Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Rules for Reading

Jaquandor had this up, via here, and I thought I'd add some commentary on my own because I found this interesting.

1. Always stop at the end of a chapter. Always.

Depends on how long the chapters are. If they're on the shorter side, then yes. If they're longish, then I either go to the next line break or I don't. When I was a kid, an adult once told me that they found it easier to stop at a point that wasn't a natural break, because when they started reading again, all the action they were in the middle of came flooding right back and instantly pulled them back in. I've found that to be more or less true.

I do try not to stop in the middle of conversations, though.

2. Use specific bookmarks.

I really don't have many and I barely use them. Usually I just use a receipt or a smaller piece of paper.

2a. No dog-earing, bending, or folding of pages.

Dog-earing doesn't remotely bother me.

2b. Weirdly enough, spine-breaking is fine, just don’t get too crazy with it.

I disagree with this, too. I can't stand it when a book has a broken spine and just wants to open to that one spot. That's a real peeve of mine. Then I feel like I'm just trying to hold two halves of a book together before it just breaks.

3. Always read two books at once.

I usually read a few books at once. Like Kelly, I read different genres, etc. at once. I'm always reading a graphic novel or comics collection, anyway.

4. No (or minimal) writing in books. 

Doesn't bother me. I've made notes in a lot of books, particularly at college. I actually kind of like getting a book out of the library and seeing what someone else has written in it.

5. Rereads must be earned because there are too many great books out there to read an okay one twice.

I disagree. In fact, I think that's a bit of a snobbish attitude. Sometimes books have as much to offer on a second read (The Lord of the Rings, for example). Some books are just comforting. Some are so good that you want to go back and re-read them simply because of the author's phrasing. I think I've read The Demon-Haunted World six times, and I've read A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters an even dozen. Read whatever you want to at any given moment. It's your life.

Jaquandor also adds:

6. Not finishing a book is OK.

Yes, seriously. There are a lot of things to enjoy in life, and if anything isn't working for you--book, film, television series--there's nothing wrong with dropping it and moving on to something more fulfilling. I know people who just can't do that, and I don't understand it. If I get part way through a book and it's an awful slog, I'm done. "But you can't say it was bad if you didn't finish it!" people tell me. To which my answer is "The impetus was on the author to write a better story."

7. It is always better to take more books on a trip than you think you'll possibly have time to read.

I'll take his word for it; I never take trips!

8. Having a favorite genre is fine. Getting stuck in that genre is bad.

Science fiction is my preferred genre, but I think the definition of science fiction is more expansive than other people I've had this conversation with. When it comes to fiction, I'll generally drift towards science fiction more than anything else. But hell, I'll read anything, especially when it comes to non-fiction.

I would add one more thing here, and I know this isn't something everyone agrees with, but I'm going to phrase it this way (and then rant a little):

9. Reading on a tablet is still reading.

Because I'm just beyond sick of seeing people getting in this debate about whether it's "okay" to read on a tablet. Yes, it is. It is fine. It is not an illegitimate choice to carry around something that holds many books. Your fingers do not have to touch paper for you to still be able to enjoy a book. I think a lot of the weird hostility towards the idea of e-books and the like is a lot of snobbery about the romanticism of a physical book, which I think is especially exacerbated by social networks and this idea of how being seen to hang out with a lot of books makes you hip and enlightened by osmosis or something.

Nothing against the guys who love their books. I'm glad that you don't have to consider moving very often and have all of that space in your home. Read however you want, but stop telling people that having a device to read off of "doesn't count" or "isn't cool" just because it's not how you choose to experience reading. You're being ridiculous and a little hypocritical. Because the message should be "reading is good" not "reading is good as long as you do it a certain way that I approve of."

Sorry to get rant-y there, it's just something I see a lot on Tumblr and Facebook that increasingly irritates me: the atheists who love Neil deGrasse Tyson and write smart-alecky posts about how science is rational and religion is irrational and accuse people who are religious of ignoring scientific facts simply because they find comfort in their beliefs... and then get sad when they're told Pluto isn't a planet, trash e-books for not being real books, and get angry when they see dinosaurs with feathers because "I liked the way they looked when I was a kid better." (Like dinosaurs have been rebooted with a modern edge and we're not just learning more.) And for what it's worth, I've seen the same about audio books, too.

Anyway, rant over. Don't let anyone tell you there's a right way to experience a story.


Autumn said...

I agree with your version of this list much more than the original! Why do you buy books if you aren't going to reread them? Because I really don't have the room to store them in that case. And I own an e-reader and while I do actually still prefer buying "real" books, it's nice to have music while I read on the bus and it's great to take on vacation so I can bring a couple of books to choose from. Also fantastic for knitting books, since I don't have to hold the book open while I follow a chart. But I love buying books second hand and seeing what people wrote in them, and I dog ear my books. I even have a few deformed book monsters I have dropped into the bathtub and then aired out that I will still keep until they are unreadable. I would like to ask this person what kind of enjoyment they get out of their pristine, tidy, un-reread collection of books, because mine aren't just taking up space.

Sorry for the anger there, I must be feeling feisty...

SamuraiFrog said...

I do get it; it makes me defensive because I just instinctively hate being told "If you don't do things the same way I do them, YOU'RE WRONG."

What I say to that now is that their comments don't count because they aren't printed on paper.

Also that I've been cynical ever since mass printing cheapened the experience of reading hand-written paper scrolls. Come on, where's the human touch?

Autumn said...

I get angry when the same people who used to ask me "you're reading that Why?" now tell me comics aren't books so it's not reading and I shouldn't be able to enjoy reading my nook because I can't feel paper or smell that printed ink smell or something like that. Reading has gotten so cool now, that people have gotten silly about it. You know, sometimes I like the movie version better then the book version too, so shoot me, I guess.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I'm a lifelong bibliophile. I wanted to live in the library, so I grew up and made my home a library. I eventually grew to hate libraries because they make you give the books back! Bastards!

I found all these rules reasonable:

1. Whenever possible, I always stop at the end of a chapter. It depresses me if I'm getting too tired to go on reading and I see the chapter end is too far away to make it to. I LOATHE books without chapters, like Stephen King's Delores Claibourne, or with excessively-long chapters, like Joe Heller's Something Happened, which I'm reading now.

2. Believe it or not, I actually give thought to what will be the bookmark I use with each book. Something Happened has my old, plastic, former-Disneyland Annual Passport stuck in it, while Joe Hill's NOS4A2 now has my also-plastic EuroDisney entrance pass stuck in it. Dickens's Barnaby Rudge has an actual bookmark from a now-defunct bookstore where I'd done readings/signings of my own books at in it.

2a & 2b. Dog-earing AND spine-breaking are sins against God. Woe unto he to whom I've loaned a book should he return it with dog-eared pages or a broken spine. I'll break their spine!

3. I doubt I could ever cut it down to just two books at once. I generally have four going at once.

4. NO WRITING IN BOOKS!!!! EVER!!! Who are we? The Half-Blood Prince? The only acceptable writing in books is an inscription from a giver to the one gifted, or an author's signature. (Or related signature. My copy of John Lahr's biography of Barry Humphries is signed by both its author and its subject. My copy of The Isherwood Diaries is signed by Don Bachardy, Isherwood's lover.) That said, or shouted, in certain nonfiction books, especially on movie genres, I have been known to highlight in movie lists, usually the movies I've seen in one color and the movies I own in another color. It's a sin, and I shall spend time in Purgatory for it.


Tallulah Morehead said...


5. You seem to have misinterpreted rule number 5, which boiled down is "Rereads must be earned." That is on the nose. You've reread Lord of the Rings and The Demon-Haunted World (Both books I've read multiple times as well) because they earned it. I'm 63, and the fact that I'll never have time to read all the books I want to read is very much with me. Re-reading must be earned. Once earned though, some books I will reread many times. I mentioned that Barnaby Rudge is in my current-reading. I assure you, I've read it before.

But even if I know I'll never reread a certain book, I won't get rid of it because It is MY book! (On the other hand, I loaned King's Duma Key, for one example among several, to a friend a few years ago, and it hasn't been returned, and I'm okay with it because I know I won't reread it.)

6. Damn right it's OK to not-finish a book. Finishing a book must also be earned.

7. Never in my life have I gone on a trip without taking WAY more books than I could possibly read on that trip. I have a photo of myself lounging on a motel bed, surrounded by about six books. I was there for one night. And what ALWAYS happens is, I end up buying books on the trip and reading them. Always, always, always.

One associates the books one reads on a trip with the trip forever. I will never forget the day I spent sitting in Yosemite Valley, surrounded by awesome beauty, reading Stephen King's Bag O'Bones. I see Barry Humphries's memoir More Please sitting on my shelf, and immediately remember reading it on a train, as it sped me from Paris to Nice. Think of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (a book I have reread many times) and my mind returns to when I was 8 years old, sitting in the back seat of my parents's station wagon as we crawled about steep, curving mountain roads, surrounded by the magnificent scenery of the Pacific Mountain Range in Northwest California, while I shivered in delicious creeps reading chapter 3, Mars is Heaven for the first time.

8. Absolutely!

9. Yes, reading on a tablet is still reading, but I won't be owning one. And speaking as an author myself, with a book currently available on Nook, Kindle and iBook as well as trade paperback, I have yet to figure out how to sign an e-book.

SamuraiFrog said...

Lending or borrowing a book is a different matter. I do everything I can to take care of someone's copy of a book. If it even has a dust jacket, the jacket comes off and gets put away until I give the book back because I want to return it in the same condition. I expect the same courtesy, unless I'm just giving it away and not expecting it back.

I know what you mean about books reminding you have where and when you've read them. Like I said, I don't really take trips now, but I have a few Stephen King books, for example, that I associate with being in Iowa, because I spent three weeks there with family during a flood and my aunt suggested I read some of her books (I was 16 and had never read King before; I read six of his novels before I made it back home).

I also associate Jurassic Park and The Virgin Suicides with my junior year of high school (I got extra credit points in biology for writing a report on Jurassic Park, which my teacher was very excited about, especially with the movie just a week from coming out--borrowed the car, went to my last half-day of school, and then went to see the movie on its opening afternoon). And I associate Charlotte's Web with having been the only person in my first grade class to have read a novel the summer before school started.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Your Charlotte's Web anecdote reminded me, I read Lord of the Flies for pleasure my junior year of high school. My senior year, my English class spent an entire semester studying Lord of the Flies. It was like I had the semester off; I'd already done the reading. (Actually, it allowed me to get a huge headstart on the second semester book, Moby Dick.)