How to Read a Book

First, thanks to those who asked — we are OK. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis is a few miles from our home. We do drive it all the time. What was unsettling: I had 2 reasons to be on the bridge within an hour of its collapse. I should have been coming home from a class, but I didn’t attend because of Victoria being sick. Then, after Eggmaster came home I thought I needed to go to the university library, a trip that again would have put me on the bridge within an hour of when it fell. So though I probably would have been OK, it’s just disturbing to think about. We also realized that our sister-in-law could very easily be taking that route home from her office near the U at that exact time — we did eventually hear that she was fine and had started taking a different route.

Here’s the story.

But on a less depressing topic — since I will have plenty of opportunities to think and talk about the bridge — I read an article in the times this morning that put the question of how you read in a different light.

Apparently, busy book club members often listen to books on audio rather than read them — and this is a scandal.

I find this hard to wrap my head around. What do you lose by listening to He’s Just Not That Into You on tape? Many folks know that reading had long been a social activity as much about listening as looking at the words on page, so the idea that listening is “less than” strikes me as bizarre.

Personally, I find that listening sometimes helps me be more attuned to the language and the details of a book than reading. Believe me, when I sped through the latest Harry Potter I was counting on re-reading it with Violet to appreciate more of the details. And in fact I do — we read it aloud every night before bed, though usually Eggmaster gets to be the reader, as he is the man of 1,000 voices.

I suppose you could argue that more modern books were written with the solitary silent reader in mind, and are best read that way. (Ulysses comes to mind — unfortunately.) And of course you could argue that you can’t go back over a passage and really examine it. Does that matter when it comes to book clubs?

********A Digression on Book Clubs********
I have a bad attitude about book clubs. This is because I can’t get into a book club. As you might imagine, as we live in a city with a high proportion of well-educated people, many of my friends are in book clubs. I had a friend who was in 3 book clubs at one time. No one would let me into their book club. I love books, I research and write about books for a living, I have a PhD in books (well, English), and to get that PhD I had to write a book (humor me, a dissertation is a book). I am known among my friends for being a pretty smart “person of information,” as Jane Austen might say. I am going to IKEA this weekend to buy 2 additional bookshelves to try to get the stacks of books off the floor (I bought 3 there earlier this year). Even this digression is itself an allusion to a lesser known work by Jonathan Swift. (Can you name it?!) Nonetheless, despite many many dropped hints, I could never get into a book club.

I did have one friend take pity on me — it was like the president of the A/V club getting a date with the prom queen — and I was part of her book club for about a year. But she moved to New York suddenly and the group didn’t last. I had another friend offer an invitation but then — yes, it’s true! — she rescinded it. She did allude to this later by suggesting that in the meantime she had invited another person, who turned out to be so problematic that she didn’t feel she could burden her book club again. (And this is one of my best friends!) I don’t blame her, I blame the book club. Why they are so exclusive is beyond me. I cannot tell, from what went on at the one I was allowed to participate in, that there are people standing in front yards demanding to be let in, waving copies of The Lovely Bones or My Sister’s Keeper or whatever. The discussions did not seem to require more than a rudimentary acquaintance with the plot, even in a group of very smart, well-educated women. Indeed, it seemed most useful to be able to produce very delicious hors d’oeuvres (which I can also do! I’m a good cook and I even have the gorgeous Martha Stewart Hors D’Oeuvres book!)

No wonder I have taken up the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch as my preferred form of productive socializing.

Anyway, I ask again, why on earth would it matter — except in very particular cases — if you are listening to an audio version of a book? Putting my old professor hat on, I think a large number of my students would have done themselves a favor if they had at least listened!



Filed under Cooking and Eating, Family Fun, In the News, Knitting and crafting, Learning Styles, Oh Mother, Remedial Domesticity

7 responses to “How to Read a Book

  1. I didn’t realize you lived near St. Paul! I am so glad you are okay. How scary!

    I think listening to a book is fine unless the person doesn’t actually know how to read and needs some practice. *wink*

  2. I’m so relieved! Thank you for keeping your stranger-friends informed.

  3. I didn’t know you lived there. If I had I would’ve had another person to worry about! Thank heavens you are okay, and again taking the opportunity to send out prayers for those families who weren’t so lucky.

  4. I love your image of disgruntled women waving their books! I’ve recently discovered audiobooks as a fantastic knitting companion . . . I’d much rather listen to a book while knitting than turn on the tube, especially in the summer when it’s all reality junk.

    I do a lot of reading for work and it’s been years since I’ve had the energy and desire for MORE reading at the end of the day. Listening while knitting enables me to combine two of my favorite things!

  5. shaunms

    Yes — knitting and audiobooks (and podcasts) can truly be a girl’s best friend. Except that sometimes David Sedaris is so funny I can’t see for the tears in my eyes.

  6. So happy the you are okay.

  7. I didn’t check up on you ’cause you left a comment on my blog so I figured everyone was alive and well. Was that too complacent / uncaring of me?

    It is Hilarious to me that you are excluded from book clubs and I hope you realize that you could write something very funny and publishable about it. You’re part-way there already.


    PS Read _On Chesil Beach_, though I warn you … it’s a bit sad. Oh, and read Osamu Tezuka’s _Buddha_ (in 8 volumes!). It’s a comic, so it’s not as long as it sounds. It’s … astonishingly great.

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