Thursday, August 19, 2021

Plague diary -- reading

Reading has always been one of the most important parts of my life; I can't recall any time since age 3 that I haven't had a book nearby, if not actually in hand.  In fact, "bring a book" has always been my personal motto.  Although my home is filled with books, many of them unread, I really love library books.  And in the last year or so, I realize that I REALLY love library e-books.

When the public libraries were closed and staff furloughed for several months during lockdown, I had a momentary panic until I saw that the e-book collection was still going strong, with new titles added every day.  I read a lot during lockdown, almost all of it digitally.

When e-books first started to catch on, in 2006 or 2007, I often announced that I would not like them.  I said that I loved the feel of the physical codex, the turning of pages, the recollection of where on the page I had seen a name or reference.  Reading on a device seemed far less serious and pleasant than reading "real books."  But that changed when my sons gave me a Kindle for Mother's Day in 2014, just as we were heading off for a vacation to Britain and Norway.  I was hooked immediately, especially at the thought of not having to shlep a dozen books along on a three-week trip.

Since then my e-book habit has kept me in reading matter around the globe.  Because we refuse to pay the exorbitant internet fees on cruise ships, a shore visit would begin with finding the nearest wi-fi so I could get some new books.  Sometimes that was at a hot spot on the dock (where you would always find a bunch of crew members calling home), sometimes a nearby bar, where I could simultaneously download content and drink beer.

But at sea or ashore, I realize how much I like reading on a device.  It's easier to use at the table, where I do a lot of reading -- prop it in a little easel and it's perfectly on display.  You can read in bed after the lights go out.  

Best of all, you can search in the book to find out who in hell Geoffrey is, when he appears in the narrative after 200 pages of absence, or what exactly Geoffrey said when he was first interviewed by the police.  You don't need a bookmark, or worry that your bookmark will fall out.  You can mark any passages you like, even make rude marginal notes, without a pencil!

Since I started daily calligraphy two and a half years ago, I have written a passage from every book I read.  It's the first time in my life I've kept track of what I read, and I think just keeping the list has added to the reading experience.  If you want a recommendation, I have really enjoyed "The Premonition" by Michael Lewis, and "Nightmare Scenario" by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Palette -- both about the pandemic and how the government dropped the ball on managing the outbreak.  Depressing reading, yes, but informative and thought-provoking.  Or if current events just have you spitting expletives, try "Nine Nasty Words" by John McWhorter, a linguist's take on the naughtiest taboo words in the English language.  Not for those who clutch their pearls upon hearing "darn it."

What have you been reading lately?  Anything about your reading choices or reading habits different now than it was before pandemic?  


  1. There is a time for both, so I don't try to make a choice, but I too like ebooks especially when the library closed. Besides the benefits you mentioned, they remember where you left off and give you definitions for words I don't know. I have borrowed the books you mentioned - they sound interesting.

  2. I like my Kindle almost as much as my real books (I also have a lot of them and many of them unread).
    At the moment I'm reading "Camino Winds" by John Grisham as I liked the first book "Camino Island" so much. A totally different Grisham from what you are used to.

  3. After this heavy reading, try Perestroika in Paris, a novel by Jane Smiley about a race horse. She and the other animals narrate the story. So delightful I listened to the audiobook twice.

  4. For all its good points, I really don't enjoy reading the e-book version. There are times when it's the only way I can get a book through my library but I don't enjoy it nearly like a do holding an actual book and turning the pages by hand rather than by swiping (and I do hate that sound that is sometimes added to mimic the sound of an actual page turning). I'm currently in the fourth book of a sci fi series by Pierce Brown - a new author for me and I do like his writing style. He sucked me right in.

    A few years ago, I started keeping a list of books I've read after a friend gifted me a small notebook that I couldn't figure out how to use. I'd read a novel where the main character had been logging the titles of every book she'd read from an early age and I thought it a wonderful idea and wish I'd started sooner. I equally like your idea of adding a passage from each book read. I may have to start doing that.

  5. I've read several books lately that have helped me see that ours is not the only time when fear and ignorance have led to tragedy. I like to listen to books while I sew, but I like a print book for reading in bed at night. I love the Kindle for reading in Spanish because I can Just touch an unfamiliar word and get the equivalent in English.
    Recently, I've listened to 2 books by Erik Larson: The Beast in the Garden and Tne Splendid and the Vile, both about the time period before the US entered WWII. Another book during that time period, but focused on domestic policy in the US is The Woman Behind the New Deal (Frances Perkins). The Man Who Loved Dogs is a difficult novel, but provides insight into Leon Trotsky and his assassin, Ramon Mercado. Patria is an wxcellent novel about the Basque separatist movement and how a community of friends can become enemies.
    I've started keeping track of what I'm reading, but I love your idea of writing a little about each book.
    Thanks for your suggestions!

  6. I love my two kindles. Our daughter fave me one of the earliest original ones for Xmas one year. it is one of the best presents ever. It's small and not much bigger than my current phone! And though those early ones aren't backlit, they're wonderfully compact for travel, and it's the one I always have in my handbag whenever there is the slightest chance I may have to wait for a doctor, dentist, hairdresser, etc. The Fire is bigger and I love the backlit screen, how a couple of my important newspaper subscriptions are on it, I dip into a few podcasts, can access email and access google etc. It has a camera which I never use. For me though, perhaps best of all, and the function I use most is, if I'm quilting or routine sewing - I listen to audio book. In sum, I enjoy reading widely on various platforms, including the old fashioned paper books too! To think of all the books I hauled across and around the world.... I can't imagine a day without a bit of time spent with some form of book for interest or enjoyment.