Monday, May 21, 2012

How to read in leisure

Reading has always been one of my hobbies. I love to read good quality stuffs, length of the material was usually not really a critical issue to me. Not that I would read War and Peace every time, but I could and did read book series if I love the author and the materials enough. However, time files and my life moves on. A lot of things, reading included, have to change along. Back in the old days, I could stay up to read till my eyes couldn’t open, and continued after I got up. I considered reading is one of the better ways to kill time.

Now, looking at my life as it is, reading has become a luxury to me. I can still manage to read articles daily. However, for book wise, it has become very difficult. Also, the limited space I’ve if I choose to buy books and the hassle of borrowing and returning to library are both problems for book lovers like me. Thanks for the technology advancements, ebooks become a god-send solution to me. Cuz, I finally can keep the books I want and don’t  need to worry much about the physical space that they will take up. That’s why I became an ebook collector not so long ago and now my collection has grown to 30GB+ already! Further more, ammunitions without firearm would be worthless, so I bought the new iPad not so long ago in spite of fact that I’m still not happy with the weight of the device. Then, it looks like things are finally getting ready, so I gotta think about what’s next….

First of all, I was recommended by a colleague of mine to download the GoodReader app which has solved my problem of reading my PDF ebooks. It is definitely a very good app. Then, secondly, I’m still in process of searching an app that help me to read a series of jpg files as a lot of comics that I’ve are in jpg files in folders. Anyway, at least my PDF files are now ready to be read at my leisure. That supposes to be sweet right? Well, yes and no is the reality. Let me tell you why….

Even it looks like most of the logistic and technical issues have found not the best but at least workable solutions, I still have a very fundamental question about what reading to me is all about.

Well, I read for leisure. First, put aside the fictions which are logically without negotiable solution that they have to be read them from cover to back in order for the reader to know what the story is all about. In other words, I would be pointless for me to skim through it given that I don’t consider myself that much of a speed reader. My issue is that I’ve a lot of non-fiction books, but I don’t have a lot of free time, and I still want to read. So, what should I do?

On the one hand, I believe that there is a reason behind why certain materials are put together to become a book. Yes, I know that many non-fictions books have chapters, I can pick and choose them like magazine articles. But, it is different. Many good authors divide their materials in chapters with their own theme, but the themes are often joined or support each together to convey a message that is central to the book. I learn that from reading Malcohm Gradwell and those freakinomics. I enjoy the chapters as well as the sum of them. However, not all books are as good as those, and I can’t really afford to read all my books from beginning to half way or more and find it out to be a waste of time to continue. I would imagine that would be a defeat, a waste, or even a failure to spend time reading something that is more or less worthless. I wonder if there is anyway to avoid that. Word of mouth is good suggestion, but everybody has different taste. Also, not all books in my collection are popular, I can’t rely on those few no/five stars comments on Amazon as guidelines. Similar to movies, I love sharing my thought on certain books with others. However, I can’t do that until I’ve finished reading the book. The reading experience itself is a very much personal thing that nobody can do that on my behalf.

So, my problem is how to read my collections effectively. If I read one after another, it will take me a decade or two! Yes, good books last, and some of them age like wine! Some books would give us different thoughts if we read that at different age. Also, some books worth repeat reading as well! But, for me, I’ve not got to those situations yet since I’m still trying to read it once. So, what should I do?

Come to think of it, given the limited resources I’ve, I don’t think I can read books the way that goes by what the author thinks. Instead, I think I just have to treat it like a dinner buffet. Namely, just pick what I want, not what the chef wants. Another way to see it, it is similar to my approach to my vast music collections. I.e. instead of listening to the whole CD, I just listen to one track or two, or even do that randomly. So, I can pick an ebook at random and just read a page or two during those breaks in my busy hectic life. Yes, it can be considered as an insult to the author in a way, but I’ve my right as a reader to read the way that I want, as long as I’m happy and enjoy what I read. So, beat it!?

It’s easier to say than do, reading randomly in pieces is not enjoyable as reading in a more systematic/organized manner. The bottom line is that the overall experience is just not that enjoyable in comparison. Reading is supposed to be pleasurable, why make it the opposite? Do I have to read so many things in a rush? Quantity beats quality? If not, it means that I’ve to find a way to filter my ebook collections to pick some of the books as keepers, or to filter which chapters in which books are worth reading. It sounds an awfully difficult task! Should I put myself into it? Why make my leisure reading experience so hard? I still don’t have the answers to many of the above….


Joyce Lau said...

I hate to admit this, as a former English literature major, but I never made it through War and Peace. (And my husband, who is a chef and never studied literature in this life, has!)

I agree with you about the e-readers. I hesitated at first, but now I love it. Very occasionally, I will still buy a physical book if I love it. But I've only done that once since my baby was born, so once every 9 months. All the casual paperbacks I read in bed are now on my Kindle. I don't waste time running to the bookstore. I don't waste money paying marked-up prices on imported English books here. And, most importantly, I'm not adding any more stuff to a home that is already bursting!

Joyce Lau said...

Unlike you, I read mostly fiction for leisure, and very little non-fiction. That's because my book reading is for enjoyment. There's no practical reason behind it. I don't expect to learn anything useful, or anything in particular -- I just want to enjoy the characters and the story.

I am practical when I read newspaper or magazine articles, since I need to for work. But fiction is just for relaxation, so it doesn't matter if it takes me weeks and weeks to finish a novel.

One good thing about the Kindle is that you can read the first chapter or two for free. Like you, I have limited free time, and I'm not going to waste it on a book that doesn't interest me.

My husband and I are different this way. He's very loyal. If he starts a book, he will finish it no matter what. But if I read the first two chapters and it doesn't catch my attention, I'm happy to abandon it.

Joel said...

Thanks for sharing your reading habit with me, not that I would copy yours, but it's helpful to know how other read, since reading is such a personal thing.