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I Came. I Saw. I READ.

I read an article in the Washington Post recently. Reading Is Different Online Than Off. Seriously. Click on the link.

I’ll wait.

Okay. Now that you’re back, let’s discuss.

Because I’m alarmed at the number of people who’ve said things like this to me lately:

Your book is the first book I’ve read in, like, FOREVER.

I feel guilty when I take time to read. It’s like I’m not really DOING anything.

My crazy life……if I have to choose between reading and sleep…….well, I choose sleep.

I’m a reader. Before I’m a writer. Or a friend. Or even, at times, a wife (as MTM will attest when he begs me to put my book down so that we can have COFFEE in bed.)

Several months ago, I became alarmed at my own reading habits. How I couldn’t get through a chapter without clicking onto social media or checking email. That books I re-read regularly (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?) were suddenly impossible to wade through. With my increasing unwillingness to read backstory. Or description. Or many other things that make stories worth the effort in the end.

Had I turned my brain into a skim-and-scour, attention-deficit-disorder ridden Whorehouse of Reading Dysfunction???

On my walk, I decided to challenge myself.

No, not by walking the 444-mile Natchez Trace.

By seeing how many books I could read along the way. Yes, even when I was exhausted. When I had public appearances. When I needed to show up here and talk to you. I still read. EVERY SINGLE DAY. No matter how tired I was. Regardless of what else I had to do.

In the coming posts, I’ll give you a quick summary of what I read on my 444-mile Natchez Trace walk. I won’t call it an eclectic reading list. In my book, you’re either a reader (meaning you NEED to read; it’s a craving akin to breathing) or you’re not (meaning you’d like to be a reader, but you’re really not. Hence the long list of what you won’t read. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I merely want to make my definition of a reader clear. When I run out of reading materials on a trip, you’ll find me in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, reading the back of hotel-supplied shampoo bottles. Because I MUST have my reading fix. THAT, my friends, is a READER.)

Franklin and Lucy

Franklin and Lucy

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·   rating details  ·  311 ratings  ·   reviews

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was arguably the greatest figure of the twentieth century. While FDR’s official circle was predominantly male, it was his relationships with women, particularly with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, that most vividly bring to light the human being beneath this towering statesman. It is no coincidence that Rutherfurd was with Roosevelt the day he died.
Click here to buy on Amazon.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

Debra Fetterly at Breathe Lighter introduced this book to me. I couldn’t be happier. Was it long? YES. Was it dense with words? Absolutely. Was it somewhat academic? Sure.

But I feel like I better understand two of the seminal personalities of the Twentieth Century as a result of reading this book. The author’s question—what if Roosevelt had died during his polio attack?—really stuck with me. Because, I’m a what-if kind of girl. My imagination loves to chew on those things. Pondering those questions can lead to real adventure.

Like walking the Natchez Trace.

And that’s what life is here for.

What’s the last challenging book YOU read, Dear Reader? Please leave your recommendations in the comments today.

79 Comments Post a comment
  1. Caribbean, by James Mitchener. First, because it was so far out of the scope of my usual reading preferences, and second because it was so incredibly epic — it gave over 500 years of history. But I’ll tell you this — it sparked my own imagination, and there’s a reason why the novels that are currently simmering on my back burner are set in the Caribbean.
    I’m having a reading dry spell right now. Having trouble concentrating and relaxing long enough to get into a book. Which means that my pile of “to be read” is not getting any smaller, only larger.

    April 16, 2014
    • I’ll have to put that one on my list, Helena. Thank you. I’ve read a couple of others by Michener, but not that one.

      I’m not having a dry spell exactly. I just hate the book I’m currently reading. But that’s another story for another day. Lots of reasons why I picked it up, but I’m not sure I’ll finish it.

      April 16, 2014
      • I thought you said you loved the Memoirs? (kidding)

        April 16, 2014
      • I finished Memoirs in a couple of days. It will be one of the books on this list. Maybe it was so good that it soured my current read. (It was certainly better than my current read.)

        April 16, 2014
  2. I’ve always been a reader – always! But since I’ve been reading ebooks, I read more than ever before. A straight ereader (one without all the apps and distractions) just makes my life easier. No falling asleep and losing my place, no running out of a book when I finish one, no forgetting to lug around a 700 page hardback. I still love libraries and bookstores and love to just sit in them. But I’m a devoted ebook fan. Do I still buy dead-tree books? Yep, just not as many. Storage was becoming a real issue in my house. But books I cherish for one reason or another are still prominent on my bookshelf. But my Kindle and Nook are filled with books

    April 16, 2014
    • Pamela, I’ve often wondered if I ought to just buy a cheap Kindle and stop reading on my iPad. Like you, I read a lot more (and buy a ton more books) since I went e-reader. But the wifi-enabled device does introduce distractions that a plain old one would not. I know MTM is glad for my switch to e-reader, because he had to lug around all the library books when we went on a trip. I had to take at least 5 to ensure I wouldn’t run out of reading material on a trip.

      April 16, 2014
      • That’s me exactly. I bought a cheap kindle. I actually bought it because I could read it in the sun. But it is also distraction free and so light weight to hold.

        April 16, 2014
  3. I admire you for taking positive action to get back into the habit of deeper reading. I agree that something is lost in life when one only reads online content, yet I do it. And the funny thing is that I cannot tell you exactly when my reading habits shifted. It was all so gradual. Food for thought on this post– and perhaps, a call to action, too.

    April 16, 2014
    • I think it was gradual for me, too, Ally. Sometime over the past 24 months or so. The Post article definitely reinforced my decision to change my habits. I was alarmed at how all this skimming is changing our brains, and I can totally see how that’s true/why that isn’t good. I’ve been dismayed to hear how schools are changing reading curriculum because today’s students just ‘won’t read’ the classics. This article indicated a shift in a better direction, I think, one of teaching people multiple ways to approach things and forcing the brain to do deeper things for part of a day.

      If you find some good books, please let me know about them. I’m always on the lookout.

      April 16, 2014
      • Now that I’ve begun to think about my reading habits [or lack thereof] I’m determined to be more aware of what I’m doing. Which is to say that is the first step to changing behavior– and it’s time for me to get back to serious reading. Great post here, Andra. Thanks.

        April 16, 2014
  4. aboccucci #

    My biggest challenge is actually in picking just one book to read at a time. I currently have 4 novels on my nightstand, and two that I’m working through in ereaders. I’m trying to re-start the series A Song of Ice and Fire (basis for Game of Thrones), but I’m fighting mixed feelings. Part of me wants to wait until Game of Thrones completes its final season so I can keep being shocked by the deaths on the show, but part of me wants to know what is going to happen. I’ve been trudging through The Paris Wife because its just not as fun as I expected it to be. Being based on Hemingway and his first wife, I thought there would be more parties and fun in Paris and less whining from Hadley (the wife) about how much time Ernest spends writing.

    April 16, 2014
    • I felt the same about The Paris Wife. I really just didn’t like anyone in the book, and it’s hard to process a book when everyone is unlikeable.

      I always say the book is better than the movie/tv show, but that’s just me. 🙂

      I wish I could be more like you in a way. I can’t read multiple novels at the same time. I get them confused. I can read non-fiction and a novel at the same time, and often do. The novel usually gives my brain a break from the academic nature of a lot of the stuff I tend to read for my own writing.

      April 16, 2014
  5. tarakianwarrior #

    Again I say, you are an inspiration. I gave out two more of your books and I have several people who are going to purchase it on Amazon! I am so proud of your book and want to share, share, share. 🙂

    April 16, 2014
    • Lori, thank you. When I get into the doldrums about how hard this whole book-selling process is, I’m going to come back and read this comment. I may be here a lot. Ha.

      April 16, 2014
  6. The story is legend here in Aiken and as I look out my office window, I can see the Wilcox hotel, where that affair was often consummated , under cover, so to speak. I know Lucy’s granddaughter, whose name is also Lucy.

    I agree….the ipad is nice for some things, but reading real books is not one of them. Truth be told, “To Live Forever” is on the iPad and I’m only 3/4 way through it. I see the books on my nightstand and they call out to “hold me”. The iPad is in my briefcase, alone and forgotten.

    Hope your feet get better…RJV

    April 16, 2014
    • I wondered whether you knew any of her family as I was reading.

      And, if you don’t like reading on the iPad, that you’re 3/4 of the way through TLF is pretty good, I say. 🙂

      April 16, 2014
  7. hihohiho #

    Yeah the shampoo bottle…been there, done that. I just read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. It is a slim novel, but so deliciously packed with gorgeous imagery and thoughtful narrative, and amazing women…even the bad ones. It has been almost a week since I finished it and I am still chewing on the after images, the lingering atmosphere. Amazing.

    April 16, 2014
    • I’ve tried to like Gaiman. Really tried. I think the problem is Carnell gave me the author’s cut of American Gods, and there are reasons why the things the author wanted in the initial version got cut in the first place, and I just hated it. Long and rambling and pointless. It was a great lesson for me in my own writing, though. Not to hang onto scenes that I knew in my heart went nowhere or added nothing to the story. I cut several things out of the book after reading American Gods, and I’ve never once wished they were back. So, there are lessons even in books we don’t like.

      April 16, 2014
  8. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
    David Bayles, Ted Orland
    and
    Silence: Lectures and Writings
    John Cage

    I love Cage but his writing/lecturing is extremely dense and extremely flighty. Well worth my time though.
    Anyone who even thinks about producing art MUST read Art & Fear (IMHO). Most freeing thing I have read in years. The quote that still sticks with me (paraphrasing of course). One of the authors was taking music lessons as a child and wanted to quit. Why? “It doesn’t sound the way I hear it in my head.” Response from teacher. “No matter how good you become, even a genius, it never will sound (look, read etc.) as good in reality as it does in your head.”

    April 16, 2014
    • I’m putt Art & Fear on my reading list ASAP. Thank you for the recommendation. (As I struggle through the point of all this, I hope it will be helpful. Reality is a bitch.)

      April 16, 2014
  9. I’m in the middle of reading a book that I am taking far too long to read, because my brain too has shifted in how it reads. The non-fiction book is called CULTURAL DEMOCRACY: THE ARTS, COMMUNITY AND THE PUBLIC PURPOSE by James Bau Graves. The last challenging fiction was A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving. Oh, and I read a delightful one woman play that I am determined to direct someday (if you ever want to get your acting groove back on) WALKING TOWARD AMERICA by Sandra Fenichel Asher.

    April 16, 2014
    • I almost never get lost in a non-fiction book. I’ve always read them differently. They take me a lot longer to finish. I wouldn’t necessarily blame that on a shifting brain.

      I haven’t read a play in ages. I’m going to look that one up.

      April 16, 2014
  10. I, too, have to read every day. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of poetry, Sharon Olds and William Stafford in particular. When a poem grabs me, I read it out loud, maybe several times. I always have my notebook/journal nearby. If something leaps off the page and whacks me in the eye, I jot it down. The most challenging reading I do is the technical stuff I have to read as part of my day job.

    April 16, 2014
    • Technical stuff is hard, isn’t it? I used to have to read it all the time, and it never got easier, no matter how much of it I read.

      I wish I liked poetry. I wish I could write it. I know I should read more of it than I do. I still need to buy Pamela’s poetry collection, along with several others.

      April 16, 2014
      • Poetry is an odd mix of Fiction and Music. It always strives to illuminate Truth, whatever that is. It is meant to be read aloud. It is an ancient expression of the human. A lot of people don’t connect with it. That’s perfectly fine. Those of us who write it are probably willing anachronisms. We got that goin’ for us. 🙂

        April 16, 2014
      • Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me. I haven’t been playing the right tune in my head or reading it the right way. I read yours and I read Pamela’s and a few others here. Slowly, I’m getting there.

        April 16, 2014
  11. I tried to read the article you linked to, but it is just so long!

    I have been making my way through one of your favorites, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I love it. It is a great book. I am just a slow reader and, squirrel!!, easily distracted. I will finish it though; the imagery and language are beautiful.

    April 16, 2014
    • See? That’s the problem. The article is well worth the focus. 🙂

      I’m glad you’re enjoying that book. I stayed up until 4 in the morning to finish it. I got that lost in it. I wish the subsequent ones could’ve been as good. I need to go back and revisit those, both to remind myself of what I’m trying to write in a sequel and what I absolutely do NOT want to do.

      April 16, 2014
  12. I couldn’t agree more – my revelation was Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. He is a writer, majored in literature and yet noticed the same deterioration of deep reading skills. Fortunately Kindle here (in Austria) can only use the internet for shopping in amazon.com’s store so there is no distraction. I read anything online (including your book ;-))

    April 16, 2014
    • Elke, you’re one of the people who inspired me to limit my online time several months ago. Book things have whittled away at that resolve, but starting next week, it’s back to that schedule for me.

      April 16, 2014
  13. Ya know, I am pretty much the same way. I may not be a fast reader most of the time, but I am always reading. And I have taken the time to read shampoo and conditioner bottles in the past.

    April 16, 2014
    • It’s a sickness, isn’t it? I do the same thing in restaurants…..I’ll read the ketchup bottles……..the bottle for my drink……..the backs of the sugar packets……..I’m glad I’m not alone.

      April 16, 2014
      • My wife’s parents used to complain because I always had a book when we went to their house. Their reading material wasn’t as good as mine.

        April 16, 2014
  14. This linked article was very interesting. I can’t imagine having a whole population of readers scanning stories for keywords and then missing the whole point of the story. I would ask, why read in the first place? The last challenging book (as defined by difficult to read) was The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer. It was not so much the writing , but the lack of real tempo and purpose. I think the idea was to make the war experience very mundane and unfortunately the writing reflected the condition. You may wonder why such an old book. I have been visiting some classics in order to test how they would fair in today’s world. I really believe Mailer’s book would never have attracted a publisher. I am working up the ladder and To Live Forever: an Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is next. (after 300 pages of another) Looking forward to it.

    April 16, 2014
    • I fear a lot of classics wouldn’t be published today, John. And that would be a shame.

      So many of the works that are deemed ‘literary’ today are just pointless garbage. (Again, I’m slogging through one of those right now.) I love a pretty sentence as much as the next person. Even paragraphs of them. But, after 300 pages of this monster, I still can’t find a point.

      I hope you enjoy TLF. Thank you for putting it in your reading queue.

      April 16, 2014
  15. Scary study, but I can certainly see it too. I’m finding it harder to stay with a book, even when I have the time. The “compulsion” to check Facebook has become a competition to that compulsion to read. The last challenging book I read was Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Fiction and not a difficult read, but the theme and approach shifted my perspective once again on privilege and the “dirty little secret” that is America’s slave history.

    April 16, 2014
    • I’m giving up on Facebook. I hate it that much. No, I can’t delete my account, but every time I got there, I come away feeling like I need to take a shower. I visit specific people I want to see, and I leave. Period. I’m tired of spending time on something that only makes me feel like crap.

      On the flip side, I love Google+. And, I don’t have to spend nearly as much time there to see everything I want to see. And, the people there (like Elke above…I ‘met’ her there) are really interesting, for the most part.

      April 16, 2014
      • Thanks Andra 🙂 I feel the same about G+ versus Facebook – and I really wonder what the reason is. Is it as simple as that FB is basically a never-ending high school or family reunion (another WP friend called FB a 24/7 Christmas bragging letter)? Whereas the G+ community consists mainly of people interested in the same things as you?

        That’s my favorite FB rant: http://zinemin.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/how-to-overcome-facebook-status-anxiety/

        April 16, 2014
      • I don’t know what it is, but I enjoy G+ so much more. I’ve really stopped encouraging people to go there, unless I really, truly want to see them there, because I’m afraid of ruining it.

        April 16, 2014
  16. I’m glad I’m not the only one that has ended up reading the shampoo ingredient list because I’ve read everything else 🙂

    April 16, 2014
    • I only knew one other person who’d done that before today. 🙂

      April 16, 2014
  17. I believe I can call myself as a reader. I must have something to read with me all the time. Any types of writing for my reading appetite. In my opinion, skimming isn’t that bad habit as it’s up to me to choose which method of reading I will utilize to approach different forms of writing/articles.

    When I read a novel, I sometimes use skimming technique if that book can’t hold my attention but I still want to know what’s happening next. However, I will read it thoroughly if the book can captivate me. I don’t want to say that books need to be entertaining enough. I think it’s up to our preferred genres. If I’m reading my favourite genre of books, I don’t care to pick up my iPad or iPhone or Computer to do anything. I just want to spend my time on reading and knowing what will happen to my beloved characters.

    🙂

    April 16, 2014
    • I admit to skimming unnecessary description or parts that contain characters I really don’t care about. I think that’s a natural deep reading technique.

      April 16, 2014
  18. I am currently reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir of her 100 day solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not sure if it’s because it was so built up in my own mind (with so many people recommending it to me), but I’m feeling somewhat underwhelmed by it. I’m definitely hooked, and will likely finish by this evening, but I guess I was hoping for more.

    Previous to that I read another blogger’s book, one she was offering for free on Kindle. Andra, I feel just awful saying this, but…it was the worst thing I’ve ever attempted to read. I tried. And then I tried again. And then I tried some more. Eventually I had to just admit that there was no way I was going to finish it. It was that bad. It was…unreadable. 😦 The blogger/author and book shall remain nameless.

    April 16, 2014
    • I’m SO glad to hear you say that about Wild. That book absolutely did not live up to the hype. I finished it with a very So What attitude. Good lessons there for me and my current project. I need to read it again.

      Free is free for a reason. Books need to cost money, because it takes money to make a good one. (I am painfully aware of that at the moment….)

      April 16, 2014
    • So glad I read this comment when I did. I’m at the hairdo place, and I made a video of my roots in the bathroom. You wanted to see how bad they were, so now you’ll get to. Ha.

      April 16, 2014
      • I can’t wait!!
        p.s. I finally got my hair coloured on Saturday and then cut yesterday. I feel like a new woman. And both gals were just amazing. They didn’t make me feel bad in the least for having dumped them 18 months ago. What a giant relief.

        April 16, 2014
      • Glad to hear it. I was just telling Charmaine your horror story and begged her not to do that to me. 🙂

        April 16, 2014
      • Seriously. Be good to Charmaine!

        April 16, 2014
  19. I grew up amongst nonreaders. Not my parents, but others in the community. Like practically all of them. So I’m not new to the attitude. I think that those of us who grew up reading paper may well be better able to comprehend what we see on paper? It’s hard to say. I’m an OCD reader, so it doesn’t really matter the platform, if I’m into a book, I’m into a book, I’m into a book. When I was giving you feedback about Merry & co.,the hardest thing, I mean THE hardest thing was to stop myself to write down the comments. I was all, “no no no, I have to find out what happens next even if I know I’ll forget this question I have here!” I do most of my editing in e format, though I do ultimately print the book to do final corrections before I submit it. Also, I’m ADHD as hell, so in college, when something was dull reading, I usually spread it out over days so I could do other things in between it.

    April 16, 2014
    • Interesting about comprehending on paper versus screen. I really don’t feel like my comprehension suffers from reading on my iPad. When I turn off the distractions and immerse myself, I still read the same way on a screen. Like you, I can’t do final edits on a screen. I must print and read. I just do not see errors on screen, especially after several rounds of rewrites.

      April 16, 2014
  20. So true! There’s nothing quite like snuggling up to a good book. 🙂

    April 16, 2014
  21. I’ve had those same problems as described in the article. I also have a need to read and despaired a few years back when I discovered that sitting down to read a novel I was re-reading the same page over and over and by the time I went to flip it, I had no clue what I had just read. I complained to Mme. Ross that I was going stupid, and that I needed to work some reading time into our schedule. So very slowly I was able to rebuild my reading comprehension, and I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time ever, and then I realized that the Internet was in fact ruining my ability to read print.

    A year or two later, I had to read Proust and the Squid for a project in my adolescent literature class; that’s when I realized that I was correct about the effect the Internet was having on my reading. Nowadays, it seems as though time is my big enemy, but it just might be that I’m losing it again and I need to get back to reading. I read blog posts, and online articles without any problem in comprehension. But at the same time, I’m multitasking. I don’t really get much time on my own just to read. I think the last book I read all the way through was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair that was last year, possibly 18 months to two years ago.

    April 16, 2014
    • And I swear to God I’m going to finish To Live Forever. I need a few hours to myself to do that.

      April 16, 2014
    • Reading comprehension really is something we build, isn’t it? And we live in such a multi-tasking society. Everyone is expected to be able to do multiple things at one time, even though studies repeatedly show how unproductive it makes people. Not to mention the other demands you have going on. And the whole sleep thing, which is different from my sleep thing, but still a sleep thing. 🙂

      I’m grateful you’re reading it, Rob. I read your blog, and I know how little time you have, and I appreciate that you give me some of that time.

      April 16, 2014
  22. The Washington Post article scared me a bit. I wonder if this is why I have two unfinished books on my Nook that I can’t seem to finish? Or why the latest John Sanford read seems a struggle…I usually have no issues with Sanford’s Prey series. The article also made me realize that I most definitely skim blog posts (other than yours) and articles, scurrying away if they seem dull or too long. Actually, about midway through the article, I found myself looking at the advertisement for pretty sandals. Ugh! I wish to be the reader that you are, Andra, that I would read more during my free time (skimming not included). What wonderful life knowledge and colorful words it brings to life!

    April 16, 2014
    • Mary, it sounds like you’ve been that kind of reader and, like me, realize some drifting in your habits now that you’ve thought about it. I wish I’d seen that sandals ad, as I adore sandals. Ha. One thing I have gotten really good at is ignoring online ads. And if a site decides to float them in front of my face and put them over everything I’m trying to read, I stop visiting that site. The internet may all go that annoying way eventually, but as long as I can find content that’s relatively ad-free or organized in a way that I can just read without distraction, that’s where I go. It takes realizing when I’m drifting and forcing myself to change, though. And that happens about once every 10 days. 🙂

      April 16, 2014
  23. I read everything. As a child, my worst punishment was not being allowed to read before going to bed. Often, my mom would admonish me to put my book down when I came to the dinner table. The last challenging (or somewhat challenging) book I read was Flannery O’Connor’s “The Violent Bear it Away”. So glad you got your roots done. I had mine done the last time I was in Charleston.

    April 16, 2014
    • I remember my mom used to have to make me stop reading, too.

      April 16, 2014
  24. First, get yourself a dedicated ebook reader. I like the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s simple, easy to read in the dark, and no social media distractions. As far as challenging books, about a year ago I read Christopher Hitchens’ Mortality. It’s a short memoir, written very near the end of Hitchens’ life. The challenge was that I really never liked Hitchens. I agree with many of his views on politics and religion, but often I thought he was just such a blowhard, an arrogant, smug, pompous sot. But Mortality helped me understand him and made me sad that he is no longer among us. Although if he was, I’d still think of him as a pompous sot 😉

    April 16, 2014
    • I’m glad to know someone else who seeks out things to read that she knows she might not agree with. I try to do that, too. Here and there. Not too much, but enough to keep my mind and points-of-view flexible.

      A dedicated, non-internet-connected e-reader does sound like a good way to go. At least, it removes temptation, to a huge degree.

      April 16, 2014
  25. Read Franklin and Lucy last year and loved it. Though, the version I read was the digital one…I did read that Washington Post article and really found resonance with it.

    April 16, 2014
    • I also wanted to note that it took me THREE years (in the mid 1990s) to read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past–because I had to put it down after reading the dense passages and process them. The images, ideas and stories are dense and it takes a while to process the language. It took me ages to read Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim” in college–and I hated it. It was overly dense and not at all to my liking…and that is what I believe happens to many. Syntax and vocabulary have changed. It’s hard to read something which your brain has to work very hard to comprehend/restructure. If you aren’t accustomed to those dense sentences, it’s going to be harder to comprehend them and organize the string of statements to create a whole. I’ve never read “Moby Dick” in it’s entirety, but read “A Tale of Two Cities” when I was in the sixth grade.

      I’m a reader, though, as you may remember I didn’t learn to read with much comprehension until after the 2nd grade–issues which later came to be diagnosed as a form of dyslexia. But I cannot go a day w/o reading. I read fewer novels, b/c I read so much for work…and then there are the magazines which I read for work too…I will read cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, medicine bottles, you name it…when I’m washing my face at night or brushing my teeth, I frequently (re) read the back of the toothpaste or face wash…

      April 16, 2014
    • I read the digital version of Franklin & Lucy as well. All books on the trip were digital, because I had enough to carry and move every couple of days. Ha.

      Reading Austen is like reading another language now, but that’s why I enjoy it (and other classics.) They force me to remember words I’d forgotten, to learn words I don’t know, to hear the voices of people from another time.

      However, I think I told you that when an agent wanted me to write my whole novel with Merry’s voice as 18th century writing, I said HELL NO. Nobody would read that. (I can’t even believe the things these people suggest sometimes, all with the end product that they MUST change something and be right.)

      April 16, 2014
      • I call them the “leg lifters” cause they all have to lift a leg and mark it

        April 16, 2014
  26. My most recent reading challenge read was not a long book, but, a hard subject; “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. The main character, Alice, is a professor in neuroscience at an Ivy League school. She starts to forget things, and is eventually diagnosed with early-onset dementia in her early 50s. I actually felt panic as Alice was administered tests to help determine what was wrong; panic because I could not remember enough of the pattern to scare me. At the time, an elderly friend’s 52 year old daughter was battling Alzheimer’s. I recommend it. Well written and thought provoking (and scary in its realism).

    Plodding through McCullough’s “Truman” was interesting, even if it took all summer to plod through and Doris Kearn Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” still lanquishes on the shelf.

    An interesting article, Andra.

    April 16, 2014
    • I really loved Still Alice, Penny. I read it several years ago. My friend Marie Edwards forced it on me, and I had real misgivings. I knew it would be a hard subject. But it was so well done. I quickly forgot my issues and got lost in the book. I think I read it in a day.

      April 16, 2014
  27. This is such an interesting conversation, Andra. I enjoyed the article, too. My mom laughs that I was born with a book in my hand, and I even have a little compulsion that before I finish one book, I have to the next one lined up, usually sitting right next to me. That little action does something to comfort me, and I’ve done it my whole life. I don’t think I’ve directly noticed a shift in my attention span, but time given over to social media and on-line reading has certainly cut into my available time, and I find that a continual struggle. I don’t think there’s anything that I wouldn’t read if someone I trust recommended it. I don’t shy away from dense books. But I did recently look on my shelf and see Herman Wouk’s “Caine Mutiny,” “Winds of War,” and “War and Remembrance,” representing thousands of pages between them. I remember reading them in a relatively short period of time and today, it would take me a couple of years. I’m not really comfortable with that reality, quite frankly. And I agree with you about re-reading. I have kept favorites because I used to regularly re-read them. Now I hardly ever have what it takes to do so. I would much rather read than sleep, but unfortunately I’ve reached “that age” where the eyes just cross and close. I’m just so glad that when all else fails, I have a Kindle app on my phone. That may be cheating, but whatever it takes!

    April 16, 2014
    • You have so much going on right now, Debra. Your eyes are crossing and closing because you’re exhausted more than anything else. 🙂 I have the same problem with books. I always have to line the next one up before I finish the existing one, and I get really antsy (as happened on the trip) when I run out of reading material. I got to a good internet connection, and I downloaded four books (one of them 900 pages long) just to make sure I had enough to get to the end.

      April 16, 2014
  28. Wow, 72 comments. I skipped all the way to the end to say this. I am embarrased to say that I am still only 50% of the way through your book. 😦 It is NOT that the book is not good enough to keep reading. I just find it difficult to find time to read it. It is like anything else. I have to make a priority to do it. Like the Nike commercial says JUST DO IT!! So, with that said , tonight I will click on my Kindle reader on one of my many devices and read some more good stuff. 🙂 Oh, I sent you an e-mail about your book, did you see it yet?

    April 16, 2014
  29. i have always been a reader too, and one of my favs was ‘the book thief’. moved me in immeasurable ways.

    April 16, 2014
  30. What an interesting (and depressing) article about our reading habits. I often feel that I have to rush through a book because I have “too much to do” and like the person in the article said, I feel guilty that I am not doing something “productive”. That’s so sad! We are always in a rush these days and we are missing out on a lot of depth.

    April 16, 2014
  31. So many great points here Andra and I’ll add my vote to the non-internet connected e-reader group. I have the Kindle app on my iPad and phone along with two digital services supported by my library but if I really want to enjoy a good book in e-form it has to be read on my black and white Kindle without internet. I can’t block out the distractions otherwise. I totally get the antsy (anxious) feeling of finishing a book without a good one waiting and unfortunately I’m in a dry spell right now… The test results measuring comprehension on screens vs paper are really interesting and timely as Ryan’s middle school is currently testing a proposed version of our states new standardized test for English and Math. This is the first statewide test that has been written from the beginning to be given only via computer without a paper option and the kids are having a difficult time. Not only do they feel limited by typing speeds that aren’t as fast as their writing but they also miss reading the paper and writing their answer on a page next to it with time for editing. Scrolling back and forth through the screen from text to answer isn’t the same.

    April 16, 2014
  32. I’ll read the back of the cereal box in a pinch. Sometimes settling into a novel feels like a forbidden pleasure in the hectic pace of my current life, but I’m still drifting off to sleep with one of Marian Kent’s poems in my heart or a chapter of one of the two novels open on my table. It’s like breathing, the ingestion of stories. I might argue against the article a little, though. There were times in high school and college–before my family got cable, before the internet–when I was not specifically studying literature, when my brain was focused on extracting fact from text, or on analysis of visual elements, or even when I was working hardest on my music, that I found my ability to devour a novel difficult. It comes and goes. Is the phenomenon exacerbated by the “eye byte” culture, probably, but I don’t think the blame lies entirely there.

    April 16, 2014
  33. angela #

    I used to be a reader – now I am a collector of things to read… I currently struggle to finish my Sunday NYT before the next one arrives on Sat. night! Ok, not true, I did just finish “Has Modernism Failed” and trying to start a novel by Rushdie.

    April 16, 2014

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