Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Reading Habits #14: Does anyone talk books anymore?

In the week that saw closing showers and Thor’s wrath, conjunctivitis in the family, a midnight trip to the airport, problems over water supply, a dental appointment, car and medical insurance, and job deadlines and office sendoffs, this is what I have been thinking about.

In the seventies I discussed the Hardy Boys, the Secret Seven, and the Three Investigators with many of my school friends. In the eighties I talked about popular fiction with a few college mates. In the nineties I conferred about philosophical literature with two colleagues who shared my interest. In-between, there were intermittent exchanges about comic books.

In the first decade of this century I have not had a meaningful discussion about books with anyone.

But in just the past four years I have gone berserk “talking” about books, even showing off about books, with all my blog friends. Those four years have wiped out the book-talk deficit of the previous four decades.

Finally, a door to the mind’s library opened and I’m happily lost somewhere inside the giant labyrinth of books that we read and write about on our blogs every day. I'd like to think that blogging is god's 21st century gift to book lovers.

Of course, over the past two decades and more I have been discussing books with my wife, whose main interests lie in the Classics, Agatha Christie, and P.G. Wodehouse, among others, and later with my grown-up daughter who reads weighty books that include fantasy.

Both are wise and serious readers. They read one book at a time and finish it before picking up another. I read three books at a time and finish none. First I hoard books on my shelf and then I hoard them in my mind, dog-eared at the halfway mark of my intellect and no further.

My point is does anyone read and talk books outside the blog world anymore? Do you have to join public libraries, book clubs, and writing workshops to discuss books with others who read them as well? Is chucking anti-social smart phones really the solution to getting people to read books again and, hopefully, talking about them? Would it help if I collared a few people and forced books into their hands? Do I miss the old and informal way of talking about books?

Quite frankly, do I even need answers to these questions when I have you all, my 
fellow readers and bloggers, to discuss books with?

20 comments:

  1. I know I used to talk books more, too... Maybe there's too much entertainment? I don't know...

    I do see my kids talking about books with their friends, which I see as an encouraging sign.

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    1. Fleur, in my childhood and teens the only entertainment we had was playing outdoor games with friends, reading books and comics, and the occasional outing or holiday with the family. Apart from school homework and examination there were no other annoying distractions.

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  2. I sometimes talk about books with my eldest. She concentrates on the South Asian authors and introduces me to unknown authors which I love! But other than that conversation is restricted to the blogging world.

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    1. Mystica, I'm actually relieved that blogging has introduced me to other bloggers, like you, with a collective interest in books; never mind the kind of books we read. The important thing is to read books and share our views about them.

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  3. I suspect a lot of book duscussions may now emerge from book clubs - I certainly have lots of friends who belong to these - otherwise it tends to be when somethign is trending (Harry Potter, Stieg Larsson etc etc) - for myself, if I have a book recommended to me or do the same to someone else, that will eventually lead to a conversation - I am very lucky that my office partner is a big literature fan and its one of the interests we truly have in common so books come up a lot.

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    1. Sergio, I didn't realise that few people where I live read western fiction leave alone talk about it, and I'm referring to my city and not my location. It would be unfair to compare the scenario here and, say, anywhere in the West. For instance, I have no one with whom I can discuss books in my office. We do have book clubs and reading sessions but you don't hear of them as well as you might in your part of the world. I think a majority of people who still read books belong to an earlier generation. I certainly know what the current generation is reading and it's really not worth mentioning.

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  4. Most of my chatting is online - my and other blogs plus a few sites elsewhere - Goodreads, Crimespace and a couple of others - some more actvie than others.
    Off-line and back in the real world, I only chat books with my family, but its me expressing an interest in what they are reading rather than the other way around ;-(

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    1. Col, I only ever "chat" about books via comments on blogs. I don't chat online because I don't have the time much of which is spent on my own blog and reading other blogs. I have been thinking of getting involved with Goodreads and Crimespace, and leaving short reviews of the books I read. I'll probably enrol when I become a more disciplined reader and reviewer of books. Like you I discuss books and films with my family since we share common interests, like classics, mystery and comedy, for instance.

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  5. I talk about books on occasion with a few of my professor friends. I've got a friend who reads horror so we might talk about that, and an English teacher friend who reads and writes so we have quite a lot of talk about books. The university community may be different, though. I don't have such conversations with folks outside of it.

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    1. Charles, I have no such luck. Whenever I strike up a conversation about reading books, it is usually in the past tense. The typical response I hear is, "Oh, you are reading a novel by Robert Ludlum! I didn't know people still read those today. I remember how I used to sit with a pile of Perry Masons when I was young. That was such a long time ago. Who reads these days?" It can be rather tiresome.

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  6. Prior to my blogging days in an attempt to talk about books I joined a book club using Meetup.com, a social networking site that brings together people with similar interests. I was the only man. Book clubs are not a "manly" thing in the US I guess. I quickly grew tired of the judgmental attitudes, snarky remarks and outright rudeness from the women, all of whom were strangers to me. The group really only existed to talk about their husbands and children and sometimes their jobs none of which interested me. Very little discussion of books took place. I quit after about three months.

    On the bus only two days ago I happened to be sitting next to two people who seemed to be co-workers. For the entire 20 minute bus ride they talked about nothing but the books they were reading. One was a young man in his 20s (maybe early 30s -- I can never tell anymore) and the other a woman about my age (50ish). So at least in Chicago there are book discussions going on in the real world outside of blogs. I only wish had more exposure to them.

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    1. John, thanks for sharing your book=talk experience. The two instances are contrasting and as I alluded to in my post, I like the second instance better; two or three people meeting up informally and discussing books, as it used to be before internet. There are book clubs in my city, too, except I don't know where they are and even if I did, I wouldn't have the time or energy to attend owing to commuting to and from work on weekdays. New bookstores regularly host events that include readings and signings.

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  7. My wife and I watch movies together and often talk about them afterwards. Our reading interests are too different for that. I am on goodreads where I read the reviews of "friends," and occasionally swap comments, but it's not like actually getting into a real discussion.

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    1. Ron, same with me. I talk about movies and books only with my wife and children. Our interests match. For instance, we watch comedies and sitcoms together, as also other genres like fantasy, animated, thrillers, and superhero. Other than the family, I discuss them with my blogging friends here and on their blogs. I refer to Goodreads but I've never been an active participant with regard to reviews and comments.

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  8. Very interesting post, and the comments equally interesting. I only expect to talk books with my bookgroup, my blogging friends and my daughter. Many people say they have no time to read, or they read only bestsellers. But that's fine - I have nothing to offer if they want to talk about eg sport. I'm just so glad I have online book discussions now!

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    1. Moira, thank you. The comments are always more interesting than my posts. They actually liven up whatever I write about. Over the years a lot of people have told me they don't have the time to read books, which means they used to read at one time. I usually respond to this with — "Have you even tried making time?" or, better still, "Have you read any books at all?" To which I get a mumbled reply. I'm glad about online book talk, too.

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  9. Prashant, I am woefully far behind on reading your blog, due to a combination of bisiness and laziness and just in the last week or two the need for Fall garden chores before this years deliveries of soil, compost, removing/transplanting/planting shrubs and trees, planting bulbs and a host of others gardener's tasks.

    So this post slipped by me and even late coming to it, I have some thoughts. Do people talk about books? Yes and no. Really, did they ever? Outside of school, in which such discussions and the books mandated for them, book discussions were limited to fans of a particular author, genre or perhaps bestseller. My parents were readers, my mother much more than my father, and my brother and I followed along as readers, but none of us much discussed our books, as we read different things due to our age. When I was reading The Hardy Boys, my brother was in high school and reading assigned things like Dickens and my mother read historical fiction and bestsellers.
    I talked about the books I liked with my school friends, though only a few of them, and only the ones who liked the same books. So, four or five people. I can't remember when I talked to more then that ever until I started going to mystery conventions, joined an APA and started reading blogs.
    At work as an adult, very few people I worked with were "readers", meaning they read magazines, the newspaper, an occasional bestseller. I was the only person I knew who read science fiction, or fantasy, so no chance of talking about books there. I did know a handful of people who read mysteries, but the genre is wide and the reader of serial killer books and the one reading cozies usually have little to say to each other. Though I was widely read enough, I was more interested in hard boiled such as Chandler or Hammett than Aunt Agatha's Cat books.
    The one place common interest came, and many discussions, was at a local mystery bookstore, of which there were two good ones. Both the owners, other customers and the authors there for signings were always happy to talk about books, and I both shared my likes and learned about many new books in that way. Before blogs, it was absolutely the best way to talk books and, of course, buy them.
    Now? My wife and I talk about books, sometimes read each other's selections (most often from the library or from my shelves here). She also has some friends in a quilt group who read mysteries and sometimes when they are here I step in to talk books, but that is rare. These days it's the blogs, including this fine one, which I vow to keep more abreast of.
    Wonderful topic.

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    1. Richard, I appreciate your kind words—thank you! Please feel free to visit any time. Your thoughts on books and blogs are always welcome. I haven’t been visiting many blogs including yours in recent weeks and I plan to remedy the same.

      I enjoyed reading your views on ‘talking books’ and found myself agreeing to most of the things you said. The only time I really discussed books regularly was ‘The Hardy Boys’ series with my school friends. Since then, I’ve been talking about books occasionally with friends and colleagues though I never found anyone with a matching interest in books until I started blogging and met dedicated book readers like you. In fact, blogging has changed, for the better, the way I read and talk about books.

      Otherwise, I mostly talk books with my family.

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  10. Another post that I really enjoyed and found thought provoking, Prashant. My husband and I talk books all the time. We even chat online about books at lunchtime when we are at our workplaces. And I am very grateful for that. My son and I talk books, although a bit less because of diverse tastes. We have close friends (a couple) who are librarians and read a lot, so we talk books with them, but we only see them occasionally since we are in different cities. No one at works talks about books much, although I do share some of my books with a couple of co-workers.

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    1. Tracy, thank you very much. It's really nice that you chat about books online with your husband at lunchtime. It must be fascinating to share your thoughts about books with each other. I don't think I have come across another married couple who does that. Sometimes when I discuss books with my family, I find that I don't need to talk about them with anyone else other than our blogging community.

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