Suggested by JM:
“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation.
That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading.
Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?
I have a hard time not finishing books, even when they suck and are total crap. I finished both The DaVinci Code and Neanderthal, for crying out loud! Sometimes I keep reading because it’s like a trainwreck, and I can’t help myself from seeing how bad it’s gonna get. I also have a perilously short attention span, and would rather be reading even drivel than entertaining myself inside of my head (how DO people do that?). For me, it’s the craving that beaver stew and hoecake could never appease.
Offhand, I can’t think of the last book I put down in disgust and didn’t pick back up.
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!
Though there is something to be said for an autobiography, and the firsthand knowledge and the alluring intimacy it can offer, I tend to prefer biographies written about people. In a biography, the narrative isn’t filtered through the subject’s own ego, and it may be possible to gain a more objective view. Then again, the fascination of a really remarkable autobiographical document, such as The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans, is something not to be missed. Of course, there is the danger of a biased biographer, but we must learn to pick and choose our sources for reputable biography, considering them as we would any primary and secondary source materials. No matter which you choose to read, you ought to always consider the bias of the writer: What is their purpose in writing this? What story are they telling?
One thing I enjoy about biographies, is the sometimes vast access to documents both public and private, and they way that these become more accessible to a wider public. And the best ones will have various documents written by the subject, providing those intimate glimpses, those “truths” in which we’re so interested.
Of course, I tend to read biographies of people who are centuries dead, which does bias me, as there is little to no chance of a tell-all biography being published!
Some of my favorite biographies: Queen of Scots by John Guy, Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner, Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Favorite autobiographies: The Kids Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans, I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
Suggested by Jennysbooks:
Something I’ve been thinking about lately: “What words/phrases in a blurb make a book irresistible? What words/phrases will make you put the book back down immediately?”
Honestly, I don’t pay that much attention to blurbs. I know a lot of them are done as reciprocal favors, and beyond that, the hyperbole is sometimes laughable. I might take a second glance at a book if I should see one by an author I really like and respect, but then again, after the Hell House debacle (“Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills.” –Stephen King), maybe I won’t.
(Blurb is a funny word.)
Two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?
I think it is sometimes tempting for any of us who suffer from pretentiousness to fib a bit about what we’ve read. In some circles (read: Hanging out with hipsters or college students will force you into those sorts of braggadocio contests), people are judged entirely on a basis of whom they know, what they listen to, the films they watch, and the books they enjoy. In such circumstances, it is not unheard of for some little white lies to come out. And many of us have written papers on books we never quite finished …
However, I try very hard to not succumb to those interior pressures. On occasion, I do struggle to remember whether I actually read something or not; it has sometimes been so long since I read something, that it requires careful thought. But since I was a child, I have placed inordinate importance upon my reading matter, and refuse to either deny having read something, or to pretend to have done so. When I’ve started a book, I try to be straight about the fact that I well, never finished it. But because I am such an amazingly good liar (and I really am, I’d explain in greater detail, but it might disillusion certain longtime associates or relatives who read this), it is a difficult temptation to resist.
It’s a matter of pride for me to be honest in little ways. And I feel like blogging about my books helps keep me on the straight and narrow, it gives me some accountability. It reminds me that I have no reason to lie; something that can be difficult for a lot of people when it comes to matters of pride or one upmanship.
Hmmmm, I haven’t really read much non-fiction of late, aside from A Night in Transylvania: The Dracula Scrapbook. Though I did check out Domestic Life in England … but that’s a fairly narrow interpretation of the question, isn’t it?
I think (though I know it might be monotonous) that I’d have to go with the two Little House books I’ve recently read, Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy, or even The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I say that because all of those books address the mundane everyday tasks that make life livable, from making headcheese or caring for stock to making candy in the snow or growing a prize pumpkin. And though such details are endlessly fascinating, they also create an appreciation for the amount of time and work that running a household has taken throughout history, something I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond touches on those same tasks, but it also places its story and drama squarely amongst historical fact; there is a Great Meadows in Wethersfield, and there was a Governor Andros and a Gershom Bulkeley, and the Connecticut Colony charter did disappear one night when it was theatened. The narrative is closely intertwined with the historical record, and I have to say that a fair amount of my understanding of colonial history in America stemmed from books such as this.
Which brings me to the last point: all three books, geared though they are to a juvenile audience, engender an understanding of a different America. They illustrate ideas and illuminate how people–not just their authors, but their audiences as well–thought, what they thought about, and how those conceptions might differ from ours. You’ve got your politics, your philosophy, your gender roles, and what have you. And that’s fabulously informative.
(Kinda phoning it in lately, aren’t you, BTT?)
(Feel free to think “big” as size, or as popularity, or in any other way you care to interpret.)
Sizewise, the biggest book I’ve read recently is definitely Little Women. That sucker clocks in at 595 pages in my twenty-year old Dell Yearling Classics edition, a respectable number for any book, children’s or adult. However, it’s also the heavy looking at popularity figures, with over eight thousand copies on LibraryThing, dwarfing by far the next closest contender, Everything is Illuminated (in the four thousand range).
I was a little surprised at how poorly the two Little House books that I’ve recently read did for numbers on LibraryThing, but I suspect that they perform consistently well on Amazon and at other retailers–though how long that will be the case is open to question considering the continued dilution and degradation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work.
Just over two weeks ago, When Christ and His Saints Slept came in at 746 pages–which might actually be my record since beginning this blog endeavor–but that is just out of range of what I’ll consider recent. Plus, for sheer worldwide numbers, I am confident that Little Women has it beat, as much as I enjoy Penman.
Edit: I checked, and yes, When Christ and His Saints Slept seems to be beating every other volume out so far, barely edging out Mordant’s Need as long as we consider them two separate volumes.