew a bit with invitations from other members to their friends. The group was never larger than ten people at a time but rarely did we have full attendance each month at our meetings/dinners. With the plethora of restaurants on this island, we met at a new establishment every month. It was fun while it lasted and we read some very interesting books for the most part. There were some duds though so those meeting consisted of discussions about things other than the book. Actually, there were really only a few times that the book of the month was discussed for longer than twenty minutes. I chalk that up to the fact that some of the members hadn’t seen each other since the last meeting and had a month worth of catching up to do. I was guilty of this bad habit myself too.
The way we would choose the clubs books was to have a nomination/voting night every few months. Living in Okinawa made book buying a little tricky. The multiple base PX’s and BX (Post Exchange & Base Exchange) don’t have the largest book selection so we had to order everything on-line. I think some people were able to find the chosen books at the library once in a while but for the most part it was order the book, wait for it to be shipped, wait for the Military mail to get it here from California and then get it from your post office box on base at the post office. UGGHH!!! Anyway, we would vote for three to four books at a time to make things easier. I would always bring the longest book list of nominations. Each person was then asked to tell the group about the book they wanted people to vote for and why. After everyone had their turn we would write our top three of four (depending on how many months we were filling) and I would tally the books based on vote counts. The most votes was the first book, then on down the line. We read Elizabeth Noble’s “The Reading Group”, Arthur Golden’s “Memoir of a Geisha”, Jeffrey Eugenides’s “Middlesex”, Michael Dorris’s “A Yellow Raft In Blue Water” and many others. These were my favorites of what we read as a group.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading the books we assigned ourselves to read for this club. In the beginning of the clubs existence I would read the book even if I didn’t like it but as time went on and my TBR shelf grew, I was a bit pickier with what I read. If the book wasn’t grasping me in after about a quarter of the way through I wouldn’t stick with it. I would have something to contribute to the discussion with hope that others could clue me in to what happened after I put the book down.
Now I just run this on-line book club which I LOVE! I have a little more control over the nominations and having made the time frame bi-monthly it makes it easier to read other things too. When we move back to the States I may look into joining a “real life” book club again but for now, I am more than happy to know that I am reading a book as part of a group of readers on-line. I don’t regret running and being a part of “Lit & The Island” though. I believe that everything happens for a reason and it was a lovely experience.
Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?
What an interesting question. I think that my tastes are influenced by the last book I read. I believe that books find you and though you might buy a book today, you might not read it for many years, months or whatever. This is because somehow I know that I will read the book but when the time is right. I may start something today, but find myself putting it back on the shelf and not revisiting it till later on in life when it is more meaningful to me.
What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.
I believe that books, the internet, magazines, newspapers and e-books, comics and graphic novels are reading. Audiobooks, not so much. I think audiobooks fall under the “being read to” category. It’s hard for me to stay alert and keep my attention on the topic when being read to as an adult. When I was little I loved being read to by my folks though. Maybe the imagination works differently when we are children to when we are grown? I don’t have trouble listening to NPR but I’m pretty interactive and talk back to the radio or Podcast when I do.
To me reading means that I am learning something by taking in the information through the “physical act of reading”. I do believe that reading things on the internet does register as that. I probably read more on the internet than any other medium, second being books and magazines. I look forward to the day when I have a “Kindle” and will read e-books. I love to read and always have. I feel that lately I am always reading due to my new
“Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?”
To me the difference is the investment I’m willing to make. I spend only a few hours with a movie and it’s easy to revisit it at any time once I own the DVD. A book is something that stays with me physically for days if not weeks at a time. I take it with me and it keeps me company while I’m alone waiting in line or waiting for friends for lunch. A movie tells me what I need to know in such a short time. It can be like a roller coaster ride for the mind where a book is like an intimate relationship. It’s just me, the characters and the story.
I am going to read things that bring me joy, make me think and tend to make a different kind of impression on my mind than that made by a movie. I love movies and I have a huge list of favorites that are like old friends but books offer a bit more meat for me to dig into. I have control over how quickly I take in the information when reading and books are easier to pause/put down and pick up at another time. Remember Joey from “Friends” when he put “The Shining” and “Little Women” in the freezer? I love that!!
A little while ago I was checking out a fellow book blogger’s post over at The Written Word where she posted in response to another blog out there, Booking Through Thursday . I have noticed their button on other book blogs and never thought twice about it, but after reading TWW’s post and checking out the link to BTT’s site I was curious. They post a weekly question related to books on multiple levels and then ask you to blog about it on your own site. This weeks question was intriguing so I guess this is where I loose my BTT cherry so to speak. The question is:
While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?
I left a comment over at The Written Word post “Cover Up” but decided that on this lazy Sunday I would do a post about it myself.
I think that it’s very hard not to judge a book by it’s cover in most cases. When I am in a book store and can actually pick up a book, soft or hard cover, the cover is the first thing that my eye is drawn too. Be it the picture or the font of the title, unless I am going in for a specific book and have great will power and can avoid all the other books on the shelf I may be more likely to pick up an interesting looking book. Yes the title itself has a role in it for me but the whole package can be very persuasive.
I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides for a book club a couple of years ago and had this soft cover version:
Well, at our book club meeting one of my friends had the hard cover version:
I ended up asking her if she would like to trade books with me and now I have this beautiful book on my shelf. I will admit that I was glad to actually read the softback version due to the weight difference and the fact that I do a lot of my reading in bed lying down, but with it being one of my favorite books, I am happy to have the hardcover version. I also like to have interesting looking books so when buying books I might look at the bargain priced version to see if it’s different then the latest more popular copy. Especially in times when a book like Middlesex recieves Oprah’s Book Club stamp on the softback version.
Due to the weight of books, hard and soft covers, I am very interested in Amazon’s KINDLE and hope to get one when we move back to the States in 2009. I blogged about the Kindle when it was introduced to the world back in November 2007 and am just amazed by it’s capabilities.