I love to mull over the words on the printed page a fact which, unchecked, slows down the reading I do considerably. I also have the unfortunate habit of dozing off when I attempt to read after 10pm (must be my age!) When I read sleepy, the story’s imagery forms in my mind’s eye like a dream and before I realize it, I actually am dreaming. It’s a fascinating (more often frustrating) experience for me, but has made it very difficult for my very patient wife and I to do any late night read-alouds since around the time the 7th Harry Potter book was released. I don’t have trouble staying up late, I just can’t sit and read late. (Solution: more sleep or more coffee??? Hmm…)
To help counteract this I do a lot of *reading* in the car or while mowing the lawn. No, I’m not advocating perusing printed material while operating heavy machinery. I’m referring to audio books via .mp3 on my iPod Touch. Librivox.org is a great free resource for books that are in the public domain. You do take your chances somewhat at Librivox in terms of quality as it’s done by volunteers, but I’ve happily listened to many fiction and non-fiction titles there. I’m currently listening to a beautifully done recording of Uncle Tom’s Cabin I’d recommend to anyone.
Last note on audio: Thanks to my public library I can borrow and listen to university lectures from The Teaching Company and The Modern Scholar. On-line I can download podcast lectures from UC Berkley, Yale, Oxford, as well as plenty of great free stuff from Learn Out Loud. Who wouldn’t want to learn for free?!? I’m partial to philosophy, intellectual history, classic literature, writing and poetry. Since graduating from college I find my continuing self-education much more relaxed as now I’m actively absorbing ideas that shape my thinking (and in turn my writing) without spending energy purely on the academic aspects so I can regurgitate who said what and when on a test. I suspect I have more books and lectures in my iTunes library than I do music.
So how do I decide what to read/*read*?
When I do set aside time, the forces that influence me to choose one work over another are somewhat random, strange and often inexplicable. Since for me reading time is precious, I occasionally indulge in works for pleasure, but more often I select those I think will help me improve my writing craft either through subject matter (research) or by an immersion within a particular genre or style. That being the case, I’m ALWAYS working through several titles at a time.
I’ll close this post with a quick list of what I’m currently reading and what have fairly recently completed. No particular order here, just snapshot of the flotsam and jetsam in my head. (Upon review I very few titles written in this decade, and only a few more in this century. I’ll need to remedy that!)
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
- Glamour in Glass (beta) – Mary Robinette Kowal
- The Divine Comedy – Alighieri Dante
- Panverse One – Dario Ciriello (editor)
- English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology
- North American Review (periodical)
- Poets & Writers (periodical)
- And blogs, blogs, blogs
Recently completed (last 6 months or so):
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
- Twilight of the Idols – Friedrich Nietzsche
- Beyond the Garden Close (beta) – Mary Robinette Kowal
- Common Sense – Thomas Paine
- As a Man Thinketh – James Allen
Recent lectures (in case you’re interested)
- Lives & Works of English Romantic Poets
- Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition
- Building Great Sentences
- Matsterpieces of Short Fiction
- The Iliad of Homer
- The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
- Giants of Philosophy Series (too many separate lectures to list)
- The Birth of the Modern Mind
- The Wisdom of History
- Ethics of Aristotle
- Plato’s Republic
- . . . and many more just like these
So what are you reading???