I realized last week that I’m not a very good reader.
For example, I am still struggling with The Arabian Nights, and many people find it a breezy read. In fact, it’s taken me so long thus far, I had to return it to the library this week. It has to be returned to its home library and then it will come back to me again. So I have a few days without it. I did have about an hour the other day before I returned it where I was able to sit and work my way through a full story cycle (about 45 pages) and I found myself laughing out loud. There are funny parts amid the rubble of frustrating prose.
But that’s not all I struggle to read. I’ve also been struggling with The Clash of Civilizations, a nonfiction book examining post-Cold War U.S. foreign relations. I told my husband, who was an economics and political science undergraduate and who read this book when it was first published in 1995, that it is poorly written.
He responded, “Maybe you’re just not used to academic writing.”
I realized he was probably right. It’s been so long since I’ve had to read that type of writing, I have to reacquaint myself with the style. The author is not trying to be “pretty.” He’s trying to share political and historical facts. Nonetheless, I’m going slowly with that as well.
The frustration with my “poor” reading ability reminds me of one of my goals when I started my blog and, more specifically, when I started my HTR&W project a year ago. I realize now, of course, that Harold Bloom’s book isn’t going to help me solve any problems, but I would hope that reading a variety of books and reading more carefully (as I’ve tried to do in the past year), would lessen the time I spend struggling to read.
I guess it goes back to Bloom’s phrase “difficult pleasure”: reading well doesn’t always mean “reading easily.” Bloom also isn’t talking about academic reading or archaic really old classics reading. So maybe I can give myself a break.
What do you think? How does one train to be a better reader? That may be a rhetorical question with no answers.
In addition to The Arabian Nights and The Clash of Civilizations, I started Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I’m reading along with my sister. So far, I think it is a perfect book for book lovers, full of great quotes about how books influence our lives. It’s the kind of book I’d love to recommend to book clubs, much like The Uncommon Reader. Hopefully, though, it doesn’t have crude humor as The Uncommon Reader did. Anyway, GLPPS is so far, so good!
I gave up on dailyreader.net for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I got the physical book from the library. I might read it when I finish Arabian Nights, or maybe I’ll take a break and read Woman in White; it’s my current LibraryThing Group Read and I’d like to read it with the group.
While I have successfully read a few books via Daily Reader, Uncle Tom wasn’t working for me.
Sometimes I start a book and just wish I was reading in a different format. Do you ever think of a particular book as best in a certain format for a particular read? For example, I own both a soft cover and a hard cover of Pride and Prejudice but I opted to listen to the audiobook a few months ago; I had the digital copy (Project Gutenberg) of Jane Eyre, but I wanted to get a soft cover from the library; etc. Which format do you prefer? I think I tend to like reading a soft cover best, but I like a hardcover sometimes too. But sometimes I specifically would like to listen to an audiobook.
The Good Earth is absolutely beautiful in the audiobook format. I’ve never read it before, and while I’ve only begun, I can tell this is a book I will read again, maybe with a nice soft cover next time.
I was going to write up a post about The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major, which I’ve only read parts of. Instead, I’m going to read all of it as I have been reading HTR&W: read it a little each month or as I read the works on the list. It’s a very inspiring list of works to read, and I find myself very excited to read the works mentioned!
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (46 out of 150 pages; children’s fiction) I’m reading this aloud to my toddler son and, to my surprise, he’s obviously loving it!
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (200 read of 750 pages; children’s fiction) on hold
Library Loot, Old
- The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington (217 read of 320 pages; nonfiction).
- The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk (39 read of 263 pages; nonfiction)
- The Arabian Nights: A Companion by Robert Irwin (91 read of 292 pages; nonfiction)
- The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (audiobook, on disc 2 of 9 discs, about 10.5 hours; fiction)
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaeffer and Anne Burrows (92 read of 275 pages; fiction)
- Chicago: Then and Now by Elizabeth McNulty (150 pages; nonfiction/coffee table book) FINISHED! This had lots of pictures, so it was quick to skim through.
- Lost Chicago by David Lowe (20 read of 270 pages; nonfiction/coffee table book). More text than the previous one, but still lots of pictures.
Library Loot, New
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (161 read of 388 pages; fiction) on hold
- The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record by Stanley Appelbaum (108 pages; nonfiction)
- Chicago’s Classical Architecture: The Legacy of the White City (Images of America series) by David Stone (128 pages; nonfiction)
- Art History by Marilyn Stokstad (200 browsed of 1150 pages; nonfiction) I am not reading this but rather browsing through it and looking at the pictures. I don’t know much about art!
On Hold at Library
- The Arabian Nights translated by Husain Haddawy (205 read of 425 pages; fiction). I had to return it to the library, but I should get it again soon!
- The Forsyte Saga, Series 1 and Series 2 (7 DVDs; 2002 fiction movie). I may try the older one instead; I’ve heard better things about it.