screen scourge

Being unable to go out to borrow or purchase a copy of my book club’s current read, my only options were to resort to buying an electronic copy, or otherwise miss the next meeting (which I suppose will be done online, considering current circumstances).

Speaking of current circumstances, my book club’s current read is The Plague by Albert Camus. It’s quite a fitting read at a time like this, although it is about a fictitious plague set in a world several decades in the past. But it makes one realise that we are doing quite well in comparison. (Well, I’m speaking only for the country I live in, and the people I know.)

In the novel, the plagued city in question, Oran, closed off their borders as the epidemic worsened, and forbade travel in and out of the city, both by locals and foreigners alike. The story being set in pre-internet days, the inhabitants do not have the option of video calling each other, nor can they even send letters due to fears of transmitting pathogens via paper. If I remember correctly, the only option left to them is the use of telegrams.

Moreover, the treatment for the plague must be sourced from Paris, and of course there are supply issues, and of course the treatment does not always work. Continue reading


new reading (anti-)goals

So it’s pretty much halfway through January now, but I’m going to do this post anyway. Besides, they’re not necessarily 2019-specific anyway, so what does it matter?

Being the reflective person that I am, of course I already thought about what I want to achieve in the new year, what I want to change, and what I want to improve on. I just haven’t gotten around to writing it all down, which has actually made me a bit anxious because I do like having things written down in case I forget or lose sight of something.

Having all this written down — and published here — is, I suppose, also good for accountability. (I have vague recollections of the last time I posted about goals/resolutions, and certain friends would, now and then, ask me how I was going with them, so I really did have to make some regular effort.)

[The original post turned out much longer than I expected, so I’ve split it in three. This post and the second one (which I’ll schedule to publish next week) are about literary and intellectual goals. The third post, about health and fitness, will be published a week after the second one. It actually might work in my favour to stagger these posts like that, since it might serve as a reminder of what I’m supposed to be doing.] Continue reading

hardcover vs paperback

Just over one and a half years ago, I wrote a post about reading quirks. One of the things I talked about was my preference for paperback novels over hardcover ones. But since I’ve been reading this simply elegant hardcover copy of Tender is the Night (and also since reading a hardcover copy of What I talk about when I talk about running), I’m finding that this could very well be changing.

Continue reading

reading insights

Whenever we get close to the end of the year, I like to look back (more than I usually do), and one of the things I look back on is the books that I’ve read. I’m on Good Reads, but long before I’d joined GR, I’d started my own reading database. I can tell you every book I’ve ever read since September 2005.

Anyway, the main reason I was looking at my book list was to check how many books I’ve read this year. My unofficial goal was to read 12 books this year, and I have well and truly achieved that. It was good having a goal like that – very achievable for someone like me – because it encouraged me to keep reading at every opportunity. There are so many books I want to read – 12 per year should be the bare minimum if I want to get through even half of these.

On the other hand, there were times when I did stress out a bit about whether or not I’d actually accomplish this reading goal. Reading a few shorter ones between the longer novels did help (e.g. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s). I’m undecided about whether or not I want to set another reading goal for next year. And, if I do, should I increase it, or leave it the same? Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to decrease the goal.

Well, there’s still time to figure that all out.

Apart from basic details such as title, author, and date (month/year) finished, I also record a number of other things in my book database. Of course, I have a column for ratings (scored out of ten), but I also have one for the “source” i.e. if the book is my own, borrowed from a friend, or from the library.

What I found interesting was that three of the four novels which were given the highest ratings by me were borrowed from others – and from three different people too! The fourth one was a book I own.

I know I’ve written before about how borrowing a book from someone might bias me toward liking the book more, but that was more of a gut feeling, whereas this is slightly more solid proof. Either that or my friends have really good reading tastes. Maybe a bit of both.

Actually, what I might focus on next year is reading the books I own, particularly the ones I’ve owned for a very long time but have never read. Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield has been strongly recommended to me by the same friend who lent me One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so I think that one’s definitely going high up on my priority list (especially considering that this friend is actually not even a big fan of his work in general, whereas Dickens is one of my most favourite authors).

I was actually going to attempt reading Anna Karenina if I reached 12 books before the end of this year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’ll have to wait behind David Copperfield, and even then, I’ll probably want one or two easy reads between the two.

I really do like borrowing books from other people, though. Not only is it great for cost-saving, but it’s a wonderful way to connect with other people. It’s like having another story enveloping the actual story. People might not discuss a book in much more detail than to say whether they liked it or what they thought of the characters, but sometimes that’s enough. I can then read through the book with this person in the back of my mind, and I develop an understanding of some part of them.

I’m sure this must happen for other people too. Otherwise, I must just be ridiculously sentimental and/or read into things too much. (Probably both; I won’t deny it.)

Another one that I should probably get around to is Ulysses, which I’ve owned since high school, but have never actually opened. Hmm… maybe I’ll add a fourth epic to this list, and I’ll just read one per season. That should be manageable, right?

Somehow I don’t think this is all going to happen according to plan, but I suppose we shall find out next year…

reading quirks

In the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot of book-related blogs, and I’ve read about other people’s various reading quirks. This has subtlely prompted me to mentally catalogue my own quirks. Of course, the natural progression from this, me being me, is to do a post on it! So here we go…

Paperback vs Hardcover

This is one that’s stood out for me because although most people seem to prefer hardcover, I would much rather paperback. I will admit that I reckon hardcover probably looks better – on a desk, on a shelf, in one’s arms – but paperback novels are easier to read (in a practical sense). Also potentially a sentimental thing going on here, since I’ve grown up reading paperback novels; they’re just easier to take anywhere and read anywhere. Perhaps if I grew up reading hardcover, my preference would be different…

Concurrent reading

I used to never read more than one novel at a time. However, I think this changed when I read ‘The Name of the Wind’ (by Patrick Rothfuss). This is definitely not to say that it was dragging on or anything like that (I thoroughly enjoyed reading TNOTW!) but the actual book was so big that it was difficult to read on my daily commute, so I just read it at home. However, since I didn’t want to waste commute time by not reading, I started reading a second book, which may or may not have been ‘Great Expectations’. I don’t really remember; I just think this is how it started. Anyway, point is that I now tend to have at least two books on the go at any one time. You know, just to mix it up a bit. I do find, however, that I will still tend to focus more on one book over the other(s).


Speaking of ‘Great Expectations’, it is actually the only book that I’ve intentionally re-read (technically, I’m still in the process of re-reading it, but I’m almost done…) There are plenty of books that I intend to re-read one day, but there are so many wonderful books that I haven’t read! As far as I know, I’ve only once accidentally re-read a book. It was in my high school years, and I was a fair way into the book before I realised. By that time, I figured I may as well finish it before moving on. For interest’s sake, some of the books I’d like to re-live include ‘Vanity Fair’, the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’.

Reading on the go

As already alluded to, I am lucky enough to be able to read on the bus/train without getting motion sickness. Unfortunately, there are random days when I do get a bit nauseous, and I don’t really know why. Cars are definitely a resonant no for reading. Planes are fine. I have not yet tried boats, but I don’t like my chances.

Mint condition

I like keeping my books in near-perfect condition. This becomes hard when I have to take – wait, “have to”? Well, not really have to, but kind of have to, anyway; I’d rather pull out a book when I’m bored than pull out my phone. Does that put me in a new category of anti-social? Well, anyway, it is hard to keep a book in mint condition if I’m transporting it everywhere in my backpack. I’ve come to accept that a book that looks like it’s been read a hundred times in a hundred different places can be as beautiful as a book that is fresh from the store. I do, however, have an irrepressible need to straighten out folded corners, and people who fold in the corner of a page to mark where they’re up to really bother me. Please use a bookmark or something.

Is it just me…?

I don’t know how/when this developed, but usually when I read and come to turn the page, I will glance at the page numbers to ensure that I’m not accidentally skipping a page. A friend once pointed out that I’d probably notice if I skipped a page just by the obvious fact that the sentence/paragraph would not make sense. A good point, but that still doesn’t stop me from glancing at the page numbers.

Happy places

My favourite place to read is at home: in the comfort of my bed, on the sofa, or at my desk. It’s best if there’s just a bit of background noise, but not enough to grab my attention and distract me. Music can be helpful or unhelpful, depending on the song, what I’m reading, and what sort of mood I’m in. I also like to read outside: in the park, by the river, or under a big tree – or perhaps all three! A bit of sunlight, a gentle breeze and a good book. Perfect.