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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

I’ve been reading a lot in the last few months. I would say I’m averaging 1.5 books per week, which may be lowballing it. There are weekends I read a whole book. Reading has been a bit of a stress reducer for me in the months since I learned I was being laid off along with some ongoing personal things happening with my family.

I have found, though, that I am running out of suggestions of books to read and having a hard time really finding something I want to read next (though I have three books I will be taking with me on vacation next week). I figure a lot of people run into the same problem and thought opening up a discussion here would benefit not only me but others. If this works out well, we’ll make this a regular feature here.

Yesterday I finished “The Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline, who I didn’t realize until I read her bio after I finished the book lives in Montclair, N.J. That’s right near me and is a hotbed for a lot of writers. I ate up this book because I wanted to know what would happen next. There are moments when you will be aghast at what happens to the main character. Even when she finds happiness, heartbreak follows.

I just started “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes, and I am too early in the book to really have an opinion about it. But I already like the characters.

I also have “The Goldfinch” hanging over my head. I started this months ago and have struggled getting through it, unlike some people who have told me they couldn’t put the book down. I found in some sections I couldn’t put down the book, but the book is probably several hundred pages too long. I am two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through with the book and got so bored I set it aside to read other things. I haven’t come back to it yet, though I should.

What are you reading or planning to read? Post about it in the comments.

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“What are you reading?” is always bound to pop up in a conversation with my friends and family, but especially my friends. And my list always includes more than one book. Like right now I’m reading “The Great Gatsby” (yes, again) and “The Next Best Thing,” Jennifer Weiner’s new book. I also have the 17th book in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series floating around.

But when I list off the books, I get startled looks from friends. “I could never read more than one book at a time.” And it always makes me wonder if I’m weird in my reading habit.

Granted I tend to focus on one book over the others when I read. One book is usually stowed away in my bag and is read when I’m out somewhere — riding the train, sitting in Starbucks, during lunch at work. The other is at home and gets read while I’m there. So if I’m sitting at home more often than on the road, that book will get read more, clearly.

But my friends tell me they get so engrossed in a story that they can’t devote their mind to anything else when they’re reading.

So I want to know if I’m weird. Do others read more than one book at once? Let me know in the comments.

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Ever read a book and feel like you want to be the main character? Maybe you even notice you’re taking on the qualities of the main character.

Medical Daily has an interesting article how readers can indeed take on the traits of their favorite characters (found the link via Brian Farnham on Twitter).

Even if you don’t take it to the extreme as dressing up as Harry Potter, perhaps you do do it in some ways. I’ve been reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and I find myself relating quite a bit to her. But more over, I’ve found myself thinking “I’d like to date a guy like Joe Morelli” (don’t judge me).

But writers also can take on those characters in some ways as inspiration. We may not take on the traits ourselves, but we stick them into a character we’re developing. I’ve found I develop characters one way after reading something by Christopher Moore, for example. I’m sure other people are the same way, but it’s a fine line to walk between inspiration and plagiarism.

What do you think of the study? Do you take on a character’s traits or use them in your own writing? Post about it in the comments.

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I read “Fahrenheit 451” when I was a freshman in high school, and it’s one of those books you never forget. Someone who reads and writes regularly, it’s difficult for me to imagine a world where neither happens. But there are many days, including today, where I wonder if we’re inching closer to that reality.

People are celebrating Ray Bradbury’s work today upon the news of his death. He was 91 years old. He’s celebrated as the author who made science fiction a mainstream genre. We think of aliens and spaceships often when we think about science fiction, but Bradbury really made it about pushing the ideas of reality and pushing them forward. And that’s what “Fahrenheit 451” did — it imagined a world where books were banned and regularly burned.

It has to be hard to imagine a world where books are burned regularly because reading is not allowed. But are we inching to a world where we read much less? Or are we moving to a world where we read much more trash than things that make us think?

It’s hard to think we’re moving to a world where we read less. Just ride the train any morning and see the number of e-readers people are using today, which is heartening. I don’t have an e-reader, but I do carry a book wherever I go in my bag. Others I know feel the same way.

But then again, consider our reading habits for the news, especially in an online world. We can easily be distracted and not read an entire article. And as I read the comments on many sites (and then on social media) about the article, I wonder if anyone read beyond the headline or the first graph (something I’ve pondered on this blog).

And then I see the things people are reading — what’s the most popular books and news items. People are reading celebrity news most often. Books like “Twilight” and “50 Shades of Grey” are on best seller lists. Videos and infographics are replacing full articles sometimes. Plus our world at times is captured in 140-character snippets.

Mind you I think there’s a time and place for reading something a little more easy on your brain (what I like to call brain candy). I’ve been reading the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich the last few months (I just finished the 11th book). I’m looking forward to Jennifer Weiner’s new book, although her “chick lit” will make you think much more than some other author’s. But I”m just as guilty as anyone else in that I don’t read entire articles, but then again that’s why the inverted pyramid structure exists.

But I do want to learn. I want to learn to be a better writer, about different parts of the world I don’t know, about interesting people and about the issues that affect my life most. I want to think and not be comfortable. And I can do that by talking to a lot of people (it’s part of what I have loved about reporting), but I can also do it by reading a variety of things.

And if we all stop learning, we stop moving as a culture. We won’t innovate and won’t create a future that is better for the next generations to follow us. We won’t be able to leave this world a better place than where we found it.

Perhaps I’m far off on how I’m viewing today’s world with our many distractions and, what to seems, our short attention spans. But it’s something I often think about and I hope we never get to a world Bradbury captured in his novel.

More reading:

Photo by Alan Light [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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A new study is saying “damn you, autocorrect” about our spelling skills, but I, like the Atlantic Wire, see it as yet another “how the Internet is destroying something” study.

I have never been a terrific speller. I had to look up how to spell definitely when I was in middle school, and I still need to today. And when I was in middle school we were still using local dial-up networks for the Internet. It’s not the Internet that has made me a poor speller. But I use a dictionary and spell check to make sure I get things spelled right.

Maybe we shouldn’t be blaming technology so much as we should be considering people’s laziness. The technology is right there to make sure we spell things properly, but how often do we see misspellings?

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Excellent point made by Nancy in the comments section of yesterday’s summer re-reading post. “I hate that with e-readers you don’t know what anyone is reading on the train or plane!”

That is one way I learn what others are reading and get ideas of what I may want to read. I’ve even started conversations about books. But the advent of e-readers means I can’t sneak a peek at what someone is reading.

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Ever wonder what Mark Twain would think if he found out his books were banned? Well, we can know now because a letter he wrote about it has surfaced.

Now I wonder what he considers an “adult” to be reading his books.

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I’ll be reading “The Great Gatsby” again this summer, and this is a big reason why:

I’m really looking forward to the movie, especially since I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a perfect choice to play Jay Gatsby.

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This is part one of two planned posts on summer reading.

Who doesn’t have a leaning tower of books to read? The funny part of mine is I tend to add to it without removing. Some never even make the pile. Christopher Moore’s new book Sacre Blu never made the pile, for example, and I carry it with me in my bag to read.

Some of the books in the pile — or never make it there — are books that I plan to re-read. Everyone has those books that they re-read many times. When I was encouraged to read “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” I was told the person’s wife reads it at least once per year.

There are a variety of ways we re-read books. Some I re-read at specific times and others are when a certain mood hits me. And there are even more reasons why I re-read them. Sometimes they’re inspiration to me. Others I just enjoy the story so much I can never get enough of it. They’re also the books we continually recommend to others to read.

Below is my list of books, which some make for good summer reading. Some even started as summer reading for me.

The Great Gatsby

I first read Gatbsy in high school, and it was one of the few books I actually enjoyed reading in my American literature class. I am not someone who likes to be forced to read certain books, so high school always was a struggle for me. I think taking a class in Shakespeare was the only one where I had no problem reading because I actually enjoyed the reading.

I enjoyed Gatsby so much in high school, though, I took a class on F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in college. The copy of Gatsby I still have is from that class, so it’s more than a decade old. And it doesn’t sit on my shelf, it’s regularly read. I try to read it at least every other summer, and I always get comments when I do read it on the train/subway or in other public places. It’s also one of those books in which I discover something new every time I read it, even close to 20 years after I first read it.

Anything by Christopher Moore

I’ve read almost every book he’s ever written at least once. Most I’ve read at least twice. The only ones I haven’t read more than once are “A Dirty Job” (which wasn’t one of my favorites), “Fool” (which I intend to read again) and “Sacre Bleu” (which is brand new and I’m reading now).

When I hear a new Moore book is due to come out, I tend to gravitate toward his books and start to read them again. When one of his new vampire books were due to come out, I read the previous ones. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when I read them or in which order. I love them all and I know I can be entertained every time I read one. I always tell people to read “Lamb” and “Fluke” first because those two are my favorites, which I’ve read four times each.

All the President’s Men

This is the book (and the movie that followed) that inspires me the most as a journalist. When I need that lift, I will read the book again. It started as summer reading in college after I watched the movie, and it’s been in regular rotation since then. And, like Gatsby, it’s one of those books I can find something new in it every time I read it.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil god knows how many times. It started as summer reading for me during college. I would go to lunch during work, pull out the book and settle into the adventure. What disappointed me about the movie is how it jammed all the wonderful cultural and character development from the first half into the story of the murder in the second half.

It’s one of those books that has something for everyone. There are tons of quirky characters (who are real people since this is a non-fiction book) and a mysterious murder (or was it self-defense?). It’s entertaining from cover to cover. I wish I could go live somewhere for awhile and turn out a book just like this one.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

I don’t know if I read this book every year, but it’s unique enough that I have to come back to it often. Like others on this list, it started as summer reading before the movie came out one summer. I was enthralled with the story and couldn’t put the book down. I finished it fairly quickly, especially considering how thick the book is.

If you like a story told in a unique way, this is a book for you. But be warned if you’ve never read it — you will need tissues. The movie and the book alike always make me cry.

Your turn

What books can you never get enough of and have to re-read? What books do you have to recommend to people because you love them so much? Leave a comment below.

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Some stories I found interesting I’ve been reading today:

Why misspelled names are so common & what journalists are doing to prevent them

I think we all have misspelled someone’s name in an article, whether it’s out of laziness or not. Sometimes it’s a typo, sometimes it’s something else. I try to always ask someone how to spell their name, even if it’s a common name. I ask if it’s the common spelling.

But I know how it is when someone misspells my name (you wouldn’t believe all the ways Connic can be misspelled), and I want to avoid that. Plus it goes to our credibility. If we can’t spell someone’s name right, how can our readers trust anything else we write?

Esquire to Publish E-Books Devoted to Men’s Fiction

Wouldn’t that just be, you know, books?

Then again, it would be reverse sexism for me to complain about “men’s fiction” because there is a whole genre of chick lit. That being said, I don’t know if we should be having books geared just to one sex or the other.

How to Enjoy Going to the Movies Again

I don’t ever go to midnight showings in my old age (like 35 is old) because I have to be up early for work. I used to do it a bit when I was younger, especially in college. But this article frames it well as to why it’s amazing to be in those theaters at midnight.

But there’s the opposite side of this, the early movies. I will try to go to movies (even as early as 10 a.m.) because the crowds are a lot different. They’re cheaper, but you also have people there who want to see the movie too.

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