05 May 2012

Book Worm

Inspired by Don't Panic 's post about books, I got to thinking about why and how people read the books they do. What makes them take a book off the shelf at the bookshop or library? Is is because it is a bestseller, a classic, a hobby, a passion? Do they buy it regardless, because they must have it, or do they study the cover, the first page, to see whether it is readable, in tune with what they want to read, or has big-enough print?

In my own case, I have a love-hate relationship with books. Up until the age of sixteen, I read as much as the average teenager, devouring some of the classics like Little Women and Jane Eyre, as well as teen girl magazines. However, once I got sucked into A-levels, when I studied three languages and dissected some of their literature, I had little time for reading anything else.

When I then went on to university to study German in more depth, my life was filled with reading shelves of German literature from the medieval (eg Parzival, Siegfried und Brunhilde) right up to the modern day (Kafka, Mann, Boell and Brecht) with plenty of Schiller, Goethe and Nietzsche thrown in as well. We didn't just have to read the books of course but analyse what the author was getting at, why this character did that, why that character said this. With Kafka, it was a nightmare (quite literally, as his books were based on dreams where all the characters are extensions of the central character and all the actions were symbolic as in dreams.) I still have reams of notes I took at lectures, all analysing, scruitinising, estimating, reviewing, deliberating. In the end it took the fun out of reading, so that I couldn't read a single book without it taking me half an hour on each page, asking myself why did the author say that, what was he trying to say with this etc., what was the purpose of that character etc.

Once I had left university I could not read a single book at all. It was too much like hard work and reminded me of the years of painful study. I almost got a phobia about them. I would happily read a newspaper or magazine - something I could dip in and out of - but it was three decades before I could look at another book again. Greg was quite an avid reader, but nothing could tempt me to pick up a book and lose myself in its pages. Quite by accident, a German friend came to stay and gave me the latest book off the shelves in German bookshops at the time. I liked the cover, enjoyed reading the first page and found myself being drawn into the story until, before I knew it,  I'd finished it within about a week.

Since then, I have slowly returned to reading books once more. It tends to be in the evening in bed before I go to sleep. I may only read a chapter at a time, but I slowly plod through until I can tick another book off my list of must-reads. When I select a book it us usually because I like the cover and what I read in the first page, or I may randomly pick a page some twenty pages into the book and see whether I like what I see there. Sometimes Kay recomends a book she has read (we have similar tastes) so I know if she has liked something, I shall too. What is absolutely essential is that I like the font and size of print. If it is too small and too many lines to a page, it doesn't get selected. Psychologically I like to be able to whizz through the pages to give me the feeling I am getting through the book faster.

I am a great one for new technologies and people praise me for my ability to  do things on the computer or digital camera that they cannot do, but I shan't be buying a Kindle any time soon. I like to touch and feel the book in my hand, physically turn the pages and then place the books on a shelf where I can see them. What about you?


Elizabeth said...

I don't have a Kindle or other e-reader either but I think I will have to get one as I am currently working hard on finishing a book. I think it is one you will like, judging by your blog, so I will tell you when it is published. Its about love and music and art and life's hiccups and the main reason why I can't publish it as a hardcover book is that it includes a lot of images. Perfect for a e-book.

Kelloggs Ville said...

I seem to have all but given up reading these days. I think reading work manuals during the day and the few blogs I read in the evening and I'm all but done. I also think social media absorption means I'm losing my ability to concentrate for long periods.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

"I like to touch and feel the book in my hand, physically turn the pages and then place the books on a shelf where I can see them."

This is me too Addy - I will never ever buy a Kindle.

I love my books - but will have periods where I do not read for months (this comp thing takes me over) and I have around ten books on my 'to read' pile.

I usually read on the bus to and from work - if I attempt to read at work I find myself drifting and sleep is a No-no!

Love my little books and my reading taste has definitely altered across the years...

Anna :o]

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to learn how you choose a book. The cover is extremely important and particularly when someone is choosing a book in a store, it is generally the thing that decides which book to buy.

I go through fits and starts with my reading - if I really enjoy a book and have time to read it, then I tend to become obsessed with finishing it.

CJ x

Nota Bene said...

How lucky you are to have Kay to help you find books...and as you know I approve of how you choose them by yourself!

Flowerpot said...

I agree I love to handle books and smell them - love second hand ones and who's had them before. When you discover a shopping list or some sp[ilt orange juice or something. I can see I may get a Kikndle one day but not for a while.