Friday, May 14, 2010

Reading Habits

We had a fellow book blogger stop by and post a comment earlier today, so we went by her blog to spy (ahem, check) on her.  Drew spotted the following questionnaire and said, "We could do that."  So we did.  Enjoy.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack:

L: Yes, often.  I do not have a favorite snack, but I refuse to eat popcorn while reading (buttery pages, no thank you).
D - I'm sure I do, but it's a little difficult to eat and read at the same time. I'll probably go with anything that I can drink while reading; made easier by the Nook. One handed reading without cramps!

What is your favourite drink while reading?
L: I am not so much on the hydration front (I get carried away and forget to drink); but if I remember: coffee.
D - Well, I like drinking just about anything except coffee. I'll take a soda (Dr.Pepper preferable, but that doesn't mean that I won't dumb myself down for Pepsi if that's all there is) or milk.
Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
L: I would love to mark my books, but Drew does not allow me (in certain books).  I will if it is a book I know he will not read.  But I have been making notes on index cards lately.
D - Sorry, but books are not made to be written in. If you want to take notes then you do it in a notepad, or on the computer. Funny that the wife wants to keep books looking like they've never been read, but then she'll write in them if she can. No sense.... not to mention, I don't want to buy a book that's been covered in ink other than the authors.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
L: I am utterly opposed to dog-ears and laying the book flat.  Books are treasures.  One does not bend treasures.  How unthinkable!  To keep my place, I either remember the page number or use a piece of paper.
D - I'll use a bookmark with a real book, and the Nook takes care of it for you. This may be something for the last question, but the Nook allows you to add bookmarks if you want. I guess for keeping quotes fresh.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
L: Both, with a strong lean toward non-fiction
D - Both, with a strong lean toward fiction

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
L: I can and will stop anywhere, but I believe the authors placed the chapter divisions for a reason.  Thus, reading the book this way works for me.
D - I'll usually read till I get tired and stop there. If I feel like I'm behind on the book I'm reading for the blog then I'll usually give myself goals on X amount of chapters, but that's rare. I'd prefer to read as much as I possibly can unless it's just a horrible book.
Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
L: No.  There are better ways of expressing disgust, like closing the book.
D - It'd probably have to be something by Al Gore or Michael Moore, but that would be out of enjoyment AND irritation. Otherwise, if the book is boring, I'll set it aside for a few months and try again.
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
L:  I do not look it up right away unless I have a dictionary close by.  Otherwise, I write it down and look it up later.  But, context is king.
D - If I can't figure it out I'll ask Leah, and if she doesn't know then I might go check it out. Re-reading the paragraph will tend to give you an idea of what the author is trying to say.

What are you currently reading?
L: The Poisonwood Bible; Eats, Shoots, and Leaves; Letters to a Young Poet; The Light and the Glory; Taste and See; and 4 books of the Bible.
D - Reading Dark Tower IV by Stephen King and another Robert Jordan book. I'll probably a very short novel by Saki this weekend for the book blog. (got me beat this time!)

What is the last book you bought?
L:  H.P. Lovecraft Collected works (We took a cross-half-country journey last December in part in search of this book.  We found it less than 2 hours away from home, in the opposite direction)
D - I'm not too sure. It's either Dark Tower IV or a Glen Cook book. hmmm.......
Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?
L:  Please see the above list.  But it is very out of the ordinary for me to be reading more than one book, the Bible, and a devotional-type book.
D - I'll tend to read three books at a time. I'll get in a Robert Jordan sized book(600+ pages), a non-fiction book(too boring to read all the way through without some relief), and a smaller book(200-400 pages). I just can't decide on what I want to read.
Do you have a favourite time/place to read?
L: No. But I love to read in the afternoon.  Every time I make a slow-cooker dinner, I look forward to using the afternoon to enjoy a good book.
D - Well, usually in bed or just in the bedroom, but I've been reading a lot downstairs in the living room. The chair is majorly uncomfortable, but that's where I have the nook charger.
Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
L: One-offs.  I have tried only one modern series I can think of and it was tedious because the author did not have his books edited properly.
D - I would say stand alone novels just b/c I don't want to be boxed in to what I actually read. If you look over the book blog you'd have to believe series books and that's pretty much the case. I love being able to sit down with an epic one day and end up a couple months later finally finishing it off. You figure you have a bakers dozen of Robert Jordan novels and 7,000 pages or more. LOVE IT!

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
L:  Jeffrey Archer (any, but more specifically As The Crow Flies), Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolfe, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
D - I keep on adding more authors to the list. I have Robert Jordan, Glen Cook, Tad Williams, Joe Abercrombie, and Weis/Hickman at the top of my list. I'll have you know that Cook and Abercrombie are on the list b/c my wife saw them at the bookstore and pointed them out.
How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author's last name, etc.)
L:  By color (I bet there aren't many who will say that)
D - I don't have a specific way of organizing my books. Leah filled up the bookshelves and I happen to be relegated to two locations. I am in the far back middle of the last bookshelf. I'm assuming that's so HER friends can come by and she won't be embarrassed by my collection of Fantasy novels. Mind you, there's nothing risque about these! The other location is behind the door when you walk in and that's for my biographies and non-fiction. I have no clue why they get put there b/c we do share the same political and socio-economic ideals. Other than that, they'll get put by series and in random order.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Angels. Did you really mean Angels?

After taking so long to read the last book, I was relieved to find it was not a chronic condition as I read this week's book in just three evenings.  The choice this time around?  Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster.  What a delightful thing to find quotation marks after an entire novel of dialogue written directly into the text.  How lovely some punctuation marks are!

Where Angels Fear to Tread (Penguin Classics)First observations upon reading this novel.  The dialogue is so much like a play that I could see it being performed upon a stage quite easily (at least the first couple of chapters).  Forster must have felt much the same as he drops hints to playwrights a couple times: "dropping like a curtain on the scene" and a mention of "horrible modern plays where no one is right."  Forster also makes glorious use of adjectival phrases.  He often couples them together in odd ways, creating a poetry-like quality to his prose.  I found myself writing down these couplets often and just thinking about how many authors do not think so much upon their adjectives as Forster must have.  He packed more descriptive dynamite in the short 114 pages than most authors do in 300.  It truly is something to behold.  Here are a few of my favorites:
glorious invariable creature...brief and inevitable tragedy...purple quivering and vociferous...grating sprightliness....timorous, scrupulous...burly obtuseness

And to think, he must have accomplished these feats of literary magic without the assistance of a thesaurus. 

The themes of this book are varied and interesting for the period.  The repression of women ( quotes: "as if she could choose what could make her happy!" and "the usual feminine incapacity for grasping philosophy") juxtaposed against the supreme mother rule of  a certain female character over most other players in her game (her son calls himself her "puppet" and does not think of "his own moral or behavior anymore.") is a theme that weaves its way through the entire novel.  As I was reading, it seemed one could make a case that Forster was one of the first feminist authors (sorry to Kate and Virginia).   He appeals to the plight of women, while pointing out their absolute authority over other women and men in certain social circles. 

Another theme picked up and then dropped as the novel progresses is hypocrisy as a social convention.  All the characters float through this world performing for societal acceptance rather than following their own hearts.  They maintain their social status by conforming to what they call "proper behavior."  All the while, their hearts betray them by their very words.  As most of the characters develop, the hypocrisy is not so easily hidden, and thus it becomes less evident.  The climax of the novel finds most of the characters laid bare, unable to hide their inner feelings any longer.  This incisive character study of both men and women by Forster is not just accurate for his day, it is a statement of the human condition for all ages.

The last theme worthy of discussion for this post is the abandonment of all moral strictures when on vacation.  There is something about getting out of one's comfort zone that strips one of all one's closely-held customs.  In the novel, each character that dares leave the comfort of Sawston, finds themselves utterly changed, doing surprising things and exploring feelings they would have never imagined.  Forster uses the change of scenery to depict a literal change in character and then mentions, late in the book, that people are more apt to notice change in others than in themselves who "hold [their own] characters immutable, slow to acknowledge they have changed even for the better."  He also speaks of one of the characters "changing her disposition never and her atmosphere under protest."  This is the one character who rebels the most against the strictures of her societal restraints upon being thrust into the world of Italy.

The last thing I kept track of whilst reading was the mention of angels.  Because I had never read this book before, nor had a read anything about it; I was unaware of the reason for the title.  Thus, I wrote down every mention of angels, thinking it would help me discover the purpose.  Well, for those of you who will in the future read this one, don't bother.  I discovered that the mention of angels is not important.  After reading the book,  I looked it up and found it is a reference to a quote from some other book: "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." - Alexander Pope.  Don't I feel sheepish?  But, honestly, that fits a lot better than anything I came up with.  Would have been nice to have included this quote in the front page of the novel for us unlearned folk.

Rating:  4.5 out of 7


I am Conservative Culture!

Let's just start off by saying that I was very surprised by this book. When I first read about it I thought that this could be a good read. When it arrived in the mail, I turned to the leaf and the first sentence stunned me. It read, "The main Hardball host Chris Matthews calls "the legendary R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr." has done it again. OH NO, they duped me into reading a book based off of some soft not-so-really conservative preaching that *Neo Conservatism Lives* (the asterisks are there to pretend that's being flashed on-and-off in bright lights - maybe a little big band music playing in the background). 

At that point, I had to put down After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery and wonder how I was going to get through this. And with a few sighs I started to read through R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s latest work and was incredibly surprised at how much I agreed with his view on real conservative thought. This is not a book that harangues the decades of conservative culture growth, but one that brings everything that is great and not-so-great to the table. As a young conservative of 30 I didn't know about the roots that were put down for the American conservative. We are an inclusive bunch that desires the greatness of American values, or American Exceptionalism. Emmett does a great job of giving the history of the culture and some of the great intellectuals that have placed their stamp on it.

It's wasn't all roses though. After the Hangover doesn't start off as well as I would prefer. Tyrrell Jr. does talk about his other books throughout the first chapter and that wasn't that interesting to me. But after that this book is tough to put down. That's saying a lot considering that it's political non-fiction and I usually read fantasy. I'm not so sure a Liberal would read this and agree with everything that the author states, but it hits home for me. In fact, the best chapter is the last chapter. He lays out the reforms necessary for America to become prosperous, and to root it's foundation in firm principles. If you just read this last chapter, you'd be missing out on the rest of a great book, but at least you would have a coherent look at how great of a country we can be.


Rating: 8 of 10! Thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone willing to look a little deeper into the conservative mind. 

Note: I think I'm supposed to mention that I received this book for free from BookSneeze. I would spend money on this book though. It deserves a space in my library, and I hope that I can someday point to it and tell someone that our government decided to implement conservative ideas and that is why we're prosperous today.