How To Read Childhood Favorites the “Right” Way

IMG_9546I love rereading books that I used to love. Nostalgia books, I suppose you could call them.

It used to never be a problem for me, but as I’ve gotten more serious about writing, and as I’m critiquing other writer’s works on a weekly basis, it’s gotten more difficult not to read things with a critical eye.

Two years ago, I made the mistake of gifting my all time favorite book to my critique partner. As I reread it after I gifted it, I started seeing areas I knew he would criticize. And he did criticize those areas, and many more I hadn’t anticipated.

Suddenly, I didn’t love the book as much as I used to. It wasn’t the perfect example of a novel that I’d thought it was. I was disappointed, and for a long time, didn’t want to read any of my old favorites, worried that I wouldn’t love them as much as I used to.

Recently, I got the urge to reread The Forbidden Game trilogy, by LJ Smith. Without overthinking it, I started the first one.

I ended up reading it in two minds. My critical reader found all the flaws. (And there are flaws.) But my nostalgic reader found all the reasons I’d always loved it. And my nostalgic reader was louder.

It’s easy to find the flaws in something, to pick it apart, to criticize. That’s why anyone can do it.

And as a writer, it’s important that I can be constructively critical to my work and to the work of other writers who want to improve. Sometimes, as a reader, it’s important to do too. It’s good practice, and helps judge what works and what doesn’t.

But there are sometimes when I don’t want to pick things apart or find ways to improve something. Sometimes I just want to enjoy it, recapture that uncomplicated pleasure that came with reading it in the past.

The meaning of a particular book and how it resonates with the reader can change over time. There have been books I’ve connected with more or less over time, depending on where I was in my life.

But I don’t ever want to get to the point where I look at a beloved book, and only see the flaws. That serves no purpose. And I certainly don’t want to avoid rereading a favorite book out of fear.

All books have magic, and magic is a personal thing. But the key is that we, as readers, have to be complicit in creating that magic. It doesn’t exist without a reader who’s willing to be immersed in the book.

A book that resonates with me, at any point in my life, doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s an unrealistic standard. If it made me feel something deeply at any point, then it was “perfect” for me at that moment.

So, from now on, when I’m rereading a book, I’m going to keep in mind that it’s okay for it to have flaws, and those flaws don’t diminish its value one bit.

After all, at one point, I didn’t even see the flaws. They were always there, but I was so immersed in magic that I missed them. And I’m not going to let anyone take that away from me… not even myself.

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20 Books of Summer- Successes and Failures

I loved the idea of setting a goal to read 20 books from my shelves in a set period of time. I’ve been wanting strategies to cull books that I don’t really want, and my “well, I’ll get around to seeing if I want to read that eventually” doesn’t work.

What I Read

  1. The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, by Phillip Pullman I really enjoyed these, though I thought they got better as the series progressed.
  2. Roseblood, by AG Howard I didn’t really like this one. I kept hoping it would get better, but it wasn’t my taste.
  3. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett This one was sent to my by a friend, and I kept meaning to get to it, but just never did. I loved it.
  4. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena It was a mystery/ thriller that just fell flat for me.
  5. The Mouse and The Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary This was chosen by a friend for our Popsugar challenge, for a “book set in a hotel.” It was a delightful kids’ book, and a nice break from so much meh.
  6. The Unseen (Books 1-4) by Richie Tankersley Cusick I blogged about this series here, and ranted about it on Goodreads, but suffice it to say, I was not a fan.
  7. Tweak: Growing up on methamphetamine, by Nic Sheff I ended up listening to it on audiobook, and it was a good memoir about addiction and recovery.
  8. Wish Girl, by Nikki Loftin I actually bought this book because I met the author at the local SCBWI conference. It was a sweet story and an easy read.
  9. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton I’m about halfway through this one, and enjoying it. A friend sent it to me after I reread The Secret Garden and talked about how much I’d loved it.

The Good

  1. I read 14 books from my list (and am working on 15), and got rid of more than that. I tried (and abandoned) Wicked. I’ve completed one other Gregory Maguire book and hated it. That meant that all of his books went into the donate box, guilt free. (And I had quite a few of them… I don’t remember where I got them.)
  2. I felt a sense of accomplishment, getting through so many books. It’s always nice to set a goal and work toward it, even if I didn’t quite meet it.

The Bad

  1. I hated reading from a pre-set list. I picked 20 books plus 5 alternates, and I struggled with them. I ended up reading 5 books in a row that I didn’t like, but I wasn’t ready to abandon. I wanted to pick something for my next book that I was a little more sure I’d like, but it wasn’t anything on the pre-picked list.
  2. When I started this, I didn’t know it was going to be a stressful summer for me. That meant that it was especially important for me to read things I enjoyed. Reading 5 books in a row I didn’t like was discouraging and made me want to stop reading off the list.

The Verdict

I’m going to set a quarterly goal of books to read off my shelf, but I’m not going to pre-pick them. That way, I can read whatever I’m in the mood for, but still cull my shelves, making room for new books.

Did you participate in 20 Books of Summer (or a different reading goal)? How’d you do? What do you think of reading challenges in general?

5 Things Friday

It’s been a busy month for me, and while I have a lot of great ideas for posts, I don’t have the energy to do them justice right now. So, instead of skipping today, I thought I’d do a fast and fun five things Friday. (It’s apparently a thing.)

One

What I’m Reading

Because I tend to reach for things I’ve already read when life gets stressful, I just finished rereading The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

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Two

What I’m Writing

I’m just about to start seriously editing the last novel I wrote, Not Dead Enough, a YA thriller about a teenager whose boyfriend died in a car accident. But when she starts getting messages from someone claiming to be him, she has to question if she’s being stalked, or if he’s somehow communicating with her.

I’m also writing a novel tentatively called The Cycle about a woman whose children get taken into foster care. She grew up in foster care and group homes. The story is told with dual timelines of her at 13 and 22. Actually, that’s probably what made me think about The Language of Flowers.

Three

What I Read This Week

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, which I rated 4 stars on Goodreads

Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin, which I rated 4 stars on Goodreads

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I rated 4 stars on Goodreads

Four

When I Wasn’t Reading

I was writing, chauffeuring my two sick cats to the veterinarian, finishing some touch up work on the bathroom I painted awhile back, and walking the dog.

Five

Favorite Picture of the Week

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This greedy squirrel is pretty much constantly eating. One of my cats loves watching him, and we call her a “TV addict.”

What have you been doing this week?

 

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20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge Check-in

The 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge started on June 1st and ends September 3, so we’re about halfway through.

Here were my original stacks:

Of the 18 books I read in the last month and a half, only 7 were from the list, and I started and abandoned 1. So with only a month and a half left, I’m less than halfway through.

I knew this was going to be a problem for me, actually reading books from a pre-chosen list. But I’m determined to get through the ones I’ve picked.

I’ve reviewed some of these books in more depth on Goodreads. You can follow me by clicking the button to the right, if you’re interested.

What I’ve read:

  1. Roseblood (meh!- 2 stars)
  2. Bel Canto (great!- 4 stars)
  3. The Couple Next Door (overrated- 2 stars)
  4. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (fun-3 stars)
  5. The Golden Compass (pretty good- 3 stars)
  6. The Subtle Knife (second book in the series, so not as good- 3 stars)
  7. The Amber Spyglass (fantastic, makes the series worth reading- 5 stars)

Abandoned:

  1. Wicked (That one was supposed to be on my “alternate” pile. I guess I got them mixed up… oops)

Those of you who are participating in the reading challenge… how’s it going?

The Top 10 Worst Things About Reading

I love to read, and will read anything, anywhere, anytime. But there’s a dark side to it too, that no one talks about…

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My overflow “bookshelf”

  1. So many books, so little time. If I read all day every day, (In my dream world), I still wouldn’t be able to read every book I want to.
  2. Every second away from a book I love is TORTURE. Okay, so you know how sometimes you read a book, and it’s good, but you’re okay when you have to put it down? But then sometimes you read a book, and you resent every single second doing everything else, because adulting? Yeah, that.
  3. Not being able to meet the characters in real life. I mean, I guess it’s okay when we’re talking about Hannibal Lecter, but I really wish I could meet Wavy from All the Ugly and Wonderful things, or Anita Blake from the Laurell K. Hamilton books.
  4. Not knowing how I’ll feel about a book prior to reading it. Sometimes, I read a book and I don’t connect, but it’s not terrible enough to put down. And then I’m done, and it never got better, and I’ve just wasted all those hours. Or worse, having stuff to do, but picking up a book knowing I only have a half hour to read, and then falling in love with it and not accomplishing anything because I HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. It would be nice if I knew ahead of time so I could plan my life accordingly.
  5. Book hangover. I was in this wonderful world, and I was living there and hanging out with my new best friends, and life was amazing. And then… real life. Ugh.
  6. Not having the book in multiple formats. I now love audiobooks. But I “read” audiobooks much slower than physical books. And when I really love an audiobook, I wish I had a physical copy too, so I could just race through and finish. Conversely, I’m reading a wonderful physical book, and I have to run errands or something or clean up or whatever. Why can’t I just plug my headphones in?
  7. Eyestrain. Seriously. There are some nights when I go to bed that my eyes feel like they’re on fire. On the recommendation of my eye doctor, I now use drops every night before bed. It’s helping. You’re welcome.
  8. When authors get information wrong. There is nothing that drives me crazier than bad information in the middle of an otherwise good novel. I get that sometimes authors take artistic license, and that’s fine. Dandy. A-ok. But when I can tell that the author just didn’t do his or her homework, it makes me want to call them up and say, “Have you heard of this thing called Google? No, avoid Wikipedia. Avoid news outlets too. Yeah, that website’s good. Excellent. Now please check all your references with me before you write anything else. Glad we understand one another.”
  9. People don’t talk about books the way they do about TV. I got my haircut recently, and the lovely stylist wanted to talk about TV shows, asking for my recommendations. And while I said I love The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory, I would much rather have discussed The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis (so good!) or The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena (Meh… overrated). I want to talk and gossip about characters like they’re real people.
  10. The TBR is never-ending. I’m finally reading Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven (so good!) and in it, she mentions Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle. It’s been on my TBR forever. Now I’m going to have to bump it up in the queue. And other books will now be neglected for a little while longer. (sad trombone noise)

What are your “worst” things about reading?

Related posts:

Can I really say I “read” an audiobook?

My Reading Habits

 

 

My Reading Habits

IMG_8801This was a fun little quiz I found online.

READING HABITS

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?  Not really. I’ll read anywhere I can see the page. That includes while sitting, standing, walking, playing with the dogs, cooking, eating, etc.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?  Anything that’s at hand. Receipts, fortunes from fortune cookies, post-its, random papers. I do have bookmarks though. I just mostly misplace them. Or leave them in the book when I’m done.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter?  If I love the book, stopping anywhere is hard, but I can make myself do it at the end of a chapter. If I’m not as into it, I can stop anywhere.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?  Um, yes. Reading is life.

5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?  Sort of. If I’m really into the book, I hear nothing that’s going on around me. I’m not usually watching the TV though; that’s my husband.

6. One book at a time or several at once?  It depends. If I’m not that into the book, I might start another one at the same time. But if I’m really into it, I have trouble even putting it down.

7. Reading at home or everywhere? One time, a coworker told everyone she saw me reading while I was crossing the street. In fairness, it wasn’t like a busy street or anything.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?  Silently. Shhh!

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?  No! Who even does that? (I might look ahead to see where the chapter ends, but I’m not reading it.)

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?  Break it! Wear marks = love.

11. Do you write in your books?  Yes! I write, highlight. I don’t worry about smudges or marks. Again, imperfections are signs of affection in my book. (See what I did there?)

BONUS QUESTIONS

1. When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening, when you get a chance or all the time?  Reading is life.

2. What is your best setting to read in?  A setting where no one is attempting to talk to me. Getting arrested because I murdered the person who wouldn’t stop talking to me would really slow down my reading.

3. What do you do first – Read or Watch?  In general, I prefer to read first. But I’ve been introduced to some really great books by watching a show or movie and seeing that there’s a book.

4. What form do you prefer? Audiobook, eBook, or phsyical book?  I prefer a physical book, but I’ll go for an eBook if I need a quick fix. Or if I’m on vacation and don’t want to carry 8,000 pounds of books with me. I just started reading audiobooks, and they’re pretty cool. I can read while doing chores or driving.

5. Do you have a unique habit when you read?  Is getting covered in cats unique?

6. Do book series have to match?  I really prefer it, but I’m not going to stress if they don’t.

 

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Audiobooks: Using Every Moment of Time Productively

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From my Overdrive account. These are all books I’ve borrowed from the library.

I came across an interesting article the other day: America’s unhealthy obsession with productivity is driving its biggest new reading trend.

In the article, the author asserts that audiobook sales have increased in a way that can’t be accounted for just by their ease of use. The author states that Americans hate downtime, and that’s why we rush to fill those silences with something.

The author concludes that creativity comes out of those silences, and that we don’t know what we’re missing when we rush to fill them. But “there are far worse addictions.”

*sigh*

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not addicted to books. I can (and have) gone days without reading. Well… books. In the days I haven’t read books, I’ve read articles online, cruise ship news (on a cruise ship, obviously), the back of cereal boxes, etc.

But if you told me I had to go a week without reading a book, I honestly don’t think I could do it. I don’t want to. That’s like telling me I should go without breathing for awhile to see how I like it.

I didn’t jump on the audiobook bandwagon until about 6 months ago. Mostly because I’ve tried reading audiobooks in the past, and I just couldn’t understand them. About two years ago, I got my first set of hearing aids. My audiologist told me that my audio center (probably the wrong term, but this is how I remember it) was probably somewhat atrophied because I’m used to relying on other ways to understand conversations. She also said that the more I used them, the more I’d be able to better understand spoken language.

So, it’s possible that my liking audiobooks now is because I’ve exercised my brain enough that the words make sense. The more I listen and hear, the better I can understand. In my case, listening to audiobooks is actually a form of exercise!

Though honestly, I’ve heard other people say that they had to get used to listening to audiobooks, so it’s probably a skill like any other. It requires practice to improve.

Anyway… I love quiet time. When I walk my dog on our local greenbelt, I never listen to books or music. The sounds of the creek rushing by, the birds singing, and the little animals scampering around the underbrush help soothe me, like a form of meditation. Often it’s when I have my best ideas.

But sitting in traffic, painting my garage trim, or cleaning up around the house (for example) are not made better by quiet time (for me). When I’m engaged in a frustrating activity, or one I just don’t like, why wouldn’t I make it a little better by listening to a book?

I love to read; it makes me happy. It’s a form of escape, like a mini-vacation. I don’t do it because I want to increase the number of books I’ve read. I do it because I want to read more books. I want to read all the books! (But unfortunately… adulting… ugh.)

And audiobooks are so easy to get now. When I was attempting to read them, like 10- 15 years ago, it was either use Audible or get CDs from the library. Both ways took time, and I’m pretty sure that downloading books from Audible was kind of a pain.

Nowadays, I log onto my library’s webpage, select the audiobook I want, and tell it to download to an app on my phone. It takes longer to pick the book than to download it. The ease of access has to be a major factor driving up audiobook consumption.

I get it. I’m sure there are people out there who are using audiobooks to increase productivity. But to call it an obsession is an oversimplification. We do live in a faster world. There’s so much available to do and see and listen to! Why wouldn’t we want to enjoy as much as possible?

Related posts: Can I Really Say I Read An Audiobook?

I Promise These 4 Tips Will Get You Hooked On Audiobooks, over at While I Was Reading