Thursday, May 26, 2011

What (and how) are you reading?

I've always been a one-book-at-a-time reader. Even though I'm a great multitasker on many levels, juggling several ongoing sagas in my brain at one time only confused me. Until now. What has changed is how I'm accessing my books. Note the word "accessing" instead of "reading."

Currently I have three books rattling around in my head:

Hard copy (and yes, hard cover) next to my bed: The Seance by John Harwood. I cannot sleep at night without reading a real, hold-in-your-hands book before turning out the light. I love real books. I love the smell of them. I love the smell of bookstores, especially ones that aren't overpowered by the smell of coffee from the ubiquitous Starbucks placed center store. I like the feel of a book in my hands. I like the satisfaction of placing a book, enjoyed and completed, in my bookshelves. I like turning the pages and sticking a bookmark in to hold my place as my eyelids start to droop. It will be a sad old world if lovely hard cover volumes disappear.

Audiobook via iPod (thanks, New York Public Library for the free downloads): The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester, read by Simon Winchester. Audiobooks are the books of choice for my commute to and from work. My hands are free to hang on during a subway ride and keep the story going as I walk from the station to my destination. A big upside to audiobooks is that many public libraries allow free mp3 downloads.

What makes or breaks an audiobook is the narrator/reader. Author Simon Winchester, for example, is a wonderful narrator. An easy style, not stilted. And, of course, he knows the book, since he wrote it. Last year I listened to The Help, rather than reading it. The audiobook used three different readers for the three main characters, which made keeping the characters straight pretty easy. But a lousy narrator isn't even worth download time. That's the real caution of an audiobook.

Kindle (my new love): The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I know, I know. I completely rejected the idea of electronic readers when they first came out. My sensibilities were all a-snit. However, the more I travel, and the more stuff I have to cram into a bag that fits into the overhead compartment - well, the thing that usually has to be left at home on the bed is my book. And I can't sleep without reading before bedtime. And, no, a magazine won't do. Watching folks whip out the slim little Kindle reader in an airport, on the plane, in the subway, at a restaurant began to make me downright envious. Just think! I could carry lots and lots of books with me in this lightweight little package. I could download new books instantly! A word got you stumped? Just click, and it's defined. I had to have one of these little babies.

Thankfully, Daughter and Son-in-Law gave me a Kindle for my birthday. What a joyous thing it is! I love that it does one thing very, very well. It doesn't try to be a laptop or smartphone or tablet. Nope. It perfectly delivers the world of print to a format I can easily slip into my purse, hold in one hand, and instantly turn pages. Seamless reading. In the bright sun. Easy on the eyes. Perfect, I tell you. And while it won't replace my hard copy bedtime reading at home, it is now my on-the-go reading. I'm on the go a lot, by the way.

These new wonderments have opened a world of three-books-at-a-whack to me. Because the formats are different, they fall into different little slots in my brain, I guess, whereas juggling three hard-copy books mixed me up. My once overwhelming stack of TBR (To Be Read) hard copies is now kind of puny. But I have three books awaiting "Play" on my iPod and 12 on Kindle. Endless possibilities, many for free or for $0.99.

So what - and how - are you reading? And what on earth would Herr Gutenberg make of all this?


Chris said...

Well, this is kinda spooky. I'm also reading The Seance, but on my newly acquired Kindle (and I, also, vowed and declared I would never like/have one). It's brilliant for me for reading in bed as my fingers are a bit arthritic and sometimes it's uncomfortable holding a book open. Good for reading whilst eating, too!
The Simon Winchester book I read some time ago in paperback, but think I would have enjoyed it even more if it was read to me. Audiobooks - I love 'em! For some years now I've been downloading 2/month from and have no trouble adding countless titles to my wishlist. I find them invaluable to listen to whilst gardening, houseworking (??), travelling, etc. Late last year, when David was ill, I 'read' The Help walking to/from the hospital and it got me through an unpleasant time when I wouldn't have had the concentration to read a proper book. Unfortunately downloading from our local libraries proved unsuccessful and the County needs to get its act together.
Add to the mix joining a Book Club; no matter what else you're reading you HAVE to read the monthly pick. Woman In White was an early choice and a very popular one, at that. This month I'm struggling with The White Queen by Philippa Gregory - just not my cup of tea!
On top of all of these books jusr waiting to be read and enjoyed, I also download various book-related programmes from BBC radio.
How grand to have access to all this literature, spoken word and otherwise :o)

MaryB said...

Chris, I got the idea to read The Seance from one of your FB posts. I use your book recommendations a lot. (And once Jo finishes all that Sue Grafton stuff, I'll go back to using her as a resource, too.) I do think some things are better/easier via audio - the Stieg Larssen things, for example, and I mentioned The Help. Can't believe I've never read The Woman in White. Loving it. Loving Kindle.

Liz Hinds said...

You have a Kindle? And you like it? Oh, maybe I have to rethink my stuck-in-the-past notions too. Because I trust your judgement.

MaryB said...

Liz - yes, I, too, resisted the Kindle. Resented the heck out of them. But after lugging real live books with me whenever I travel, I started seeing the beauty of the little things. I do love mine, carry with me everywhere. It doesn't take the place of my real-live book before bedtime (and in fact, I've just bought three new books), but it's lovely on-the-go or outside. Highly recommend!