Musings From A Bookmammal


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Booking Through Thursday–Reading Again and Again . . .

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks questions about books and reading habits. This week’s questions are:

Have your rereading habits changed? Did you, for example, reread more as a child and your access to new books was limited by how often you could convince your mother to take you to the library? Has the economy affected your access so that you’re forced to reread more often now? Have you grown to look at old books as old friends so that you’re happy to spend time with them rather than rushing the next new thing?

books in pileI’ve always been a big rereader. When I was a kid I reread favorite books over and over again. I still have my original paperback copy of Charlotte’s Web—it’s still in one piece, but it does look very well loved—which it is! And even if I didn’t own my own copy of a favorite book, I had no problem with checking it out from the library over and over again.

Lately, however, I’ve found that I’m not rereading books nearly as often. The variety of online resources make it so easy nowadays to keep finding new books to add to my never ending TBR list— I’m also lucky to have access to a great public library system, and I find that I’m motivated more to keep up with the books I’ve borrowed rather than to take time to reread something that I’ve already enjoyed.

I do continue to enjoy rereading favorite books from time to time—it’s one of the main reasons that I want to own copies of books that I’ve already read. I also find that the urge to reread often hits me when I’m feeling stressed, overtired, or ill. At those times, the act of reading comforts me, but I usually don’t want any shocks—I want to read, but I also want something predictable that I know I’ll enjoy. In fact, I guess I mainly view the rereading of a favorite book as being similar to having lunch with an old friend—there probably won’t be anything happening to surprise you, but you know you’re still going to have a good time!

How about you? Are you a rereader? Have your rereading habits changed over time? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday–Are You A Reading Multi-tasker?

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Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a  weekly meme that asks questions about books and reading habits. This week’s questions are:

Do you do other things while you read? Watch TV? Cook? Brush your teeth? Knit? Or is it a quicker question to ask when you DON’T read?

books in pileI have some friends who only enjoy reading when they are in a cocoon of silence and are able to focus solely on their book. I respect that–I try to never interrupt someone who is reading–but I am NOT one of those people! I’ve learned to incorporate reading into many daily activities, and I’m still able to enjoy and retain what I read while doing so. I’m very good at multi-tasking, so being able to do several things at the same time is a definite plus when it comes to my reading habit!

I live alone, so I almost always read while I eat, unless I’m having something rather messy requiring two hands. It’s pretty difficult to read while eating barbecued ribs, or corn on the cob! I do love to read food memoirs though, and reading about food while eating food is just about as good as it gets! The only time I don’t read while eating is if I’m reading something particularly graphic in terms of violence or medical procedures. I just can’t mix those topics with food!

I also nearly always read while watching TV—I rarely just sit and watch television without doing something else at the same time, and I often choose reading as my accompanying activity. I also enjoy reading while listening to music.

I’m able to read when I’m exercising on my recumbent bike, but I don’t do it that often because I feel like I’m focusing more on the book than on getting my heart rate up. I also used to love to take long bubble baths, and reading in the tub is a great way to relax—lately, though, I’ve become more of a shower person—and even I haven’t been able to figure out a way to read while showering!

I don’t ever read while I’m actually driving—my rule is no reading while in the driver’s seat while the car is in motion!–but I do keep a book or magazine in my car at all times. I’ve been known to read at especially long stoplights and I’ve also read while in line at the carwash. I know that there are lots of folks who start to feel sick if they try to read while in a moving car, but I’ve never had that problem when I’ve wanted to read as a passenger.

I know that a lot of people enjoy reading while they cook. I’ve never tried this. I love to cook, but I’m usually too involved with what I’m cooking–or with cleaning the kitchen as I go– to spare time to read while doing so. However, I will read a few pages if I’m in the “waiting stage” of cooking something, like waiting for a cake to finish baking. Does that count?

I also don’t read while I’m walking, but again, there are a lot of folks out there who do. There’s a woman who works in my office complex who walks laps around the parking lot nearly every day—all while totally engrossed in a book. So far I’ve never seen her trip, so I guess she’s perfected that skill!

How about you? Do you do other things while you’re reading? Is there anything you can’t do while you read? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday–What Do You Prefer?

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Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a semi-regular weekly meme that asks questions about books and reading habits. This week there are several questions to ponder:

All other things (writing quality, story, etc), which would you rather read?
1. Something written by a man or a woman?
2. Something with a male or female protagonist?
3. Something funny or something tragic?
4. Something short or something long with many parts?
5. Something simple or something layered?

My answers to all of these would be different depending on my mood at any particular time. If I have a lot going on in my “real life” I tend to want to read something short, lighter, and simpler.  At less stressful times, I adore digging into a big book that’s packed with lots of characters and intricate plots. On the other hand, I have friends who love to escape into a big complicated fictional saga to distract them from their lives when they have a lot going on.

As for the male/female thing, I often (but not always!) feel that a female author can capture the authentic spirit of a female character more accurately than a male can—and vice versa. However, there are always exceptions! For example, I LOVED the book Midwives by Chris Bojalian when I read it several years ago. The book club that I belonged to at the time had selected it as one of our monthly selections, and most of us were really drawn in by the authentic voice of the main female character in the book. I can’t tell you how SHOCKED I was when I found out that Chris was not a nickname for Christine, but was instead was the full first name of the male author of this novel!

What about you? Do you have preferences in any of these areas? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday–Multiple Viewpoints

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Click here to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks a bookish question each week. You can join in by clicking the link above! This week’s question is:

Which is better (or preferred) … stories with multiple character points of view? Or stories that stick to just one or two at most? And, why?

I really enjoy books where the narrative is told through multiple points of view–in fact, when I hear about a novel that is written through multiple viewpoints, that’s one of the surefire ways to get me to take a closer look at that book! I admire writers who are able to use this technique effectively, because it’s not easy to write with ONE truly authentic character voice, let alone more than one! When I’m reading a book that uses this writing style, it does take me some time to get into the rhythm of each different character’s voice, but if the writer is skilled at this technique it only takes a couple of chapters for everything to fall into place.

For me, the true measure of the success of this writing style is this–when I finish a chapter told by one especially vivid character I’m usually sorry to start a chapter narrated by a different character–and then by then end of THAT chapter I find that I’m liking the new voice as much as I liked the first–and so on! I also find that this is a very intriguing way for writers to reveal bits and pieces of the plot a little at a time, as each character has a different take on what’s going on–and, like the reader, the characters aren’t necessarily going to have all the information either!

Some authors I’ve found who can pull off this off well include Anita Shreve in her novel Testimony, and Jodi Picoult, who has used this technique in many of her books. Picoult actually uses different typefaces for each chapter that’s narrated by a different character, which I find very helpful–especially at the beginning of a book when I’m meeting all the characters for the first time.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading books by authors who use the multiple viewpoint technique? What are some books with multiple viewpoints that you’ve enjoyed? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday–BEST books versus FAVORITE books

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Click to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks a bookish question each week. You can join in by clicking the link above! This week’s question is:

Are “best” and “favorite” the same thing? If someone asked you “What’s the best book you ever read?” would the answer be the same as for “What’s your favorite?”

Wow–this is a tough one! I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about that distinction before. I guess it depends on what you mean by the words “best” and “favorite”. BEST can mean a lot of things depending on who’s doing the ranking, and I suppose I consider the term BEST to refer to things that can be concretely measured, like popularity of a book and the number of copies sold. FAVORITE, to me, is a much more personal ranking.

Nell

This is not the same cover on my copy! But it’s the best image I could find online. The cover on mine shows a drawing of a seascape and is much better! 🙂

There’s a book by Nancy Thayer called “Nell” that is one of my very FAVORITE books of all time. It’s out of print now, but I still have the hard cover copy that I bought over twenty years ago. I loved that book when it was first published sometime in the 90s–and I still love it today. I’ve re-read my copy many times. It’s a novel about a divorced woman who is raising her kids near Nantucket and coping with everyday life and everyday dramas. I feel like the main character could be a friend– a good friend. I know EXACTLY what she looks like and what her voice sounds like (for the record, she doesn’t look anything like the picture on the cover to the left!). I can picture myself reacting to her situations and problems in similar ways. I want to have her over for coffee!

But here’s the odd part–I’ve never been divorced, I’ve never even been married, I’ve never had kids, and I’ve never been to Nantucket! However, something about this character connected with me on a very deep level when I read it for the first time, and that connection grows whenever I re-read it every couple of years. That’s great writing.

Is “Nell” the BEST book written by Nancy Thayer? It never got as much publicity or as many sales as her other novels. And, since it’s now out of print, it certainly can’t be regarded as a  best-seller. But it’s one of my FAVORITES because it hit me on a very deep level when I first read it, and that character–and that connection–has stayed with me for many years. And, to a reader, I think that’s what should count the most.

How about you? Do you make a distinction between BEST and FAVORITE when it comes to books? Should there even be a distinction? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday–The Power of Description!

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Click to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks a bookish question each week. You can join in by clicking the link above! This week’s question is:

Today’s question is connected to last week’s—descriptive writing is one of the ways writing has changed. Books from a century or two ago spent huge swaths of text describing locations and character traits, but modern writing does all of this in shorthand. You might know a character is short with blond hair and blue eyes, but the author leaves the rest for you to figure out on your own. The writer might tell you the story takes place at a beachside town, but leaves the details to your imagination. Why do you suppose this is? Is it that we have shorter attention spans these days? That, bombarded with video and photos as we are, we don’t NEED every detail of an unknown scene described, because we have a stock of images already in our heads?

I think the reduction of such detailed descriptions by many authors is due to the wide access we have to such a huge range of images in movies, TV, the internet, etc.–plus more opportunities for travel–which makes all those fabulously detailed descriptions from authors of long ago so admirable! THEY didn’t have access to a storehouse of all of those mental images either, yet they were able to paint such vivid pictures for their readers. And, of course, that’s the gift of a truly talented writer. There are still writers today whose trademark is lengthy descriptions of settings and characters, but I think there’s a portion of today’s readers who tend to skip over those parts just to keep the plot moving for themselves. And that’s all part of the freedom we have to read whatever–and however–we wish!

What about you? Is there an author you enjoy mainly for their breathtaking descriptions of locations or characters? Which authors or books–modern or classic–paint the most vivid pictures in your mind? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday

Click to play along!

Click to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks a bookish question each week. You can join in by clicking the link above! This week’s question is:

How much do you visualize when you read? Do you imagine faces for the characters? Can you see the locations in your mind’s eye? Or do you just plunge ahead with the story, letting the imagery fall to the wayside?

We-read-five-words-onIf I am LOVING a book–especially a novel–I have a whole movie running inside my head as I’m reading. I know what the characters look like and I even know what they sound like. This is especially true of books that I re-read–each time I revisit the story, the images in my head get more and more pronounced. And I think this is the mark of a truly gifted writer–someone I’ve never met who can paint a picture inside the head of a complete stranger. It’s really very magical when you think about it!

This is why I am so reluctant to see the movie versions of books that I love. I ALREADY have the movie in my mind, so nothing is going to measure up to what I’ve already so vividly imagined. I’ll often go ahead and see the movie anyway because I’m curious as to how the director visualized the characters, but I nearly always come away saying, “Well, XXX doesn’t look like that at all!”

This especially true of two books that I read for the first time in elementary school. Charlotte’s Web and Harriet the Spy are two of my all-time favorite books. In fact, I go back and re-read each of them every couple of years. I have never seen the movie versions of either of these books. Trust me–I KNOW exactly what all of those characters look like, sound like, and act like. I like Rosie ODonnell, but the character of Ole Golly does NOT look anything like her! Any Debbie Reynolds as the animated voice of Charlotte? Sorry–that is NOT Charlotte’s voice!

And, to me, this is one of the greatest things about reading–having the freedom to create your very own movie in your head anytime you read!

How about you? Are there any particular authors who can paint a picture inside your mind? Please share!


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Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Tursday

 

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Here’s today’s prompt:

We all know the beauty of reading a really wonderful book for the first time—when everything about the story and the writing and the timing click to make a reader’s perfect storm … but it’s fleeting, because you can never read that book for the first time again.

So … if you could magically reset things so that you had the chance to read a favorite book/series again for the first time … which would you choose? And why?

And then, since tastes change … Do you think it would have the same affect on you, reading it now, as it did when you read it the first time? Would you love it just as much? Would you risk it?

About fifteen years ago I was really into reading John Grisham. I remember avoiding reading his book A Time To Kill because I knew it included graphic description of abuse. A friend of mine told me that if I could just get through the first ten pages or so, I would be OK and in for a great read. I went ahead, and my friend was right—it was a great book after I got through that first horrific scene.

 I vividly remember reading a later scene featuring the young girl’s father and the lawyer (can’t remember their names as I read it so long ago!). There was one line of dialogue that literally gave me chills as I read it. I have never read a book since that gave me such a physical reaction to such a small piece of text. There was something about how that one sentence was crafted and how it brilliantly foreshadowed what was to come that made me have to stop and catch my breath.

 I wish I could read that book again for the first time to see if I would have the same reaction to that one line fifteen years later.