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"I often read dozens of books simultaneously."
November 26, 2012 12:22 AM   Subscribe

My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
posted by the man of twists and turns (150 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh hey, he complained about e-readers at the end! Neat!
posted by silby at 12:31 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


That...er...sounds awkwardly familiar. I don't consider it a personality disorder, though. My wife does.
posted by Skeptic at 12:32 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


She describes reading about four hours a day on average. Is that so strange? I've done that for years. I don't sleep well so I read from the time I get into bed to the wee hours of the morning.

[e-readers]... but they are useless for people engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books.

This is wrong, and just plain silly.
posted by Malice at 12:33 AM on November 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


Only 6,128? My estimate is nearer 18,000.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:36 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malice, even if you doubt the byline, only a man ( and one who'd never witnessed birth, at that) could think procreation perfect.
posted by gingerest at 12:41 AM on November 26, 2012


9hrs to read Tortilla Flat straight through? I did it in half the time, and I'm far from a speed reader.
posted by mannequito at 12:43 AM on November 26, 2012


The video in the article is pretty good too. He basically equates reading to teenagers playing video games, it's an escape to a better reality. He says with e-readers people are reading more, but worse books (and thus better off not reading at all). E-readers don't have the magic quality of books (writing in margins, bookmarks, physical object). He talks about how he is reading dozens (hundreds?) of books at any moment, just finished Middlemarch which he started in the 1970s. He reads a lot of contemporary fiction, which is all very pro and polished (MFA writing schools), all very good, but not "great".
posted by stbalbach at 12:50 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Saddling another person with a book he did not ask for has always seemed to me like a huge psychological imposition, like forcing someone to eat a chicken biryani without so much as inquiring whether they like cilantro"
posted by growabrain at 12:51 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Largest Personal Libraries on LibraryThing. Not all of these libraries represent "books read" but many are.
posted by stbalbach at 12:54 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."

... or a half-way vital idea for an article.
posted by philip-random at 12:57 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


and to the Irish, books are as natural and inevitable a feature of the landscape as sand is to Tuaregs or sand traps are to the frat boys at Myrtle Beach

I thought the Irish liked Guiness, and nothing but Guiness.
Except drunk poets.
I've never heard the Irish are great book lovers trope in my life.
posted by Mezentian at 1:08 AM on November 26, 2012


Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder.

Well, that explains that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:09 AM on November 26, 2012


Six thousand books is a lot of reading

Lightweight.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:39 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are currently close to 1500 books in my apartment at this time. I have read, or am reading, or am rereading nearly all of them. I also have a collection of audio books that is probably somewhere in the several hundred mark, short fiction magazines in close to the 500 count as well as podcast form, and a nearly half a terabyte of radio shows from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

I have likely read, per my current estimate, something close to 8 times that number of books in my life, with likely probably another 300 short fiction magazines consumed on top of the ones I still have.

And that doesn't even cover the things I read online, or in journals.

I say all of this by way of saying that to say one has a love-affair with the book is like saying one has a love-affair with your significant other's left hand. The book is only one aspect of a much larger thing, and to love only the book and yet spurn digital, or pulp, or journal, or magazine is to dismiss the rest of the beautiful woman to whom you have just professed undying love to her palm.
posted by strixus at 1:42 AM on November 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


I believe this is an attempt at writing "humor", so the writer's pronouncements maybe should not be taken at face value.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:54 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


gingerest, I have to admit I don't understand your response to me at all. I'm a woman, but I'm not sure what sex or procreation has to do with anything.
posted by Malice at 2:03 AM on November 26, 2012


Malice: the author of the article is a man. gingerest was correcting your use of 'she' and referring to this line in the article:
Certain things are perfect the way they are:... procreation,...
posted by jacalata at 2:12 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I want to know is what he's got against belted shorts.
posted by scalefree at 2:33 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


What I want to know is what he's got against belted shorts.

Pervert.
posted by Skeptic at 2:49 AM on November 26, 2012


Pervert

nah, just eponysterical.
posted by mannequito at 2:58 AM on November 26, 2012


I was reading at an age 11 level by the time I was three, and I read very very quickly (possibly thanks to learnign to read Teletext pages as a kid - the sub-pages changed very quickly), to the point where people observing me reading a newspaper have thought I was just flicking through the pages. I have to keep explaining to MrMippy that carrying 500 books on your e-reader is actually not e-hoarding, not when you can read three books in a weekend and have several on the go at once.

I do, however, worry about wearing out the buttons. And to be fair, I was sick this weekend so read two books that were so bad that I kept reading them only to silently take the piss in my head.
posted by mippy at 2:59 AM on November 26, 2012


The author seems to believe that his fetish for physical books is inherently stronger than mine for electronic documents. I've got backups you would not believe.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:00 AM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm currently reading Dominic Sandbrook's White Heat, after finishing a biography that I started two years before, and then Jimmy Corrigan (pro-tip: do not read this if you are feeling depressed). It's so big a book - 800 pages or so - that I can't actually fit it into my handbag and have to carry it onto the Tube in its own carrier bag. There are a couple of other large books - The Age of Extremes, Guns Germs and Steel - whcih have remained unread for similar reasons.
posted by mippy at 3:02 AM on November 26, 2012


Who gives a fuck? Seriously when are we going to get over this bullshit fetishisation of the written word in general and "books" in particular? No one gets paid to humblebrag about the number of DVD box-sets they've watched. If they even knew you'd rightly regard them as a waste of eyeballs.
posted by howfar at 3:18 AM on November 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


Excessive and indiscriminate reading habits always seem in fact to be a source of quiet pride.
posted by Segundus at 3:20 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


No one gets paid to humblebrag about the number of DVD box-sets they've watched.

Well, people are bringing out 'companion guides' to The Killing and The Wire here, so we're not far off. The former has a 'knit your own Sarah Lund' pattern in it.
posted by mippy at 3:30 AM on November 26, 2012


Ideal Bookshelf prints/paintings - What's on Stephenie Meyer's ideal bookshelf? The works that made the artists
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:34 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, people are bringing out 'companion guides' to The Killing and The Wire here, so we're not far off. The former has a 'knit your own Sarah Lund' pattern in it.

If I hadn't lived through the Merchandising free-for-all that was the 1970s, I'd be confused.
posted by Mezentian at 3:34 AM on November 26, 2012


What's on Stephenie Meyer's ideal bookshelf?

Orson Scott Card... Of course she would read Orson Scott Card.
posted by Gordafarin at 3:58 AM on November 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


[e-readers]... but they are useless for people engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books.

This is wrong, and just plain silly.


It really isn't. There are so many practical tricks and techniques that actual books afford and ereaders don't that I really don't think you can actually be an "avid reader"1 and prefer ebooks. If you really have spent hours and hours and hours with paper books of all kinds, then you are not going to lightly throw away all those techniques and methodologies. How to skip ahead nimbly to the next "good part", how to gauge how far it is until the next good breaking point, how to remember where in a book you read a particular vague thing you need to find again, etc ad infinitum. You can't riffle an ereader. You can't read non-linearly. You can't toss it around or take in the shower or a thousand other things that people who know how to really use books do all the time.

I'm completely in favor of the concept of ebooks but the implementations so far have been lacking in the extreme.

1As opposed to someone who uses the phrase "avid reader" to describe themselves, and actual avid readers know what I'm talking about here.
posted by DU at 4:03 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


She describes reading about four hours a day on average. Is that so strange? I've done that for years. I don't sleep well so I read from the time I get into bed to the wee hours of the morning.

You're reading too much into this
posted by hal9k at 4:03 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


eBooks are not best designed for footnotes. I rarely refer to them when reading standard works, but in novels or other books where they are used as a device - I believe Infinite Jest does this, and Jen Lancaster does it a lot - it's a right pain to try and read it at the right time.
posted by mippy at 4:09 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is not a personality disorder. That is a hobby. At most, it could be an obsession. But that is not a personality disorder.
posted by talitha_kumi at 4:10 AM on November 26, 2012


I am an "avid reader" and have been since I was 2. 6000 is probably a low estimate for me. But never in my life have I felt the urge to write in a book. This is one of those arguments against e-readers I simply don't understand. Why would you write in a book? What are you writing?

And yes, I have an e-reader. I love and respect physical books, but I travel a ton and books are heavy (and the number of heavy books I'd need to get through a two week trip with 14 hour flights on each end become prohibitive to pack). So the e-reader is for all the books I want to come with me. I do still buy physical copies of my favourite books, particularly if it's a series, but I like having the digital versions as well to read on the go. How does wanting to read more (and more conveniently) negate my "life-long love affair" with reading? Or are we only concerned about our life-long love affair with physical books?

I always feel like the e-reader argument is like the people who swear they need to buy physical music albums for the liner notes, instead of just downloading the mp3s. I've never understood that. Yes, it is a *different* experience, having something digital instead of physical, but I don't think there's a *right* experience. It's up to individual preference how someone wants to consume and enjoy content. Why do we always have to get so judgey?
posted by olinerd at 4:32 AM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


You can read an ebook non-linearly quite easily, if the book is formatted correctly. I tend to like short nonfiction on them best, magazine-style "long-form" pieces. Still... The best thing with the Kindle, at least, is the ability to increase word size (nice if you're at the age where you need bifocals or progressive lenses, and fantastic if you're elderly, I'm sure), and the built-in dictionary. The only bad thing about them, and it's an extreme, deal-breaking fault for most material, is that you can't really own the books on them, can't lend them to friends and family. The material from the Altavist and other short nonfiction publishers is so good and unique, however, that this isn't an issue with them (and will become less so as they move into more fully-formed multi-media productions).
posted by raysmj at 4:39 AM on November 26, 2012


It never occurred to me to try and count, or even estimate the number of books I've read. I have no idea, except that it's a lot. The absolute, or even approximate number doesn't interest me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do we always have to get so judgey?

Because the greedy nature of corporations means only one format will continue to live. It isn't a zero sum game now and it won't be tomorrow, but it will be eventually and the new format is just not one I can use in the state it is in now. There are too many basic, deal-breaking features missing and a lot of them are unlikely to be added (for instance, ability to loan books) by those same corporations.
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.

I read voraciously, routinely two books a day. I love my Kindle. My Kindle does not mean the end of printed books, it simply means the opportunity to curate a physical collection of best loved books, rather than Every Book I Ever Read Ever. I absolutely love that about it.

Also, this author has an ability to extrapolate from personal experience to profound universal bullshit to a degree that is offensive. Thank you, Joe Queenan, for telling me how "the poor" feel about books. Talk about a bozo.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:51 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree with his feelings on "Ethan Frome".

I'm not so sure about the rest.
posted by helicomatic at 4:51 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling that being a "reader" is now a closely held and much defended identity for some people. So much it's become somewhat pathological.
posted by tsaraczar at 4:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that this article was written terribly. Why was there constant mention of belted shorts and fraternity golfing? No, that doesn't have anything to do with books or reading, nor does it contrast them by any stretch of the imagination to illustrate any conceivable point.

You really don't have to put much effort to contribute to the wall street journal. Its like the NYTimes.

Lowest common denominator stuff.
posted by flyinghamster at 4:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


You really don't have to put much effort to contribute to the wall street journal. Its like the NYTimes.

Lowest common denominator stuff.


Sure, as long as you're dividing by 1%.
posted by chavenet at 4:58 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just don't divide by 0%.
posted by flyinghamster at 5:01 AM on November 26, 2012


My Kindle does not mean the end of printed books, it simply means the opportunity to curate a physical collection of best loved books, rather than Every Book I Ever Read Ever. I absolutely love that about it.

Physical books already have this feature. We call it "libraries".

Which raises another problem that ebooks don't do so well: Group ownership. Whether at the city level or household level, an ebook as currently implemented is basically an individually-owned item. (Ironically, consider it's only electrons.) Which basically means that the poor get screwed yet again. They will now have to buy books one by one rather than benefiting from group ownership.
posted by DU at 5:01 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the thing killing eBooks for me is lending. The vast majority of what I read comes from the library, the rest from my in-laws' bookshelf. I don't want to own books; I don't think I've ever intentionally read a book twice. I'm sure the reading experience on an e-reader is just ducky, but they're just not going to work for me, at least not yet (and probably not ever).
posted by uncleozzy at 5:15 AM on November 26, 2012


Oh, sure, you're all laughing at this article, but I'm glad someone is finally telling the truth. I started "reading" books when I was only seven years old. My parents got me hooked on them - hell, my mom was probably reading the entire time she was pregnant with me. I started doing the hard stuff when I was still only a teenager - Proust, Joyce, Musil, Pynchon. Until the money got tight. Then I'd read anything I could get my hands on. A dirty, used Raymond E. Feist under a bridge - I didn't care. I didn't even enjoy it, but it didn't matter. I just had to have something to read. I started prostituting myself just to get my next fix. I dropped out of school and started living with my boyfriend. He beat me up pretty bad sometimes, but he kept me supplied with paperbacks. Mostly urban fantasy, the bastard, but sometimes hard SF just to keep me on a string. I'm trying to get clean now, but there's this guy at work who keeps recommending books to me. He wants to get a motel room and have me read in there with him. It's hard to say no. I'd quit my job, but I can't afford to. Tonight I was about to go buy some books, but I didn't have a ride to go pick them up.

I wish so much that someone, sometime, had given me a television.
posted by kyrademon at 5:18 AM on November 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


How the hell do you count how many books you've read? That's a little like counting how many times I've fantasized about sex. You know, like, a lot.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:19 AM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


kyrademon - I read my sister's O-level set text, Hobson's Choice, when I was six as she left it lying round my/our room and I was bored. Good job it wasn't Lolita.
posted by mippy at 5:23 AM on November 26, 2012


Who gives a fuck? Seriously when are we going to get over this bullshit fetishisation of the written word in general and "books" in particular? No one gets paid to humblebrag about the number of DVD box-sets they've watched. If they even knew you'd rightly regard them as a waste of eyeballs.

I like books, and I like reading, but I seriously hate the gifted and talented class pissing match that threads about books become on Metafilter. People brag about how many books they've read or how many they own or how fast they can read or how many hours a day they read.

Congratulations, you've got a hobby you enjoy. No one else is impressed or cares.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:23 AM on November 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


Congratulations, you've got a hobby you enjoy. No one else is impressed or cares.

Books are more than a hobby. They store much of human civilization. Right now, after it's been published, there are no gatekeepers to that knowledge. With ebooks, corporations have inserted themselves into that gap.

Are you now finding it slightly harder to feign indifference? Or are you still too cool for this thread?
posted by DU at 5:32 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The reason I hate ebooks is that my husband, who reads on his iPod, often finishes the book to rave reviews and then proceeds to tell me: "You should read it too, you'd love it!"

How am I supposed to read it too without buying a second copy thereof on a second device (which I'd also have to buy)? If I think he'd enjoy a book I've just finished I, well, hand it over.
posted by lydhre at 5:35 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not trying to impress anyone. In fact, I am very much used to not saying anything at all about my early reading because people don't believe me. There are kids getting Maths A-level at 6 and I can't remember my 7 and 8 times tables, so it doesn't really mean anything unless it's germane to the discussion - in this case, it means that 28 years of reading, and reading fast, makes reading as a hobby pretty damned expensive.
posted by mippy at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2012


Never occurred to me to count the books I have read; it isn't a game, it's entertainment. I have a few hundred books (probably on the order of 200 or so, total) on my bookshelves. That's far fewer than I actually have read, but I don't need to keep everything I ever read - just the ones I liked enough I will likely read again. The rest I sell back to a used place or give to a friend or family member.

Of all the books I have read, the one that honestly had the most impact on my life is "Fun with Dick and Jane." High literature it is decidedly not, but it was the first book I read to myself; everything I have ever read on my own stated from there. I have since read many, many bad books, and a lot of good ones. But that is where is started.

Of all of the books in the house, the ones I am most proud of are the pile in my son's room. He's not reading yet - he recognizes letters but hasn't started sounding them out - but that doesn't stop him from dragging books into his bed with a book light and staying up late, quietly leafing through them. He knows when he is "big" every book on Daddy's shelves is fair game for him. I'm happy to be raising a reader.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I own about six DVDs. So there you go.
posted by mippy at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2012


A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in "Dracula" is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, basically nothing more than a misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the necks of 10,000 hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of pure evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his extensive reading list. But I have no way of knowing if this is true, as I have not yet found time to read "Dracula."

LOL.

I remember quite a few years ago, I saw a famous author interviewed by Charlie Rose. The elderly author had written extensively about his battle with cancer, and was now in the final stages. The author lamented that if he just had a few more years for some more reading, he figured he could finish writing at least another couple of books. Charlie asked if he could summarize his feelings about his long life and impending demise. The author said, "All that reading, gone to waste!"
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2012


Lydhre - we buy eBooks, but if the paper costs the same as the electronic one I always buy paper, to cost the publishers money. Until they stop charging the same for a copy with no distribution, storage, or duplication costs, I will continue doing so. And FYI, most ebooks can have DRM removed without too much trouble, and paper books that you may want digitally can be found... with a little effort. Not that I would advocate piracy, but I feel very little guilt buying a book and also finding a digital copy of the same text, or sharing with my wife when Apple will let me share music between accounts, but Amazon etc. will not allow sharing of text I purchased. Blu-Ray movies often come with the DVD and a digital copy these days; hopefully the print industry figures this out soon.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you now finding it slightly harder to feign indifference? Or are you still too cool for this thread?

For someone so concerned with reading you obviously didn't read what I wrote with any degree of care. I never said anything about e-books or the merits thereof being unimportant. I referred specifically to people bragging about their reading habits. There's certainly a conversation to be had about e-readers; there's not really a conversation to be had about who reads the most or who loves books the most which is what a significant portion of this thread, and ones like it, are.

As to e-readers, I have one and I like it. It doesn't interfere with any reading techniques of any importance to me, and it gives me access to public domain books for free in a portable format; it also lets me carry a couple books around without having to, you know, actually carry multiple books in my bag. If e-books looked likely to completely replace books, then I think we would need to require publishers to provide freedom from interference with user's collections and limited freedom to lend, because those are features of printed books that are societal (and personal) goods. Right now, it's not a pressing issue because printed books still exist in large numbers, but long term I think it would be a good idea. The solution is, I think, emphatically not to be found in denigrating e-readers or fetishizing printed books; people like e-readers, they're here to stay (for the time being) and we've got to deal with that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:55 AM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ebooks are subject to VAT in the UK, print books are not, so they tend to be more expensive on those grounds. However, that still doesn't explain why it will cost £17 for me to read the next volume of the history series I'm reading...
posted by mippy at 5:56 AM on November 26, 2012


> I get the feeling that being a "reader" is now a closely held and much defended identity for some people. So much it's become somewhat pathological.

There's no "now" about this; my mother's family was making fun of her love of reading when she was a kid fifty years ago; they mocked her for wanting to go to grad school where she would have to read more books, and they mocked her for maybe wanting to write one. We pick on kids who would rather read than play dodge ball; we make fun of people who "only" have "book learning."

Who made it a pathology, exactly?

/own tons of physical books, also own an ereader, love them all
posted by rtha at 6:04 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never said anything about e-books or the merits thereof being unimportant.
Seriously when are we going to get over this bullshit fetishisation of the written word in general and "books" in particular?
posted by DU at 6:04 AM on November 26, 2012


You can hate e-readers all you want. I've heard it all before and no one has convinced me it's much more than fetishizing the tactile aspects of a "real" book and backing a justification into that. And that's fine, I understand, I'm that way too sometimes. But being too lazy to find or convert an e-book into an open format or convert a physical book into an open format is no reason to go all Cory Doctrow on us.
posted by kjs3 at 6:04 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is the only bit that jumped out at me -
I start a book in 1978 and finish it 34 years later, without enjoying a single minute of the enterprise.
Uh....if you didn't like it why didn't you stop? I've read the number of books I've read because I like it.

Although, I considered writing a piece like this back when I was in my 20's - some kind of tongue-in-cheek "I'm addicted to reading" thing. But that was only after having done some looking-into of my finances and discovering that thirty percent of my income was going specifically towards buying books. So I just made the shift to used bookstores, libraries, Paperback Book Swap and hinting broadly at Christmas and kept reading.

I think my reading list is up in the thousands as well -- I started reading when I was 3, devoured the small library back in my hometown; I probably drove the librarian into retirement one summer after whipping through the entire Nancy Drew AND Hardy Boys series AND all of Marguerite Henry in only a month and then asking her "now what?" She finally threw me at the mystery section, and then left town. I always read all the books they gave us in high school English, I would spend all my study hall periods in high school in the library (the school librarian was skeptical until he realized I wanted to be there, then he'd make recommendations and would come hang out with me for a few minutes each day talking books - he was awesome), and one of my biggest complaints about my current job is that I'm too wiped to read as much.

When I visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, I noticed it was "decorated" with a lot of hand-written signs with slogans and sayings on them - and one of them was so profound I took a picture of it so I'd remember how it went:
Buying more books than one can ever possibly read is the soul's way of trying to reach infinity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I've read a lot of books, maybe even more than 6000. I kinda wish I had spent that time learning to play guitar or something. Sure I guess I get some fleeting escape, and some satisfaction that I've completed some books most people have never heard of. I'm not sure being a lifelong consumer of entertainment is something to be proud of.

Now that I read eBooks I buy five or six at a time and tear through them. I don't even get the enjoyment of going to the bookstore to browse.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:09 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


DU, I didn't say that. I quoted and responded to it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:11 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It becomes a pathology when it becomes someone's identity as opposed to something they do.

I don't know you mother so I can only speculate, but I assume your mom has many more aspects to her personality other than "reader". From what I get from the article and from some other comments here there is no room for anything else as a identity descriptor (for those particular people) besides "passionate reader".

That combined with the competition between everyone over who was the youngest person to read Dostoyevsky ( at the mature age of four, I assume) it makes me wonder about what it means and says about these particular people.

I could also be wrong. Just speculating.
posted by tsaraczar at 6:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh - forgot to mention: I think a large part of my reading so much is that my parents never, ever challenged or questioned or pushed a reading choice onto either me or my brother. In high school, when all my brother wanted to read was Sports Illustrated, they let him. When I was nine and tackling Watership Down, they let me. When I was curiously poking into Mom's college books on typography or Dad's copy of Chariots of the Gods, they probably saw me, but said nothing. They probably kept an eye on me when I curiously picked up 1984 at age eight, and then kept their sighs of relief to themselves when I put it down 5 minutes later because I was bored. My endless poring over the family collection of Time-Life Nature Library books from the '60's was considered a fond affectation. The one and only time I remember anyone taking a book away from me was when a neighbor found me curiously looking over her copy of the Shere Hite report when I was seven.

They let me keep seeing reading as being something fun rather than being an obligation. I am WILDLY grateful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would you write in a book? What are you writing?

Because glosynge is a glorious thyng, certeyn.

no one has convinced me it's much more than fetishizing the tactile aspects of a "real" book and backing a justification into that.

This charge always comes from the advocates of a technology that actually makes simply reading a book more costly and harder to manage for the majority of people on this planet. Given that the production of an e-book and reader is a vastly more complex process than simply printing a book, who's really the fetishist here?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:17 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never read books - it's a disgusting habit that causes syphilis, death, headaches and dry skin, although not in that order.

However, I have a new, highly-interesting pastime thanks to the invention and distribution of the trademarked "electronic text display unit" that you all know so well.

I was sent one of these horrifying devices by the manufacturer in error (I would never purchase such a hateful contrivance myself), and (to compound the supplier's fault), said device came pre-loaded with every single boook ever published in the history of human civilization.

Every day since, I have devoted four, or maybe five hour to sitting in my study and deleting books from this electronic storehouse, and as I remove each one I find myself getting stupider and less compasionate about the emotional experiences of other personns.

And also my "English-wordiness" is, you know, lowering. In fact, I are finding that to write even sentences on my own gets more hard. so Me use not so big number of words now. Even me can't make words come so much!!!. Not do words soon, me? Me no thinkg me wurds baddur butt me aks algernon he sed huh huh wy u no bring mii flowez ani mur? stupid mowse fuk uuuuuuuuuuu.woqukfqcl7oty9273ghjilkm,kl,mklj
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:25 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's no "now" about this; my mother's family was making fun of her love of reading when she was a kid fifty years ago; they mocked her for wanting to go to grad school where she would have to read more books, and they mocked her for maybe wanting to write one. We pick on kids who would rather read than play dodge ball; we make fun of people who "only" have "book learning."

This is true for some values of "we," but not all. "We" also includes parents and teachers who praise kids for reading "high level" books, even when they don't understand them or think kids are "smart" simply because they enjoy reading no matter what they read or how well they understand it.

As a kid plenty of my peers made fun of me for preferring reading to sports*, but my parents and teachers were always delighted with my reading. Reading, especially a long difficult book that I didn't understand, was a fast track to parental or teacher approval, and it didn't always serve me well. I spent a ton of time reading books that I had no real appreciation of because I had been told that I needed to be reading all the time and reading more complicated books was better. I was a good reader, but as a younger kid I was often decoding more than I was understanding, and as a middle school/high schooler, I was often losing the nuances (especially of books in the traditional canon) in favor of very basic comprehension. I would love to be able to pick up some of those books for the first time, but I can't because I read them badly in eighth grade.

*As an aside, I don't think this is an obvious choice. I read a lot as a kid and now I'm out of shape and uncoordinated. I could have stood someone to tell me that throwing a ball was important, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:28 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


My parents didn't really concern themselves with what I was reading, trusting me to filter out the things I didn't need to know or to ask them. Which was a problem when, aged 11, I leant a copy of Diary of a Teenage Health Freak, a book written in conjunction with a doctor to address embarrassing health issues and found by me on a library Withdrawn From Circulation cart, to a schoolfriend. This was at an age when second and third-hand Judy Blume volumes was being passed round and hidden like secrets; I knew there were rude words in it so instructed her to keep it hidden, but promised it was very funny. Her mother found it and read it - perhaps the book fell open automatically to page 140, a list of synonyms for the penis, vagina, breasts and bollocks which we had giggled over in the playground, or perhaps it was the references to sexual health or puberty. It was immediately confiscated.

Next time I was over, it was handed to me with a curt 'There you are [Mippy], you may take that home with you.' The friend later got pregnant at 14.
posted by mippy at 6:28 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


'books about parallel universes where nine-eyed sea serpents and blind marsupials join forces with deaf Valkyries to rescue high-strung albino virgins from the clutches of hermaphrodite centaurs'

Any idea what book he's referring to?
posted by Damienmce at 6:41 AM on November 26, 2012


Dunno, but it sounds like it would make a hella Jack Chalker novel.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:46 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So reassuring that other people share my obsessive hobby. Also, the math says I've been reading for 38 years. Yikes. At least I can go out saying I finally finished Swann's Way after two decades.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:58 AM on November 26, 2012


I start a book in 1978 and finish it 34 years later, without enjoying a single minute of the enterprise.

Uh....if you didn't like it why didn't you stop? I've read the number of books I've read because I like it.


For at least twenty-five years I have kept up the habit of noting books that sound interesting in the back of a notebook (well, a series of notebooks by now). It could be a good review, reading an interesting excerpt, hearing a compelling interview with the author, liking other works by the same author, or even just having a friend whose taste I respect gush about it. The list has no details, just title and author's name. If I happen to have one of these notebooks with me when I hit a used bookstore, I will sometimes try to track down a copy. Sometimes one will leap off a shelf at me and I will remember it from the "To Read" list.

Sometimes decades have gone past from the time I set out to read something and the time I finally do. I wouldn't say I have wound up reading books I hate, but there have been at least a half-dozen things I have finished then stared off into space and wondered why on earth I just did so.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:03 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given that the production of an e-book and reader is a vastly more complex process than simply printing a book, who's really the fetishist here?

I would also be fine replacing our current "print and bind in China, then ship wherever" process with one involving something more like the inkjet printer I have on my endtable, and less like a steamroller.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:05 AM on November 26, 2012


I wouldn't say I have wound up reading books I hate, but there have been at least a half-dozen things I have finished then stared off into space and wondered why on earth I just did so.

I have never had any compunction about giving up on a book if it wasn't doing it for me, though. Granted, I've also had a couple books where I finished it on the hope that it must be about to get better, but then it didn't, but there are about 5 books I started within the past year that I only got a couple chapters into and realized I was bored, so I gave up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on November 26, 2012


Physical books already have this feature. We call it "libraries".

If you're speaking of public libraries, don't count on it. The ones that I'm familiar with are constantly shedding old books, to make room for newer ones. We can hope that they are keeping old classics - we'll still be able to find Huckleberry Finn and Gulliver's Travels in our local libraries, but what about Ralph124C 41+? I'd lay odds that a large percentage of the sci-fi books teenaged me borrowed from the town library are no longer on its shelves.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:28 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


My "to be read" pile grows and grows, and has languished for about two years, pretty much the same amt. of time I've had a iPad. I don't read books on it either, but web surfing, FaceBook, Twitter & stupid games seem to have sucked all my book time dry. I'm kinda beginning to hate that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:30 AM on November 26, 2012


If you're speaking of public libraries, don't count on it. The ones that I'm familiar with are constantly shedding old books, to make room for newer ones. We can hope that they are keeping old classics - we'll still be able to find Huckleberry Finn and Gulliver's Travels in our local libraries, but what about Ralph124C 41+? I'd lay odds that a large percentage of the sci-fi books teenaged me borrowed from the town library are no longer on its shelves.

Public libraries are a difficult institution in that they're trying to serve a audience with diverse tastes with very limited resources. There are plenty of people who want the library to stock obscure books they can't find in stores, and plenty of people who use it as a free substitute for book stores. Both are valid ways of using the library, but it's hard for them to coexist in the kind of space that most libraries have.

If the audience they're serving wants newer books then shedding older books to make room for them makes sense; the library is really only as useful as its patrons find it. On the other hand, there's an idea that libraries shouldn't be as responsive to the whims of taste as book stores; an idea that I think is correct. There's also something to be said for leaving books on the shelves that only a few people want because finding unpopular books is harder than finding popular books. The library might be the only resource for someone looking for something obscure and out of print in a small town, for instance. Still, shelf space is a very limited resource. I don't envy the people who have to work out that balancing act.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:44 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's this free and wondrous service that most American public libraries have called inter-library loan that to you might want to look into, if you're into obscure or hard-to-find books.
posted by raysmj at 7:51 AM on November 26, 2012


I understand the reasons that books disappear from libraries; I'm just pointing out that you can't count on them to have a copy of that book you read years ago, unless it's one of the acknowledged classics.

On preview: Inter-library loaning helps some, but it's by no means a complete solution.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:53 AM on November 26, 2012


Any idea what book he's referring to?

Sounds like John Ringo.
posted by BeeDo at 8:16 AM on November 26, 2012


Sounds like John Ringo.

What do you think, darling? Should I hate him?
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:30 AM on November 26, 2012


John Ringo is as good an argument for e-lit as any, because some books just aren't worth the paper to print them.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:40 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it's probably because at some level you find "reality" a bit of a disappointment.

I estimate that I've read 450 books in the last three years or so. That includes some re-reads, but may be a conservatively low estimate.

You know you are reading too many books - especially escapist pulp fiction - when you look at a book and you can't remember what happened in it. That's a bad sign.

My "to be read" pile grows and grows, and has languished for about two years, pretty much the same amt. of time I've had a iPad. I don't read books on it either, but web surfing, FaceBook, Twitter & stupid games seem to have sucked all my book time dry. I'm kinda beginning to hate that.

Get Stanza, or some other nice ebook app, and turn your iPad to airplane mode. I've spent about 10 times as many hours reading books on my ipod as I have online or doing other things.

But maybe that's just me. I'm really annoyed with film and television right now (except for Doctor Who and Community). I find most books to have better pacing and much better special effects.
posted by jb at 8:47 AM on November 26, 2012


Oh, huh... the article was adapted from a book he wrote. A whole book like that? ouch. The article mostly reminded me of bad stand-up, where you feel sort of squirmy and embarrassed for the performer... like he apparently thought the belted shorts thing was hilarious, but, yeah – no. And I don't really understand why I'm expected to be interested in how many books he's read; there didn't seem to be anything very novel (yes, I said that) about his habits or opinions.

I don't know... he just came off as self-satisfied and snobby and dull to me. But maybe I'm just bristling because he thinks that people who use e-readers can't possibly be reading good books.

I love "real" books, but the advent of the e-reader was one of the greatest things that has happened in my life, because I happen to live in a place where access to books in English is limited and expensive, so I bought one of the first Kindles, and it's been heavenly. Some people have small homes. Some people travel a lot. Some people move a lot. Some people don't live near bookstores or libraries. Some people need bigger print. Some people can't carry around heavy books. Some people can't afford to buy a lot of books, and an e-reader can be had for the price of several books, and then the classics are all freely available. But they can't tuck a metro ticket from that time they were in Paris into an e-reader, or blah blah Chateau Marmont blah blah Granada, etc., so they are poor people who probably don't even read the Wall Street Journal and obvious morons who will only read crappy books on their crappy e-readers and never have memories of anything lovely in their crappy lives because they don't have all the good taste and money and fascinating quirkiness of this Queenan guy.
posted by taz at 8:52 AM on November 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


You can't toss it around or take in the shower or a thousand other things that people who know how to really use books do all the time.

They don't have ziplock bags on your planet? And, unless you are reading plastic baby books, it's much easier to read an ebook in the shower - you can even read with water running over you, turning the pages with a touch through the bag.

ebook fanatics read in many more odd places than codex-clingers. Not just the bath/shower, but while doing laps in the pool (with the book half-submerged - yay drysacks), while walking home in the dark (backlit ipods are great then), while standing in line at the bank, while riding the elevator at work. If I have my PDA - and I always have my PDA - I have my book
posted by jb at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


A whole book like that? ouch.

I pretty much read that in the same internal voice I developed for Ignatius J. Reilly.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:58 AM on November 26, 2012


I agree with his feelings on "Ethan Frome".

Gods, I hated that book. Had words with my teacher about forcing that idiotic mess on us, when there were so many more interesting books to be had.

I'm not so sure about the rest.

The rest makes me want to track him down, give him a good hard shake, and ask him what the hell his damage is. What a load of pretentious twaddle.
posted by MissySedai at 9:01 AM on November 26, 2012


> Largest Personal Libraries on LibraryThing. Not all of these libraries represent "books read" but many are.

On what basis do you make that statement? I've never met anyone with a collection in the thousands who claimed to have read them all, and I would find such a claim extremely dubious. I think I have some standing to speak to this, since I am number 441 on that list (6,262 books).

> It really isn't. There are so many practical tricks and techniques that actual books afford and ereaders don't that I really don't think you can actually be an "avid reader"1 and prefer ebooks.

In the first place, Malice didn't say anything about preferring e-books; that's a dishonest addition chosen to make your position look more defensible than it is. Furthermore, your footnote is insulting. I am as avid a reader as you'll find (as everyone who has ever known me can attest), and I love my Kindle—not only does it mean I don't have to lug several heavy books around wherever I go (I have a mostly irrational fear of not having enough reading material—not entirely irrational, because I have in fact been caught in unexpected transportation stoppages for which I was unprepared reading-wise) but it enables me to read books I would otherwise not be able to (since a physical copy is hard to come by and I abhor reading long texts on a computer), like a very long Russian novel (Narezhny's Российский Жилблаз, the first half published in 1814, the rest not until the twentieth century because of tsarist censorship—a delightful book, with one of the few wholly positive portrayals of a Jewish character in nineteenth-century Russian literature) that I've been happily working on for the last couple of months. If you personally don't like e-readers, fine, to each their own, but don't elevate your personal preferences into a general law.

> With ebooks, corporations have inserted themselves into that gap.

LOL. Who do you think is responsible for those paper books you fetishize?
posted by languagehat at 9:02 AM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


eBooks are not best designed for footnotes. I rarely refer to them when reading standard works, but in novels or other books where they are used as a device - I believe Infinite Jest does this, and Jen Lancaster does it a lot - it's a right pain to try and read it at the right time.

Yes, this is very frustrating. I know someone who works in ebook formatting - I should ask them why it seems so difficult to implement good referencing/footnotes in the epub format.

This is one of those arguments against e-readers I simply don't understand. Why would you write in a book? What are you writing?

Actually, many ereaders have note-taking and annotation functions that are far superior to writing in the margin of a codex. The more recent Kobos, for example, allow you to highlight and add notes all over your books; my SO does his research notes this way - and then can export them through calibre right into his research files on his desktop. This sure beats the crabbed little paper notes I have taken from codices, and which I then had to just file by author/title or try to retype into my computer.

As for people who write in library books: there is a circle of hell, just for them - it probably involves someone writing inane and useless comments all over their naked bodies with a scratchy pen for eternity.
posted by jb at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2012


tl;dr

I still cannot understand how one human being could ask another to read "Death of a Salesman" or "Ethan Frome" and then expect to remain on speaking terms.
posted by wittgenstein at 9:04 AM on November 26, 2012


How am I supposed to read it too without buying a second copy thereof on a second device (which I'd also have to buy)? If I think he'd enjoy a book I've just finished I, well, hand it over.

This is one problem that a lot of people have with DRM ebooks (and apps, for that matter). There are a couple of solutions: my SO and I have the same account with many companies so we can share apps, ebooks, etc. My father-in-law never pirates ebooks, but he will happily buy them and then remove the DRM so that he can share them with his wife.
posted by jb at 9:06 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. A mefi post just went up about the Loeb Classics. Many of these books are out of print.

What that means is that if this Queenan guy needs to look up some footnote from the Loeb's Procopius, he may have to...well, kindly ask one of those inferior e-reader people to look it up for him.
posted by vacapinta at 9:08 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I have a mostly irrational fear of not having enough reading material—not entirely irrational, because I have in fact been caught in unexpected transportation stoppages for which I was unprepared reading-wise)

So, so not irrational. I love my kindle in large part because it allows me to easily transport my main book as well as my emergency backup books without hauling the extra weight or switching to a bigger bag.
posted by rtha at 9:20 AM on November 26, 2012


I read Ethan Frome in school, where it seemed to be selected mainly because it fit in with a unit on regional literature and was short (important because our school used block scheduling for half the year, which was fine for everything except English where it effectively cut in half the number of books we could read). I was honestly kind of surprised to learn that that it was part of the standard high school canon. I didn't hate it, but I didn't feel any real reason to keep reading it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:20 AM on November 26, 2012


If you personally don't like e-readers, fine, to each their own, but don't elevate your personal preferences into a general law.

Concur. And it goes both ways, too.

I have an acquaintance who likes to declare himself the Final Arbiter of Everything. He has lately determined that actual physical books are "legacy media", and that if you still buy them, you're a hopeless Luddite and not a "real" reader. I have actually slapped him when he has carried on in that vein too long in my presence - most recently in my home, when he "couldn't believe", loudly and at length, that I still had so many "legacy" books in every room of the house. (This is a guy famous in our social circles for having had an entire room in his apartment dedicated to bookshelves stuffed full.)

It's horseshit. Similarly, it's horseshit if one is going to disparage someone for preferring e-readers. Preferring one over the other doesn't make one better or more avid or whatever it is that makes one feel superior to the reader who likes some other format, it just makes one someone with a preference for their format of choice.

I love the tactile experience of a physical book, and when I'm reading in bed, I often prefer a physical book. It's soothing, relaxing, a part of my falling asleep ritual. But I also adore my Kindle, and the ability to drop 500 books into my purse all at once, without a care as to weight or worry that I'll finish a book on the bus or train and not have anything else to read. I hate not having anything to read. Makes my teeth itch.
posted by MissySedai at 9:22 AM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Print vs Ebooks is a false binary.

I have several sources for books: a Hierarchy of Read, if you will. If the book is from before the 20th Century, I'll usually start at Project Gutenberg and load it on my Nook. Failing that, I'll turn to my local libraries (one down the street from my house, the other across the street from my office) and check it out there. And if it's unavailable at those spots, I'll turn to the "local" Barnes & Noble (all of our real local bookstores are gone now) physical store, then online. A DRM'd ebook would be a last-gasp solution for me, but I've only ever bought one of those.

For books from the 20th Century (actually about 1920) on, it's the same steps, minus Gutenberg.

(Not counted above are the few used book stores still around, and the occasional thrift store run.)

We are living in a Golden Age of book reading. That there are Evil Corporate Forces trying to control that should not be surprising, as they are trying to do the same in every other area of our lives. It is up to us to control our own reading experience.

But no matter what, it seems to me that readers hooting at each other's reading media is precisely the opposite of what we should be doing to combat evil.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:23 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Not counted above are the few used book stores still around, and the occasional thrift store run.)

Used bookstores are dangerous. I have 2 favorites - John K. King Used and Rare in Detroit, and The Dawn Treader in Ann Arbor. I have actually become physically lost in the former (it's an old, huge warehouse), and I am usually mentally lost in the latter, as I have a terrible habit of sitting down in a corner to read something that has caught my eye, and forgetting that I do need to at some point go home.
posted by MissySedai at 9:36 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I thought the Irish liked Guiness, and nothing but Guiness.
Except drunk poets.
I've never heard the Irish are great book lovers trope in my life.


This is pretty offensive. Anyway, how do you think we read the drunk poets?
posted by distorte at 9:41 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


(btw, I just checked and Queenan's book is available as an e-book. Now I want to raid his closets to see if he has belted shorts, golf clubs, and a well-thumbed copy of Atlas Shrugged in there.)
posted by taz at 9:45 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Belted shorts belted shorts melted shorts.

I too would like to read the "books about parallel universes where nine-eyed sea serpents join forces with deaf Valkyries to rescue high-strung albino virgins from hermaphrodite centaurs". I mean I enjoyed Varley's "Titan" trilogy.

My current library stands at 370 books. I estimate I've owned about 1200 books over my fortyish years of life; I'd guess I've read maybe 2000 at most. More if you count individual issues of comic books. I don't, but I do count graphic novels.

Getting an ipad has meant more reading for me. Reading books on my phone is awkward, okay for short spates on the bus but not the bulk of the book. And the computer is for other things. But the pad works so well. A single purpose e-reader might be better, but I don't want more gadgets if I can help it.

I just wish footnotes weren't so fucking awkward in e-readers. They could be far better.
posted by egypturnash at 10:07 AM on November 26, 2012


I wrote about science fiction for the major paper in my AP English class, and decided to count how many I'd read to establish a basis for talking about the field in general as I planned to do.

I turned out to own ~2500 sf paperbacks, every one of which I'd read-- except for The Martian Sphinx by Keith Woodcott (outstandingly awful even set against so many other terrible books)-- and counted another 1500 volumes in the card catalog of the Denver main library before I started feeling a little weird and called it enough.

I doubt my teacher really believed me, but I wasn't sure I wanted him to anyway.
posted by jamjam at 10:20 AM on November 26, 2012


I can understand reading in the bathtub. But reading in the shower?

I do not understand this. A way to fill time while waiting for the conditioner to work?
posted by Egg Shen at 10:26 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, huh... the article was adapted from a book he wrote. A whole book like that? ouch.

Try a whole body of work like that. Joe Queenan is insufferable.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:46 AM on November 26, 2012


I love books and I read constantly, but I quit collecting and started giving them away after I moved across the country for the third time. I have no compunction now about lending something to a friend knowing I'll likely never see it again. Who cares? There's the library right down the street! And I can always buy it again if it's something I particularly care about owning.

How the hell do you count how many books you've read?

Maybe you might have a spreadsheet in which you catalog everything you've read and the order in which you read them, with a separate page for each year. And then store it on Google documents so you can have access to it wherever you are, just in case.
posted by something something at 11:37 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can understand reading in the bathtub. But reading in the shower? I do not understand this. A way to fill time while waiting for the conditioner to work?

Maybe if you're a really serious addict, the withdrawal symptoms kick in after only 5 minutes?
posted by jb at 11:47 AM on November 26, 2012


It's why I take 3-minute showers.
posted by rtha at 11:51 AM on November 26, 2012


There are so many practical tricks and techniques that actual books afford and ereaders don't that I really don't think you can actually be an "avid reader"1 and prefer ebooks.

Would you say the same thing about library readers, i.e. those who borrow books? If not, what's the difference?

If you are a poor (or just cheap) reader pirated e-books online are great. I just read like 10 "lesser" PKD novels that I downloaded online for free. It turns out I really liked only one of them--Galactic Pot-Healer.

So, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a physical edition for a reasonable price.

I wanted to read A Song for Ice and Fire to know what everyone was talking about, so I DL'ed all 5 books and cruised through them in a few months. I didn't enjoy them enough to consider purchasing the actual books. It was information. I wanted to know it. I got it.

There are some books (Don DeLillo's Ratner's Star, TP's Mason & Dixon, DFW's Interviews, anything by Brautigan, Kesey, or Dick, etc.) that I will buy extra copies of if I find decent deals (or rare versions).

I've read and very much enjoyed Kazuo Ishiguro's books--Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, The Unconsoled--but the Unconsoled is really the one one I care about owning.

So when I decided I wanted to read An Artist of the Floating World, should I put in a hold request at my local library and wait for it to come in? ... or just DL it and read it and if I like it, buy it? I still love libraries, but I prefer the latter approach.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:19 PM on November 26, 2012


Why would you write in a book? What are you writing?

I have written my own stories in the margins of several books, most commonly TP's V for some reason. I'm not sure why. Cheap self-publishing for when I sell the book to a used bookstore? Secret treasures for my descendants to potentially discover when leafing through my library after I'm dead? ... Yeah, I like that last one.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:19 PM on November 26, 2012


I rent. I live in London and don't earn 100k or have wealthy parents, so will probably be renting 4 evs. I also currently house-share, so I have to fit all my books into my room. I took a bit of convincing to be won over to the eReader, but as most of my books came from the library out of necessity of cost and space, I've never owned a lot of the books I really like in physical form. I'm keeping my out of print books (there's one that is both mine and my SO's favourite book ever, so I'm not getting rid of that, thanks) because libraries here do not take donations from the public, and my library of sewing/crochet books as the diagrams and pictures are crucial, but I'm welcoming the freeing up of space that the electronic format brings.

I must confess to enjoying Joe Queenan's books in the past.
posted by mippy at 12:21 PM on November 26, 2012


Try a whole body of work like that. Joe Queenan is insufferable.

Our cranky negative comedian Joe Queenan, the contrarian Irishman (well, son of a hard drinkin Irishman). It's his schtick. He writes books like Balsamic Dreams, a critique of the Baby Boomers and Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, a tour of low-brow American pop culture and Imperial Caddy, a scathing view of Dan Quayle and the American Vice-Presidency.
posted by stbalbach at 12:30 PM on November 26, 2012


So the e-reader is for all the books I want to come with me.

And yeah. Somebody gave me 1Q84 last year. I didn't really enjoy the cover (or the story) that much, but sure, I generally read from the hardcover book when I was reading at home.

But standing on a crowded train or even sitting in a doctor's office? My phone works much better. I DL'ed a pirated epub of the book for that purpose. (I can't imagine why they don't include a free epub download with every hardcover purchase.)

Also, Ctrl-F vs. frantically searching through pages and pages looking for that one reference? HUGE. I DL books just to be able to search them.

I start a book in 1978 and finish it 34 years later, without enjoying a single minute of the enterprise.

Uh....if you didn't like it why didn't you stop?


Information can be valuable regardless of whether or not it is pleasant.

Given that the production of an e-book and reader is a vastly more complex process than simply printing a book ...

That is a huge (and erroneous, imo) assumption. The "reader" can be a text editor or Web browser.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:32 PM on November 26, 2012


6,000 books = 200 books a year for 30 years. Finish a book every 1.8 days. This seems insane to me. Some of you say you read more than this - how is that humanly possible? This definitely does seem like a disorder to me. How can there be any real enjoyment or understanding/contemplation of what you've read at this pace?
posted by naju at 12:33 PM on November 26, 2012


Finish a book every 1.8 days. This seems insane to me. Some of you say you read more than this - how is that humanly possible?

Well, if we set the standard reading pace at 60 pages per hour, and the standard book at, oh, 300 pages? That's about 3 hours of reading per day.

Isn't that what Americans average for watching TV? 3 hours/day?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:35 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, most of us probably read a bit faster than that.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2012


How can there be any real enjoyment or understanding/contemplation of what you've read at this pace?

Picture books go pretty fast.

more seriously: how long a book takes depends on the book, how fast you read, and how much time you give to reading. I read the first Harry Potter in about 1.8 days, because I couldn't put it down. It took me weeks to read only part of Anna Karenina, and (unsurprisingly) I never finished it. I read more books when not working an academic work than when I am, because novels go very quickly compared to academic books.

6000 does seem high, but who am I to say?
posted by jb at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2012


But currently, I read about three 200 to 300-page novels per week, more if I spend most of the weekend reading. They are relatively short and easy reading; some are re-reads.
posted by jb at 12:41 PM on November 26, 2012


Why would you write in a book? What are you writing?

...Secret treasures for my descendants to potentially discover when leafing through my library after I'm dead? ... Yeah, I like that last one.

My best friend got a book of Rilke's poetry from one of her boyfriends with the original on one page and an English translation on the facing page, but which also included alternative translations by the previous owner for many of the poems in its generous margins.

I thought the penciled-in translations were really quite good when I was idly leafing through it one day, and when I turned to the front, I saw that it just happened to be a volume from the personal library of Theodore Roethke.
posted by jamjam at 1:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd lay odds that a large percentage of the sci-fi books teenaged me borrowed from the town library are no longer on its shelves.

Kirth Gerson: You are perhaps referring to an author I enjoy a great deal as well. When I was an impressionable teen a couple of decades ago, my local library had over fifty of his titles. Currently they have one, plus one of his short stories in an anthology. Woohoo.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:10 PM on November 26, 2012


'books about parallel universes where nine-eyed sea serpents and blind marsupials join forces with deaf Valkyries to rescue high-strung albino virgins from the clutches of hermaphrodite centaurs'

Any idea what book he's referring to?


I think that was the 38th "Xanth" novel.
posted by Pistache at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Information can be valuable regardless of whether or not it is pleasant.

This is true, obvs, but it's called "pleasure reading" for a reason. Not a lot of people feel compelled to finish a pleasure read if the book is actually unpleasant. I know I don't. Other than being part of his comic shtick, I have no idea why Queenan would devote leisure time to reading books he dislikes. But nothing in Queenan's piece makes me want to read, much less buy, the book it's extracted from. His "Hey, I like books! I guess I must be an addict!" routine would shame Rodney Dangerfield.

The "reader" can be a text editor or Web browser.

In truth the modern publishing industry and the ereader industry are both massively complex systems, but the latter is complex by necessity while the former is complex by evolution. Printed books can be produced with the resources of the 15th century; ebooks require the resources of the 21st. My point was, if there's any fetishization of the physical object going on here it's on the side of the product that needs all the advanced technology just to make it work.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:21 PM on November 26, 2012


My point was, if there's any fetishization of the physical object going on here it's on the side of the product that needs all the advanced technology just to make it work.

Can you explain this a little more, because I'm not really getting it. When I use the word fetishization, I'm referring to the tendency to ascribe physical objects with qualities that are quasi-religious, supernatural, or otherwise divorced from the purely physical attributes of an object. The author plainly does that, talking about physical books as sacred, how they evoke memories, comparing them to the Sistine Chapel. That looks like fetishization to me (which is not an intrinsically negative thing). I've never heard anyone talk about how their Kindle is sacred. I also don't see the connection between fetishization and how much technology is necessary to produce a thing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:45 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other than being part of his comic shtick, I have no idea why Queenan would devote leisure time to reading books he dislikes.

What?! He's a professional writer. You sound like Phil Roth here. Even if I don't personally enjoy a book, I can usually learn something about writing from it, especially if others consider it good/valuable.

In truth the modern publishing industry and the ereader industry are both massively complex systems, but the latter is complex by necessity while the former is complex by evolution.

190k. Someone could write a text editor in a few hours (yes, of course, there is a massive infrastructure of existent software code to support any such project, but ...). Go try to print a book in a few hours and you'll come back with a Kinko's binder.

Ah, but you're talking about the industry, not the technology. But it's far easier for me to publish my own e-book now than it has ever been to publish a printed book ever.

Printed books can be produced with the resources of the 15th century; ebooks require the resources of the 21st.

But isn't that like saying that writing a book is far more complicated now than in the 15th century ... because you have to consider the history of the last 5 centuries?

Someone writing a digital book now does not need to invent that 21 century technology herself is what I mean to say ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:08 PM on November 26, 2012


Well, if we set the standard reading pace at 60 pages per hour, and the standard book at, oh, 300 pages? That's about 3 hours of reading per day.?

[polite cough]
posted by IjonTichy at 2:19 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have two hours of commuting a day. It;s pretty easy to finish a book that way - especially when you decide to give up the vice of the evening freesheet, to be read only to allow oneself one's Two Minute Hate.
posted by mippy at 2:40 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What?! He's a professional writer.

If Joe Queenan's spent 24 years struggling with Middlemarch trying to be a better writer, then I'm afraid he's failed. If he's spent 24 years trying to relax and enjoy a book he loathes, then he's failed at that as well. I hope Joe Queenan is a masochist because at this point it's either masochism or he's wasted his life.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:54 PM on November 26, 2012


I'm usually listening to one book and reading another. 2 or 3 hours of work in the garden a day, average audiobook around 12 hours-- which translates to one or two audiobooks a week. Sometimes the book I'm listening to is so good I look for activities I can do to prolong my listening time. Last week was like that; I was listening to The Orchardist and I could not stop because it was such an incredible experience.

I've had my eReader for one year now. I must like it because I have bought several used books in that time, yet somehow I never get around to reading them. The major reason I dislike the eReader though is that I miss seeing the book cover with the title and author and graphic every time I pick up the book. This is no small thing. There have been times when I see a book and I may not recognize the title, I may not recognize the author but I remember that cover and I know that at some point I had it on loan from the library and it sat on the kitchen table for a week or two and therefore I probably read it.

As to Joe Queenan. I clicked on the link because I used to look forward to his snark in Movieline magazine. I have to admit however I haven't enjoyed anything he has written in the last 15 years or so. This article included.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:07 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah mefi, I saw this title and anticipated a ferocious race to the bottom to establish who's the biggest reader, whose reads are longest, hardest, goes all night etc etc. You didn't disappoint.

I used to make a point of reading being a big part of my identity (and, it is, to be fair, but I made a point about it), even making a rule that the next partner I had after a bad break up would have to read at least as much me.

But then I met someone who didn't read as much as me, and it didn't actually matter one bit. And to be frank all the people I'd met who read as much as me were either old/retired, family members, kind of weird, had terrible taste, or all of the above.

I still read a lot. I try not to skite about it, because it doesn't make you intelligent, compassionate, moral, a good person. You know, the stuff that actually matters.

John Wesley said it best: "Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge".

PS, I am convinced that regular readers who dislike ebooks have basically never used one. This holds true for literally every person I know who's down on them - I include myself, until I got one.
posted by smoke at 3:15 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


PS, I am convinced that regular readers who dislike ebooks have basically never used one. This holds true for literally every person I know who's down on them - I include myself, until I got one.

Yeah.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:19 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malice - I was talking about the author's gender, not yours. Quoth he, "Certain things are perfect the way they are. The sky, the Pacific Ocean, procreation and the Goldberg Variations all fit this bill, and so do books." Procreation may end at conception, for a (het cis) man, and thus be perfect in itself, but many women contend that the pregnancy and delivery parts could use a bit of tuning up.

Further thoughts: Any book that takes me more than a year to finish I need to restart, anyway - I don't believe this 34 years for a book thing. (I finally finished Dune two weeks ago, and by Queenan's standards it took me at least 20 years, but it really took me about a week. I had to reread the first three chapters about four times to figure out what the hell was going on, and I still don't know why there was a map in the front.)
I suspect Queenan's close friends don't lend him books not because they know he won't get around to reading them but because he's such a prick about it. People who aren't big readers often try to find common ground by recommending the few books they like, which I find kind and endearing.
posted by gingerest at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2012


Thanks ricochet biscuit, wikipedia doesn't seem to have a page on "patronising", I'll send you the link as soon as I've written it up.
posted by smoke at 3:42 PM on November 26, 2012


Procreation may end at conception, for a (het cis) man, and thus be perfect in itself, but many women contend that the pregnancy and delivery parts could use a bit of tuning up.

Quoted for truth, oh god, the truth.

I've been re-read Bujold's Vorkosigan series (SF, set about 2900 AD), and wishing so hard that we had uterine replicators (trope namer?).

And to get back to the Great Ebook Debate(TM), Bujold's publisher for the Vorkosigan books - Baen - seems to be a trailblazer in the promotion and sales of ebooks, offering both free samples as a marketing strategy, and selling affordable, DRM-free ebooks - I happily bought the most recent Vorkosigan book for $6. I wish more publishers were thinking like Baen.
posted by jb at 3:51 PM on November 26, 2012


PS, I am convinced that regular readers who dislike ebooks have basically never used one. This holds true for literally every person I know who's down on them - I include myself, until I got one.

Hah. I was sort of "meh" towards ebooks when they were first getting to be A Thing. Not of the "OMG, you can have my paper books when you pry them from my cold dead hands!" stripe, but more of the "Fuck, I'd be too afraid of dropping the damned thing in the bathtub." Lo, my lament was heard, and there's a nice selection of waterproof cases available!

(Yeah, I know, ziploc baggie. I like something a little sturdier, though, as I'm a klutz.)
posted by MissySedai at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2012


People who read a lot are the less-ons.
posted by Twang at 5:22 PM on November 26, 2012


I don't have an ebook reader because I have kids, so... a) I don't have money for an e-reader b) I don't have money for books anymore c) I don't have time to read books anymore.

The end.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:09 PM on November 26, 2012


My fear is that I won't discover what I do and don't like about an e-reader until I've sunk the money. This is based in part on the fact I consistently end up loathing my phones about three weeks into ownership. I know it doesn't have to be a huge amount of money, but it would still bother me to end up with an e-reader I never used because I hated it. And I definitely don't want to have to have a conversation with myself about how I *should* be using the e-reader every time I want to read something.

I'm neurotic, is what I'm getting at here, and I definitely have no grounds for putting on airs about it. (Uh, my metaphors are confused but you get the idea, right?)

Also it turned out that Dune was pretty fun but man, Snidely Whiplash could have given those Harkonnens subtlety lessons.
posted by gingerest at 11:41 PM on November 26, 2012


gingerest: most people I know transitioned into using an ereader by first reading on their phones/pdas - I started with my old Palm which came with one of the first ereader apps on the market. If you have a smartphone with a decent screen, there are lots of apps and you can check it out. I find it very similar to reading on a dedicated ereader (page turning is the same, etc).

The screen is, of course, smaller than dedicated ereader (though not much smaller than the Kobo mini), and it is backlit - but considering how popular ipads (also backlit) have been as ereaders, I've wondered whether the uncomfortableness that a lot of people have with reading off monitors comes from the placement of the monitor itself and the relatively low resolution per inch rather than the backlit nature. I have trouble focusing on monitors due to the distance from my eyes - obviously, I can hold a PDA/ereader much closer to myself.

The other option is to borrow an ereader from someone. I lent one to my mom for just that reason - first, I had some books I wanted to share which I only had as ebooks, and second, I was thinking of getting her an ereader but didn't want to take a risk that she really disliked it. She adjusted easily - but she still happily reads paper books. She just flips back and forth, depending on what format she has for the book that she wants to read.
posted by jb at 7:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This whole thread was worth it for finding out there's another Vorkosigan book - thanks jb!
posted by jacalata at 11:37 AM on November 27, 2012


My fear is that I won't discover what I do and don't like about an e-reader until I've sunk the money. This is based in part on the fact I consistently end up loathing my phones about three weeks into ownership.

That's what I was gonna say. If you've got a app-enabled phone (probably iOS or Android?) ... you already have an e-reader. You can try the Kindle App, or the iBooks app, or FBReader, or my personal choice, Aldiko. I think Calibre has a reader too (I use it for epub production/conversion).

My wife got an iPad (v1) at a business conference a few years ago, and my parents gave me a Kindle Fire for my birthday when it came out, but I swear I read much much more on my shitty little 3.5-inch LG Ally phone running Android 2.2 than I do on either of those other devices (I never use the iPad for reading, and only occasionally use the Fire). I literally read the entire ASOIF series (to date) on my little phone while commuting.

That brings up another nice thing about e-readers. I don't anticipate having to buy reading glasses anytime cuz I can just crank up the font. What, five words a page? Right on!
posted by mrgrimm at 12:09 PM on November 27, 2012


When I was a temp artworker - about fifteen years ago - and so spent a lot of time on buses, I found that jacket pockets and paperback books were made for each other, especially if the book was a second-hand Penguin. I still think that's the ideal reading set-up (and hope to return to it one day), although when I finally finished Gravity's Rainbow - after several attempts over twelve years - I had to carry that in my bag. No jacket pocket large or strong enough.

Recently, I've travelled to and from Japan, and the combination of compound jet-lag and Lufthansa's woeful in-flight entertainment offerings (I ended up watching the remake of Total Recall. Twice) meant that I've been getting a lot of reading done on my iDevices - with the iPad propped up next to my head when I'm in the futon, I can set iBooks to night-time mode and read until I fall asleep. The synchronising with the iPhone is excellent, though. I'd still prefer a real book, but don't think I would actually have carried the five Dorothy L. Sayers novels, three Terry Pratchett novels and one Neil Gaiman novel I've read over the last fortnight.

Luckily, I remember nothing from books I've read after I've finished them, apart from whether I enjoyed them or not. So I can read them all over again.
posted by Grangousier at 12:33 PM on November 27, 2012


When I was a temp artworker - about fifteen years ago - and so spent a lot of time on buses, I found that jacket pockets and paperback books were made for each other, especially if the book was a second-hand Penguin.

I'd say the same thing about paperback books and the back pockets of blue jeans.

although when I finally finished Gravity's Rainbow - after several attempts over twelve years - I had to carry that in my bag.

I have one of the smallest paperback editions of GR, and I think I was able to cram it into the back pocket of my biggest jeans.

Similarly, it took me about 8 tries to finish it. ;)

So I can read them all over again.

Read GR again. I enjoyed it much more the second time.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2012


I was able to cram it into the back pocket of my biggest jeans.

Wouldn't that be like sitting on George Costanza's wallet? Or at least a bit lop-sided? Could you put Infinite Jest in the other pocket to balance it up?
posted by Grangousier at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2012


Wouldn't that be like sitting on George Costanza's wallet?

Oh, indeed. To be fair, I can't sit down with most paperbacks in my back pocket. You can't sit down with it in. It's just for walking around, keeping hands free, etc. The buses and trains I ride are usually way too crowded to sit anyway.

I'm also pretty sure there's never been a version of IJ that skinny (yet). I admit I have a few copies of that one too ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:06 PM on November 27, 2012


I used to read Spanish paperbacks on the commute to my summer work-study job. I didn't know much Spanish, so I brought a pocket dictionary with me. I held the dictionary to the back of the book I was reading, and I flipped the two over when I found a word I didn't know. I think I must have spent more time looking up words in the dictionary than actually reading anything. Cortázar's local-color stories gave me a hell of a time.

Eventually, the set-up annoyed me so much that I switched back to English books. This is why my Spanish hasn't advanced much past the hola-dónde-están-los-aseos phase.

If my Kindle Fire accepted foreign dictionaries, I'd take it around more. But I'd also need a commute, which I don't have any longer.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:10 PM on November 27, 2012


Independent Bookstores Find Their Footing
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:12 PM on November 28, 2012


For a guy who reads compulsively, he sure as fuck sounds like he doesn't enjoy it. How sad for him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who Is Tracking Your Reading Habits? An Ebook Privacy Update
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:09 AM on November 30, 2012


The Emotional Life Of Books
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:52 AM on December 4, 2012


Why second-hand bookshops are just my type
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:46 AM on December 10, 2012


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