May 28, 2012

Continued Adventures in Reading

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have yet to get in the habit of regular blogging. Damn my leg!

To date I’ve read Treasure Island, A Princess of Mars, Warlord of Mars, The Gods of Mars, The Hobbit, The First Men in the Moon, Hunger Games, and Ender’s Game. Not bad for someone who went so long without reading a single book.

During the reading of these books I’ve noticed several things about myself:

  • It takes a lot of effort to get myself to begin another book. I want to read something fun, but I’m finding it challenging to identify a book that I may enjoy without having a plot line or idea spoiled by a recommendation. The less I know the more surprised I will be and the more I’ll enjoy the book.
  • I prefer to see movies based on books before I read the book. Most would disagree with me here, but those who know me know that I don’t watch movies I’ve already seen. When watching movies I tune everything out around me and get fully immersed into the story. When I know what is going on, I am critiquing the film, distracted, and generally bored.
  •  Given the previous two points I would have thought it would be difficult for me to read a book that I already knew the story of. But when I read the Hobbit and The Hunger Games after seeing the movie versions, I found that it was fun to see how the author originally presented the story and how Hollywood decided to present it in film. For me these books were still exciting and fun to read.
  • I’m clearly drawn to adventure books.
  • Reading inspires me to be creative and at the same time depresses me. Movies can do this to me as well, but on a much smaller level because they generally last several hours and by the next day I’ve forgotten about it. Books on the other hand last weeks, so I find myself having more time thinking about the story and the parallels with my life and current events.

I’ll go into greater detail on some of these points in separate posts.

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March 30, 2012

Picking My First Read

… the continued adventures of The Year I Started to Read Books.

So after my long hiatus from reading, I needed to find something to read. What to choose? Do I go with something current, classic, or unknown?  Given I have read so little my options were practically endless. Imagine walking into a bookstore and not having read a single book found in the store. Where do you start?

Being really cheap and not totally sure that I would be able to read on my Android phone, I began browsing the free ebook selection. Next I needed to decide what type of book. I already knew I wanted to read fiction, but did I want a story that took place in space? Some far away fantasy world? Vampires, ninjas, pirates? I didn’t know.

While all of the books are virtually unknown to me, I have heard friends talk about some of them, and I’ve seen many film adaptations. Note: There will be a future post about my first experience with having a beloved book get converted to a movie. While film adaptations are not the same as the book, I felt that I needed to find a story I knew nothing about and had no preconceived notions of. This quickly started to limit my options.

In reality the selection process didn’t take that long. It’s only in hindsight that I fully understand what drew me to choose Treasure Island. I knew it had pirates, a character named Long John Silver, and did I mention pirates? So this was the perfect book–a fresh story to re-energize my mind.

Next: I will discuss what it was like to read a book after my long hiatus, along with a really short review.


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March 18, 2012

The Year I Started to Read Books

I can’t claim that I’ve never read a single book, because I have. My earliest memories of reading are from elementary school when I read loads of Scholastic Book Club books. I remember being excited when the book catalog would come out, and I would go through and select a dozen or so books to purchase. I would create reading forts and spend hours upon hours in there reading things like Ralph and the Motorcycle, Encyclopedia Brown, Bunnicula, Wayside Stories from Wayside School, and The Finches Fabulous Furnace.

Book It!The prime motivation for reading during this time was Book IT! This is an awesome program which rewards reading with vouchers for a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. As a kid the idea of getting my own personal pizza, which today at my age is ridiculously small, was awesome–especially given my dad’s cooking.

Amiga 1000Then one day I discovered a magical device called the Amiga. Why read when I could be playing games, hundreds of games! Needless to say computers and video game consoles kept me busy for many years and got me out of the habit of reading.

Eventually I had to read books again. There was the required reading one has to do when in school. Titles like Call of the Wild, Where the Red Fern Grows, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Then there were the book reports where one gets to choose the book they want to read but is then forced to write about it. While many of these books I was forced to read were good, I wasn’t immersed in the story because I was focused on how to answer the homework questions. I suddenly found reading to be a punishment.

Fast forward to today: I’m 32, and as of a few months ago I could only recall maybe 10 books that I had read during my lifetime. Ninety percent of these were kids’ books, of which I have fond memories, particularly Roald Dahl. I have tried to read books many times over the years, but I have found the process very frustrating. I find holding books uncomfortable; I have a hard time tracking the lines with big blocks of text; and I am easily distracted, or I can read several pages without actually processing what I just read. So basically no matter how interesting the story is–the process of reading was frustrating and required too much work. So I just didn’t read.

Then I discovered a new magical device. App really. The Kindle App for my Android Phone. I don’t remember what motivated me to install this app and use it to try to read, but what most people dislike about reading on their phone turns out to be what makes it the perfect invention for me. It’s comfortable to hold, and the screen doesn’t display a lot of text, breaking up what traditionally is a huge block of text into a bite size readable chunk that I find much easier to process. Suddenly, the technology that lured me away from reading was luring me back.

In the past three months I have somehow managed to read 5 books. Crazy sauce! Going forward I will blog about my reading experiences as an adult suddenly discovering the joy of reading. The free personal size pizzas are gone, but there are 30 years of good reads to catch up with.

Up next my first read: It’s a classic.


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March 4, 2009

Not handsome enough to tempt me

I read today that Marvel is releasing a “faithful” five-part comic book “adaptation” of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. To be honest, I’m not really sure what I think about this. At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently it is the real deal. A preview of the first issue is available online. It is the same story and time-period as the original novel, and I don’t object to the idea in principle, but check out how the Bennett sisters are drawn! (scroll down and click to enlarge that second page) Makes it a little less believable that Mr. Darcy couldn’t find an attractive girl to dance with at the ball, doesn’t it?

Take, for example, Mary Bennett. Mary is supposed to be the plain one. Mary is the boring one. Mary is a wallflower. She’s the one who thought Mr. Collins was the bee’s knees. She is not supposed to be…this:


I have a few obvious problems here. I think they probably don’t need to be spelled out for you in detail. Oddly high on my list is the hair, which they clearly stole off of a soap opera actress back in 1989 and which they have been keeping in a high security vault, frozen, waiting for this day to come.

Actually, Mary reminds me of someone. Who is it? Let me think… Oh! I know who it is!


She looks like one of The Misfits from that ’80s cartoon classic Jem and the Holograms. Obviously with more tasteful makeup choices, but then, who knows what sort of fashion don’ts Mary was sporting back in the ’80s, right?

Now, I don’t really want to pass judgment on something without reading it (OK, yeah, I sort of do), so I’ll make a deal with you: If any of you read this comic and tell me it is the bestest most awesomest thing since sliced bread, I will stop mocking it. Until then, I declare open season on the whole project.

posted under Rants | 3 Comments »
October 28, 2005

The Friday 10: Ten page tens

You want random? Oh, I’ll give you random! For this week’s Friday 10, I went to my bedroom bookshelf, grabbed 10 random books off of the shelves and turned to page 10 of each. Here’s what I found:

1. The whale fluked, raising its tail high in the air, and there, instead of the distinct pattern of black-and-white markings by which all humpbacks were identified, were—spelled out in foot-high black letters across the white—the words BITE ME!”

(Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore — page 10)

2. When Ollie was eight months pregnant in 1873, she dreamed that she was safe in bed with Fred’s arms wrapped tightly around her. “When I got awake and found you were really not there, I could hardly believe it, you do not know how disappointed I was,” she wrote from her father’s house in Buffalo.

(Katharine Hepburn by Barbara Leaming — page 10)

3. “Just because I fall into a corpselike coma from time to time is no reason for your Grim Reaper fellow to grab me up without making proper tests. It was slipshod, I tell you.”

(Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming by Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley — page 10)

4. Like an increasing number of niminy-piminy Europeans, Americans bracket drinking with gambling and whoring, as deeds to be done in the dark. For myself, I have no shame and don’t have to steal off to Tuscany or the Caribbean to be able to drink guiltlessly in the sunlight. This casts me as a freak in a lunch-time world where the fires of anything vinous are extinguished by spritzing sprays of mineral water and the blaze of anything hearty is drizzled in balsamic or damped down with blanketing weeds of radicchio, lollo rosso, and rocket. Christ, we live in arse-paralysingly drear times.

(The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry — page 10)

5. “Maybe. Maybe I do. But I don’t say it literally.”
“What?” she looked baffled.
“Not literally,” he said.
“There you go again,” she said, “with those college words.”

(Larry’s Party by Carol Shields — page 10)

6. Before she could answer, a man I knew from the smoking lounge approached along the promenade, coming from the direction of the bow of the ship. He had gone out of the lounge some time earlier.
“Look here,” he said, and he showed me his drink. It was full of chipped ice. “It’s from the forward well deck,” he said. “It’s all over the place.”
I felt the woman ease around my shoulder and look into the glass. The man was clearly drunk and shouldn’t have been running about causing alarm.
“From the iceberg,” he said.
I heard her exhale sharply.
“I never take ice in my scotch and soda,” I said.

(Tabloid Dreams by Robert Olen Butler — page 10)

7. Harry — This is a Pocket Sneakoscope. If there’s someone untrustworthy around, it’s supposed to light up and spin. Bill says it’s rubbish sold for wizard tourists and isn’t reliable because it kept lighting up at dinner last night. But he didn’t realize Fred and George had put beetles in his soup.Bye — Ron

(Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling — page 10)

8. “Drugs?” suggested the first policeman.
“More like dirty books,” said the other. “If he’s armed, it’s my turn.”
“It’s always your turn,” grumbled his companion.
The first policeman shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, all right then,” he said. “But I get to drive back to the station.”

(Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt — page 10)

9. “I guess it’s a freak of some kind then,” said Larry. And he also said: “Well, Jeesis, what’s that thing driving the last wagon?”
The man looked and said: “Why, it’s just a feller with some goat horns on his head. Another fake, I reckon.

(The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney — page 10)

10. One of the things that being engaged does to you, you must remember, is to fill you to the gills with a sort of knightly chivalry. So Freddie tells me. You go about the place like a Boy Scout, pouncing out on passers-by and doing acts of kindness to them. Three times that day Freddie had chased seedy-looking birds up side streets and forced cash on them. He had patted four small boys on the head and asked them if they meant to be President some day. He had beamed benevolently on the citizenry till his cheeks ached. And he was still full of the milk of human kindness and longing to assist some less fortunate fellow-traveler along the road of Life, when he saw this girl in front of him, staggering under the weight of the suitcase.

(Tales from the Drones Club by P.G. Wodehouse — page 10) ]

June 7, 2005

Doc Smartypants vs. the Infamous Meme!: It’s about books, OK?

My buddy over at tagged me for this book meme. You’ve probably seen it around. Below are the four questions and my answers to them:

What is the total number of books I’ve owned?
I spent an absurd amount of time trying to come up with an answer to
this. I was tempted to just lie and say 15,657 or something, but where’s
the fun in that? The trouble is that I started buying books when I was in elementary school and I never stopped, but multiple moves have really thinned the herd.

I’m going to make the educated estimate that the total is somewhere in
the 2,000-2,500 range. Give or take several hundred.

What was the last book I bought?
This, I believe, was a used copy of Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, which I purchased in a used bookstore in Bellingham on my last visit home and read in my book club. It was good, but I found the ending disappointing. (I’m sure there’s a deep symbolic message about life in that last sentence if you care to ponder it long enough.)

What was the last book I read?
Fluke, Or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore. (I’m reading another of his now, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal)

Five books that mean a lot to me:
I went with the homefries interpretation here and focused on importance rather than just making a list of my favorite reads. What I love is not necessarily what is most important, but the things I think are important are certainly loved.

Don’t laugh.:

The AP Stylebook Even though I am now expected to use Chicago Style, AP was what I originally learned and what I know best. My poor old stylebook has been almost everywhere and is pretty thrashed now. As part of a college class I went on this hike that almost killed me and when I got to the top
and was pulling my lunch out of my backpack a friend sitting nearby looked over and said, “What the…? You brought your AP style guide?!” Which, for the record, was mostly for the drive there, but you never know when you might need to know the proper style for “yo-yo” (formerly a trademark, now a generic term).

Glory Lane OK, so my first impulse here was to say Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because I’ve read it a gazillion times and it was
my intro into the sci-fi/fantasy genre (at least as far as grown-up books). But then I remembered that the Guide actually doesn’t hold that honor—Glory Lane does. I read Glory Lane at least two years before I ever touched the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged) A constant feature in my life
since childhood. I was delighted when I realized we have the exact same edition at work that I grew up with. I used to love looking up weird words, studying the flags of the world, and trying to make useful phrases (such as “rattle the hedgehog”) out of the English-to-French, or English-to-German sections. One of my absolute favorite bits was the page in back with the solar system.

The Last Tycoon and the World of MGM
A benchmark on two fronts, this book sparked a lasting love of both film history and biographies. I have not moved anywhere without it (even brought it to Boston for my summer internship).

And last but probably least…

Which Witch? OK, go ahead and laugh if you want, but hear me out first. This is the only book from my childhood that is still in my possession and that made the trip to Boston. I’m not sure exactly when I first read it, but it was probably third or fourth grade I guess. It is important because I say it is.

So that’s all. Took me long enough! I would encourage those of you who read
this to answer this meme yourself, either here or on your own blog/LJ. H-Bob and Miss Erin, you do not get a choice in this matter. Just do it!]

Update: H-Bob has responded on her LJ. Matt of the Broken Monkey Glass and Librarianna of the Broken Monkey Glass have responded, too.

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