Tag Archives: reading

Five by five by all the books

Reading paper books over breakfast can be problematic.

I was having the usual ‘physical books versus e-books’ discussion with someone on the weekend, and I came to my usual conclusion: that the worst book in the world cannot be made better by being made of paper, and the best book in the world isn’t diminished by being electronic. I think I always end up sounding like I don’t like regular ol’ books, when I’m really very fond of them. It’s just that I also like e-books. I’m fond of them, too. They suit aspects of my life admirably, moreso than ink and dead trees. Yet. Ink and dead trees can be SO LOVELY.

So here’s my top 5 reasons for loving e-books; and my top 5 reasons for loving paper books.

Traditional papery paper books with shiny covers? I’ll give you five reasons why you make my heart go pitter-pat.

  1. SHINY COVERS. Not all covers are lovely of course, but oh, those little artists’ impressions of what your innards are like? I adore them. I like to look at you and guess if I’m going to love you from your wrapping. Or if you’re going to disappoint me terribly. Or if you’re going to be an ugly ducking that grows up, by page 87, to be the bestest, most beautiful swan in the ‘verse. You’re tricky, cover art, but I love you.
  2. THICK PAPER. Some books, usually those with hard covers, have gloriously thick paper. It’s lush. It’s gorgeously tactile. I love the feel of turning a page of thick, textured paper. It takes reading from an intellectual and emotional exercise to one of physical sensation as well. Most books don’t have really lovely paper like this, but those that do… it’s a sensual experience. Even when the book sucks (which is a bit like fancying someone who dresses beautifully but turns out to be an arse, sadly).
  3. I CAN SPY ON WHAT YOU’RE READING. I confess, I’m a snoop. My husband tells me it’s perfectly natural, because I’m a writer. He sometimes threatens to make me a License To Be Nosy to flash around on the tram. Maybe I could use it to find out what people are reading on their sneaky e-readers. Hilarious erotica, possibly. I like peeking at what people are reading, though, either at the cover or, if I’m well positioned on the tram, over their shoulder to see what’s in the header. Maybe a couple of paragraphs. Yes, I know. I’m creepy. But I love how paper books conspire with me in public places like that.
  4. TANGIBLE PROGRESS. It’s quite nice to see my bookmark moving along the pages in that steadfast, inexorable fashion. My e-reader shows me a little dotted line; sometimes a percentage. Doesn’t seem quite so satisfying, somehow. Which leads me on to…
  5. BOOKMARKS! I have a nice little selection of bookmarks. Some of them I’ve had for years. Some of them I even remember to USE, instead of the bus tickets, cafe receipts, chopsticks wrappers and occasional bits of torn envelope.

E-books, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

  1. I CAN READ YOU WHILE EATING. I can open you to a page and pick up my knife and fork and you will not flow determinedly shut from the force of your excellent binding. You will allow me to rend my eggs and bacon into bite-sized pieces and simultaneously get on with the awesomeness of the story I am currently so steeped in that frankly, it’s lucky I remembered I need to eat. And I can change pages with a press of a button that only takes one finger! No more having to lay down arms, move the glasses case/travel guide/brick/cat I’ve been using to hold the pages down so I can either see the obscured paragraph or turn the page!
  2. YOU ARE SPLASH RESISTANT! And no sauce stains on The Hunger Games, or the Return of Sherlock Holmes, or anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, because I can wipe away the evidence of my grubbiness.  Take that, inability to eat tidily!
  3. DICTIONARY! So that when I’m reading, and there’s a new word, I can just highlight you (or tap on you if I’m reading on my iPhone) and my vocabulary E-X-P-A-N-D-S with hardly any effort. Ah, little e-book, whisper brand new words into my ear as often as you like. I can’t get enough of you. I sometimes find myself tapping at words on a printed page in vain, and then I get pouty. Paper books should have inbuilt dictionaries too. *sulk*
  4. E-BOOKS, LIKE GOD, ARE EVERYWHERE AT ONCE! I start reading a book on my Kindle at home! The battery goes flat while I’m out, OH NOES! but hello there, little iPhone, with your synchronised Kindle cloud, remembering where I am up to! Bless you! When I’ve recharged my Kindle, LO! the synch has spoken to you and you take me to the right place again. And if I give up on both of you and turn on my computer – WELL HELLO KINDLE APP ON MY DESKTOP.  So versatile.
  5. A HUNDRED BOOKS WEIGH THE SAME AS ONE. When I travel, I can take every book I want to read. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Even though I only ever travel with a small backback and a handbag. Because all the books fit into my one, petite, handy-dandy, purple-case-wrapped lovely little Kindle. I love you, compact little Kindle!

Got any loves of your own, for either format? Share the delight!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Yvon’s Adventure with the Lifetime Reading Plan

Ennovy the black dragon

My friend Yvon Hintz – an artist and writer, among many other things – started a reading plan a few years ago. When I heard she was reading The Book of Ramayana as part of the plan, I thought it must be an interesting reading list! I knew it included Greek classics as well as books by Chinese writers, and I liked the cultural spread of books the plan contained.

I’ve asked Yvon to share more about the reading plan and what she’s getting out of it.

Yvon’s Adventure with the Lifetime Reading Plan

I always felt that I had missed out on a lot of good reading because I left school fairly early to help my parents run a shop, so when I stumbled on the Lifetime Reading List on the web, it struck me as a great idea.

Being a Virgo, I love lists and working my way through a chronological list of great writing seemed like a wonderful way to go.

By following a list I got suggestions as to what to read and a structure for that reading. If I had simply dipped at random into literature from the past I might not have read some of the titles, either through not knowing that they existed or because I didn’t fancy the sound of them. Sticking to the list, I ended up reading some works that turned out to be wonderful.

I also read some works that  were not so wonderful, but they were not a waste because  I still got something out of them… even if it was just a working knowledge of their contents so that when later authors made reference to them I knew what they were talking about.

Of the titles I’ve read so far,  it’s hard to say which was my favourite; most were enjoyable in one way or another, but  the one I probably enjoyed the most was  the Mahabharata. For one thing I was really proud of myself for just getting through it! It’s eight times longer than the Bible and took me seven months to read. But what an adventure!  The granddaddy of all soap operas!

What I’ve gained from all this reading, apart from the individual entertainment of each title, is the understanding of what a marvellous, rich literary history we have and how much of it rests on what has gone before.  I am so pleased that I chose this list, which starts with the oldest book – The Epic of Gilgamesh (possibly the oldest written story on Earth) – and goes through to more recent works.

The Mahabharata, also on the list.

To begin with, I would buy the hardback or paperback versions of the books. I had a nice little collection in my bookcase when I sold my house, and the bookcase and I moved into a caravan. With a much reduced-in-size bookcase I decided to keep only a few really special books. The copy of David Copperfield in which my mother kept locks of all her children’s hair; the  original copies of the first three SF novels I ever read; some illustrated books that I would not be able to get in ebook form; a copy of The Little Prince given to me by a friend; as well as a small collection of books written by my other clever friends.

All other books I obtained in ebook form. I was able to get most of them from the Project Gutenberg site. A few I had to buy in ebook form.

So far there has been only one book I have had to skip. Sima Qian’s Records of The Grand Historian. It’s a BIG book… usually comes in two volumes.  It came up on my list about the time I was moving house so I didn’t want to buy a physical copy and didn’t really have the money to spare for the ebook version.  I thought I would do the smart thing and borrow it from the library. To my pleasure, they were able to get a copy in for me… from the main library… but because it’s the only copy in Western Australia they wouldn’t let it out of their clutches! I had to sit in the library to read it.

I did for a while, but that got to be impractical, so I reluctantly gave up and moved onto the next title. One day I’ll go back and fill in the gap.

In addition to reading the titles in the Lifetime Reading Plan I research on the Web, get information about the work and the author and add it to a scrapbook I’m creating. It’s getting to be a fascinating book in its own right.

I am currently up to the start of Part three, working my way, with great pleasure, through the works of Shakespeare.  As with some of the titles in the Parts to come, I have read a good number of Shakespeare’s plays before, but it’s always good to read them again, and in the order in which they were written (roughly.)

I don’t know if this exercise has made me a better or more learned person. I never recall books well enough to quote them, but I do remember them and I feel that I am a more well rounded person for my literary feast.

Yvon*)  Dec 2011


So there you have it! If you’re after a new project for 2012 (the National Year of Reading, no less!) this might be the reading plan for you!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.