Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reading Habits #1: 5 Questions

Q. How do you review a book? Do you take notes as you read the book and then review it? Or do you read the book first and then write about it from memory?
My answer: I don't take notes as I read because I don't know how to. The first and last time I tried I almost wrote down the entire book. I didn't know what to leave out. Taking down notes, for a book review or a newspaper report, is an art. I have better luck with the latter.

Q. Do you jump descriptions of places and landscapes and read just the operative part?
My answer  Never, not even if the lengthy descriptions threaten to put me to sleep. I can sail through a detailed sketch of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the Mojave Desert or the Savannah with ease. The first dozen-odd pages of Hawaii by James A. Michener is a good place to test your patience, or the lack of it. An uncle of mine used to read westerns inside of an hour: he'd only read parts with action and dialogue and skip everything else.

Q. Are you equally comfortable reading a physical book and an ebook?
My answer  Both work for me though one disadvantage in an e-reader is that you can't flip back pages as easily as you can in a paperback. Sometimes I need to go back a few pages to reacquaint myself with a character or incident, especially since I read three books at a time. With an e-reader you don't know how far back to go.

Q. Do you read books by the same author back to back?
My answer  I often have, with P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, for instance; but same-author books can get monotonous. I have recently put an end to this practice. Now I read authors 2, 3, 4 & 5 before going back to author 1.

Q. Do you read a book from start to finish or do you pick up another book midway?
My answer  Since I read three books at a time I can't afford to be bored and pick up a fourth or fifth book. However, I'm tardy in finishing the classics. It took me over a month to read up The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I remember forgetting all about Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I picked it up again six months after I started reading it and found I hadn't even reached page 200.

What are your reading peeves?


  1. In no particular order, I don't take notes when I review, although sometimes I glance back through the work as I'm reviewing. I always read 2 or 3 books at a time, usually at least on nonfiction one and a fiction one. On occasion I read books by the same author back to back but it's fairly rare.

  2. I never take notes, unless I'm critiquing a writer pre-publication.

    I've found that if you read work from the same author back-to-back, you start to notice quirks and habits. Better to change it up.

  3. I almost always take notes. And I read several books at once so it's imperative that I do so. If not, when it comes to writing reviews/essays I tend to confuse character names and plot points. I use Post-It notes to flag pages with great lines and interesting story elements. Books I read for pleasure I do not take notes on, but I often still flag pages. It's engrained by now. I never turn down the page corners. Underlining? Sacrilege.

    I have never read an eBook. My attempt to read a new novel sent to me in PDF format was a disaster. Drove me crazy sitting at the computer. I need to recline on my sofa when reading.

    Anyone who skips over *anything* or "skim reads" can't ever claim they truly read the book, IMO. How do you know if you are missing out on something integral?

  4. I don't take notes, but might bookmark a page where something has stood out for me. I often struggle with reviews, trying to strike a balance between precising the whole book or not describing enough of what goes on. In general I tend to limit myself to talking about what I liked about a particular book.
    I might have 3 books on the go at once, 1 in my car, 1 at home, 1 on a laptop e-reader.
    I used to read authors back to back to back - I have read my way through a few author's one after the other...Pelecanos, Crumley, Ellroy......but not anymore - brain overload. Now it's rare if I read two by the same author in the same month. I don't skim read, but often, I might need to re-read something if I haven't absorbed what's just gone on, usually when I'm tired and my concentration is off.

  5. I find that jotting down notes takes away from my reading.
    My e-reader is a Kindle, and I can type a name into the search to remind myself of a person or place.
    Oh, and I never skip anything. If the author wrote it, I want to read it. I love details. Haven't read Michener, though. :<)

  6. Good questions!

    I always take notes for a blog post as I like to use quotes from the book if I can.

    I am quite anal and refuse to skip any bits when I'm reading - but the opening of MOBY DICK proved unsurmountable for me ...

    Never read an e-novel only short stories online.

    I haven't really read authors back to back since I was in my twenties - but I'll happily buy them in clusters!

    I have been known to read more than one book at a time but seem to be able to do this less and less as I get older ...

  7. Charles, Fleur, John, Col, Nan, and Sergio: Thank you for sharing your reading habits. I guess as long as we read books it doesn't matter how we read them.

  8. I don't take notes either although I often wish I had. I do skip sometimes in non-fiction. For instance I just skipped a long portion in the book THE SEARCHERS. It wasn't relevant enough to the general story to hold my interest.

    1. Patti, I feel the same way about taking notes and tell myself that I will the next time I plan to review the book I'm reading. That doesn't happen because I read most while commuting to and from work.

  9. For nonfiction I always underline and mark various important passages/words/ideas. Never with fiction, for that I will usually take brief notes or jot down page numbers if planning a review. Character names too, on the bookmark, if there's a cast of thousands.

    MOBY-DICK languished on my shelves half-read for over 15 years till I forced myself to read the second half over a period of... well, like another year or two! Comparatively, I read BROTHERS KARAMAZOV in a week or two. Skipped large swaths of ANNA KARENINA but I usually almost never skip parts, unless it's really really bad and I just want it to end.

    Reading authors' books back-to-back does indeed reveal quirks and tics and habits. This can snap me out of a story. That said, I did enjoy reading Philip K. Dick, James Lee Burke, and Carson McCullers this way.