On reading books

It will be no surprise I like books. If it is, perhaps we should sit down for a cup of something warm and caffeinated and talk about how we’ve parted ways so terribly. Growing up, of course, books were a thing of paper and cardboard, bound in glue or cloth. They were an always present weight in my pocket or hand, carrying me away from this world of the mundane. Secretly, I think they were bound with something a little more intangible – dreams and nightmares, adventure and excitement. I won’t give the child savant version of this tale – my reading of choice was, is, and has always been on the more pulpy side. There are times for great tomes and insightful reflections through our books, but typically I read to escape. I will even overlook bad prose (to a point) if the story is “fun” enough.

When e-book readers appeared on the scene en masse (I refer to the dawn of the Kindle era, though of course there had been “e-book readers” of a variety for years before that), I was not an early adopter. I was, however, an earlier than others adopter, buying a used 1st generation kindle on the cheap.  The appeal of the e-reader to someone like me is the nearly mind-boggling concept that in your hands you can hold a library’s worth of books, read on demand, travel anywhere. Back when the built-in 3G option was more common, this also meant being able to buy new books whenever you wanted, at a moment’s notice, no matter the time of day. That kind of freedom is like sitting down to an all you can eat buffet. The cover price may be a little pricy, but once you’re in it’s a feast.

Before I go on, I should say, I love my Paperwhite. Crisp text, a backlight, and a really long battery life. It is the ideal for reading on the go. I even enjoy my $50 Fire, though largely I use it as a spare reader (oh the convenience!) and for comics (because I am a kid inside).

Late last year I started on a mission – to read the backlog of digital books I had bought on $1 and $2 sales on Amazon.  Most of these were initial volumes in series that I wanted to read, but never felt up to spending $10-$12 on (sorry). When the books came up on sale, usually because a sequel had just been released, I grabbed them. But over time, that’s left me with a digital  mountain of reading material. Plus, there are the books I have picked up via Story Bundle. I  intend to make my way through that mountain still.

But lurking on the side, I also have a TBR pile of physical books. I picked up Stephen King’s new collection of short stories, Bazaar of Bad Dreams at the store the other day. Something about holding that in my hands, turning the pages, triggered memories of why I like reading physical books in the first place. That feeling of immersion and achievement as you read, something that is lost reading a digital copy. No matter how light we like our digital devices and how much that adds to their appeal, there is something magical about the weight of a book in your hand.

So looking ahead to 2016, I will aim to make it one of my goals for the year to engage more physical books. Get paper cuts, smell the scent of a used bookstore,  dive into the pages. Some things I will still read digital, of course. In addition to my (shrinking!) backlog of e-books, there are some authors where it  only makes sense to get the digital book. This is particularly true of the smaller press and indie authors I’ve come to enjoy, but also books that I know I will love to read – and then set aside. Better to have a digital bookshelf of have-reads than a pile in the house.

And there are advantages to reading physical books again. For starters, not everything is digital. I mentioned my love for the pulpier fiction earlier. A lot of books from the 90’s and before, unless termed popular enough or classic enough (or turned into a TV/movie) will never see digital space [legally]. Reading the physical book is the only way to get to a lot of those.

I read physical books more slowly. I don’t rush when reading digitally, but I recognize that it takes me longer to read a physical book. Maybe it’s the need for light and setting, absent when I’m able to read a digital book anywhere on anything. But I also feel like I read a book more fully when I’m reading the paper copy. Subjective as hell, but there you go.

I will continue to post the books I read in Goodreads as I read and finish them, but in tandem with this desire to read more physical books, I’ve decided not to do a reading goal in Goodreads this year. I know it’s all in good fun, but I just want to enjoy the act of reading. Goodreads is a fantastic tool for cataloging as you read books, finding new recommendations, etc.. I just don’t want to use it as a competitive tool.

So that’s a lot of words for what is now a Saturday. If you see me on the BART, or lounging in a chair, go ahead and ask me what book that is in my hand. I’ll be happy to tell you about it. Just don’t be surprised if I ask what you’re reading.





In an odd reading mood

I’m in a mood to read some nonfiction. Not a bit of it, a lot of it, as if the mood itself weren’t odd enough for me. I have some book reviews coming up in the next week for the usual flavor of titles you see on here, and my TBR pile is still a towering mound of interesting look books (thanks Pyr, Tor, and JoFletcher!). Just don’t be surprised to see my commentary and reviews for some unexpected reads.

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

At a deeper level, and giving this some thought, I think part of it has to do with cleansing the palettes – plural. Not just the reading palette, which I’m sure is understandable, but also the writing palette. My lack of writing updates lately, my playing with different writing apps, these are all symptoms of a bigger problem. I won’t label it writer’s block – nothing is preventing me from writing. But I don’t feel inspired to create anything, and when I do, it quickly feels repetitive and derivative.

Don’t worry, it’s a phase, I recognize it as a stage in the process, and this time I’m going  to try a different tactic to combat it.

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Book Review: The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are reading this book review, then you have me confused with Andy Weir and this text confused with the start of “The Martian.” I realize they are similar, as both contain words, but you should really be reading his book, not my review of it.

Not convinced? What if I were to tell you that Jack London did not in fact die in 1916, but became a time traveling nomad who ended up in 2012 where he watched reruns of MacGyver, caught Moon Race fever followed by the whole Mars One craze, then returned to his roots of writing survival fiction under the guise of Andy Weir two years later? If I were to tell you all of that, you’d say I was crazy, and I say you should read “The Martian” and you’d know exactly what I meant.

From our first few moments with the Ares 3, we know exactly what kind of book this is going to be. This is Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Except with more explosions (but not the Michael Bay kind), and no space monkeys (like the 1964 classic). The book is fast paced, the bulk of it in the first person in the guise of journal entries. I know that might turn you off – I thought it would turn me off. It doesn’t. Mark is exactly the kind of smartass you want to read in the first person. The science in the book is as legitimate as Weir could make it, and everything is actually within reach of us today. Weir may take a few liberties, but there are no hidden teleporters or miracle techs, everything is very real and now.

It was fun, exciting, and I haven’t felt this happy about a book in so long, I’m all confused inside and am unable to write a worthy review. But there you have it. I would add that I will be surprised if the Martian doesn’t make the list of nominees for a Hugo in 2014.

This book review is based on an ARC that was sent to me by the publicist prior to publication on behalf of the FantasyBookAddict.

View all my reviews

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