Are you on Goodreads? I have been dipping a toe into this site that helps you record what you read and what you think. It’s another social medium to reveal to the world who you are and what you consider important. And better yet, you get to see what your friends are reading too. Go market researchers! I wonder, sometimes, why we worry about our rights to privacy at all, but that’s for another blog post on another day.
One of my friends on Goodreads is a voracious reader. I see updates just about weekly of another book completed and thought about. Sometimes two books. In my imagination I see this man doing nothing but read–big books, little books, popular, obscure. He reads widely and voraciously. This is similar to my good guy at home. Jealously, I wonder how the “good reading gene” skipped making an appearance on my gene map. I read so slowly that I’m lucky to get through one to two books a month. And these days, I hardly remember them once read. How unfair is that?
So I asked Mark about his reading. I asked specifically how he managed to get so much read so consistently. “I listen to audiobooks,” he said simply. Audio books! But is that still thought of as reading? “To me it is. In audio books, you don’t have the chance to skim and accidentally miss something important. You hear every word the author intended.”
Good argument. Guess who went to the library this past weekend, only to discover a treasure trove of books on CD. Very cool. I’m currently listening to “This I Believe,” a series of 500-word essays by people willing to express their most deeply felt beliefs on life. Fascinating.
Enter my good guy. He reads, he says, about 20 to 30 books a year. I suspect he reads more. Much more. And this is on top of being a busy software developer and business consultant. Oh, and television sports fanatic, political junkie, ballroom dancer and a generally busy guy.
“I don’t think listening to audio books is reading,” he said. “When you read, you skim the junk that’s boring and get to the point. You also see how paragraphs are constructed, where commas belong, and learn new words. As a matter of fact, with the e-readers, I can grow my vocabulary even more because I can highlight a word and learn the definition as opposed to guessing at it like you have to in traditional books.”
Another great argument. I can see both sides. I do love to pop a CD into my car’s player and travel along with words and thoughts pouring over me on my way to-and-from the dog park. Yet, I do feel I miss a lot, when I’m interrupted by the demands of driving–squirrel in the road–jerk in front slamming on brakes (or perhaps I simply didn’t see them)–do I turn right here or left? Oops! What was Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett saying?
I do love audio books, I have to admit. When I had an office job, I used to listen to things like “How to Win Customers and Keep Them” or “The New Portable MBA” all the time. I didn’t think of it as reading, but as information gathering, and it was terrific.
But to me, reading is more than the experience of taking in words. I love how quiet reading is, either from a book or an e-reader. I love how I “work” over the words, asking myself why an author used this particular phrase, and wanting to jot down quotations from the work. I love that when I’m reading I can’t do anything else. I’m too busy being in another world. My body cuddles around the book and together we’re off to outer space or back in time.
In short, the physical act of reading is very romantic to me.
But I’m in flux here. I’m willing to be persuaded that either form of “reading” is still reading. I’d love to hear from you. Do you read traditionally published books, read from e-readers, or listen to audio books? Perhaps you do both? Is there one true way to read? Please let me know what you think.
Wishing you a good week with books of any kind.