Tuesday 20 January 2009

Juggling Books

I'm enjoying hearing all about people's rationales behind their reading choices, especially since so many have the opposite to me. Do keep commenting. This post is to open up the question - Evie asked whether we read one book at a time, or many? This was a Booking Through Thursday question which I did on Stuck-in-a-Book, but looking at it the post was in August 2007 (can't believe it was so long ago!) and a lot of people have started reading the blog since then, so thanks Evie, I'll ask it again!

One book? Lots of books but from different genres? Hundreds at once?
Back in August 2007 I said I could only read one novel at a time, but I have changed my mind - usually a few on the go, as well as a volume or two of le
tters, a Christian book, something else to dip into... at the moment I am reading:
Straw Without Bricks: I Visit Soviet Russia - EM Delafield
Harriet Hume: A London Fantasy - Rebecca We
Love Letters: Letters of Leonard Woolf and Trekkie Ritchie Parsons
Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
You Can Change: Tim Chester

Yes, that's right... I finished The Book Thief last night. More on't soon.

Now for my answer to The Long or Short of It. Like lots of us, I'll read some long books and some short books, but I am always, always drawn to short books. Chris' comment amused me - saying her/his books tends to fall in between short and long, at around 450 pages - I quote Julie's comment, "anything over 400 pages makes me feel nervours" ! In fact, for me, anything over 300 pages. Thinking about it - and in some ways this is hideously superficial, but there we are - my ideal book length is about 225 pages.

Why? Partly because I like to make lists of my books, and I like them to be long... In a more literary manner, I admire authors immensely who can write something powerful in a short medium, where I remember all the characters and bring something extraordinary out of a book in a matter of 200 or so pages. Long novels weary me, unless they're very, very good.


  1. I usually stick with the one book, but then I have unofficially been 'reading' parts of 'The Freud Reader' (ie excerpts from Freud's papers) alongside my usual books (though I guiltily admit not having kept up this dual book-life very successfully!)


  2. I have a lot of books I say I am reading - but the truth is that I am reading the one I find gripping. Yhe others sit there in various stages of having been forgotten. One or two look sulky - as if they know I've given up on them. Others have only had their first pages examined and were then set aside for a more auspicious day.
    I think it's all a bit of a game - I do know that if a book really grabs me, I just cannot put it down!

  3. I usually have one book for each circumstance in which I need to be reading. (Note that I *need* to read.) There's my main book, there's a book of short pieces that I read over breakfast, there's an audiobook for the car, and there's sometimes another book for lunchtime at the office, if my main book is too large to carry back and forth or too complex to enjoy in a noisy environment.

    Plus, there's theology books for school, and when I'm not in classes, I also might have a book that I'm studying that covers a topic I haven't studied in class.

    Still, I consider myself a one-book-at-a-time person, because I can't really switch from one book to another for my leisure reading. One of the books always gets abandoned completely if I attempt that.

  4. I'm like you in that respect. Books of around 200 pages, I admire writers who don't use 10 words if they can say the same thing with three, and long books have to be very, very good in order to keep my attention.

    I usually have several books on the go. Easy-to-read ones (both in form and content) are bedtime reading, more cumbersome formats and books that require a lot of attention for during the day.

  5. _lethe_ said "I admire writers who don't use 10 words if they can say the same thing with three". Now that immediately made me think of Clement Freud on the BBC Radio 4 "game" programme "Just a Minute". He is very clever and wins a lot of points when he just uses a word and then adds a string of words that mean the same as if he was a walking thesaurus. It's clever and point-winning but I don't find him as interesting as some of the other contestants who may score abysmally.
    When my sister was writing her first novel her partner would comment "you need to explain that". "Nooooo!", I would shriek I like it because it allows me to think for myself. Don't pad it out with extra stuff that detracts from the simple beauty of the book.

  6. I usually am reading one fiction, one non-fiction and one audiobook within any given week. I love literature, but still quake at huge books. I've avoided Moby Dick and Uncle Tom's Cabin for years! Right now I'm plowing through Count of Monte Cristo and after 3 weeks of constant reading I'm only half way through its one thousand pages. Horrors!

  7. I have a book group read so 50 pages at a time; I have a book by my bedside a chapter before I sleep; I have one book to take on the train; I have a back up book to take on the train in case the train gets stuck and I run out of books; if I get half way through my first train book I also put in a third back book in case I get stuck on the train and am in danger of finishing my first back up book; I have a hard back book, usually a biog or history which is too big to cart around with me.

    Then there is the pile of tatty paperbacks which I keep in the bathroom for lolling in the bath and it does not matter if they fall in and get wet.

    Anything else you would like to know???

  8. You people are very funny!

    I'm with SIAB: short, please.

    Why should I enjoy reading someone else's torture, which is what it must be to write a thousand-page book?

  9. I normally stick with one book, or one fiction and one non fiction on the side. However at the moment I am reading four. The letters of Deborah Devonshire (In Tearing Haste), Anna Karenina a volume at a time, American Psycho which needs breaks in as is so horrific (not bad just very gory) and The Brutal Art as part fo my Richard and Judy CHallenge.

    It appears I have changed the habit of a lifetime!

  10. If it's a new author and a really thick book, I'd be a bit wary too unless I'm hearing really good reviews all over the place. And if it's actually good, I inevitably wish that it was three times longer. However there was one thick book I read where good reviews for the first-time author didn't make it a winner, for me at least.


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