I Read…Therefore…

A few months ago Never Not Reading Posted asked if reading makes us better. Simply, is reading more valuable than say, watching TV. I thought this was a pretty interesting avenue to drive down so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Do we think that people who read a lot are smarter? Better educated? Erudite?

Or are people who spend their time doing other things just as smart?

I can argue that reading words off a page is active…you are pushing your brain more because you are deciphering the letters and words and sentences to make sense of what’s in front of you. To read means that you are paying attention to not only reading the words but understanding the meaning.

Do you engage your brain the same way by watching TV? By listening to a podcast?

How do you describe readers? What words would you use?

How do you describe non readers? What words would you use?

Prepandemic, I read about 5 books a month. During pandemic we all know that my reading was off the charts. I read because I enjoy reading, but it was also one of the few outlets that I had to keep engaged. With the warmer weather and more things opening in New York, I definitely can see that I’m reading less- I only finished one book last week…But with all my reading, did I become “better” or was I just less bored? If I had watched TV that whole time instead of reading, would that have changed the person I am now? Would I be better or worse or would nothing change?

Ok- what are your thoughts on readers versus the rest of the world?

Never Not Reading is on hiatus right now, but if she does return to blogging I will supply her information.

What do you See?

I’m sort of cheating today. My original intention for this post was to give you various ELA (English Language Arts) questions from different exams that students need to take. But when I looked at the questions, I realized that the passages were too long to include more than one example, so I am going to try to do an abbreviated example.

nysedregents.org January 2018

This is a passage from the New York State Regents exam that all High School students in New York state are required to take. I think that you must pass this exam in order to graduate.

If you want to play along, read the above passage.

nysedregents.org January 2018

These are the questions that go along with the exam.

Do you think you can answer them correctly? Let me rephrase that: Do you think that you can answer them the way the New York State Board of Regents thinks is correct? Can you make a case for all the answers to be correct depending on how you look at it? Or that they are equally wrong?

Here’s where the subjective/objective thing comes into play: How much does ones background, feelings, etc enter into the equation when trying to ascertain what the “right” answer is?

Is it possible to have an answer that is more right?

Now let’s jump to the next part of my thoughts:

In a world where we can all interpret things in different ways, how do we communicate with one another?

If Person A looks at something one way, and Person B looks at it another way…how do we learn to understand one another?

My background, feelings, experiences make me feel that something is a certain way. Someone with the opposite background might see something the opposite of the way I see/saw it?

In a world where no one is wrong, how do we move forward?

If no one is right, and no one is wrong, how do we resolve conflict? How do we come to an agreement? How do we fix things?

So while you are reading the passage and answering the questions, think about the greater context. Think about why you think one answer is right and one is wrong. Think about why someone might have a different answer to the question.

I will give you the correct answers on Sunday, and possibly in the podcast that will eventually align with this post.

Think

Discuss

Full disclosure: I chose this exam because this is the exam my daughter and her classmates took and I have a sort of baseline as to how actual students did on the exam.

My Month in Books- March

It’s time for March Book Madness! This is what I read from February 25 till March 24.

TitleAuthorHow I heard about bookRating
Anxious PeopleFredrik Backmannot sure1
Klara and the SunKazuo IshiguroGood Morning America Book Club2
BraveyAlexi PappasReal Simple3
Finlay Donovan is Killing ItEllie CosimanoPersonal browse at physical Barnes & Noble4
All The Bright PlacesJennifer Nivenmy daughter5
What’s Mine and YoursNaima CosterJenna Book Club (Today Show)6
Infinite CountryPatricia EngelReese’s Book Club7
Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary that Will Actually Help to Get Your Life TogetherRachel Wilkerson MillerGood Housekeeping8
The Ex TalkRachel Lynn SolomonPenguin Newsletter9
Super HostKate RussoPersonal browse at physical Barnes and Noble10
How the One Armed Sister Sweeps Her HouseCherie JonesGood Morning America Book Club11
This is the order in which I liked the books. It does not mean that the top one is the great American novel, a page turner or the feel good book of the century. Nor does it mean that the bottom book is bad. It just means that some books made me feel more than others.
This month’s BINGO card is courtesy of vromansbookstore.com

I may have only read 11 books, but I was lucky in what I read!! BINGO on the first try with this card!!

When I Podcast about this I will give a bit more insight into these books if you are interested in my unscripted commentary!!

To Be….Or Not

Did Shakespeare actually write what he was credited with writing?

For Christmas my daughter gave me a copy of “Shakespeare For Every Day of the Year” edited by Allie Esiri. (I am woefully behind on my reading this every day…). I also recently read “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell, a fictional account of the death of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, and subsequent reason for the play. AS such, I’ve been thinking about other plagued times…

Historically speaking, we know that Shakespeare had twins, one named Hamnet and we know he died. We also know that there is a play called “Hamlet”. As there was no Google back then, or TMZ, we can only delve so much into life at this time. Much of what we talk about is speculation. But, in a world where we consider whether or not there should be right answers in math, is there anything above speculation? What are facts? How do we know if we are interpreting things properly?

The works credited to Shakespeare are true masterpieces. The themes are still relevant today. People fall in love with those that theirparents don’t approve of, we stab each other in the back, suicide is still contemplated. Human nature really hasn’t changed all that much.

So when faced with a body of work as diverse and extraordinary as this, as we look at it hundreds of years later…

Does it matter who the author actually is?

Sure, the correct person should be credited for their work. Sure, it’s nice to know if something was taken from someone’s true life story.

But for the casual reader of this work…

Is it relevant?

So for today’s questions:

  1. Overall- Shakespeare yay or neigh?
  2. Who actually wrote it REALLY matters…?
  3. Who actually wrote it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the plays and sonnets…?
  4. Who’s is Shakespeare?
  5. Shakespeare should be cancelled because he is so totally not woke

Discuss:

Rent or Buy

Do you buy books, or do you borrow them from the library?

I love the idea of a library. A system that lends out books to people. This allows all people no matter what their circumstances, to be able to read. Learn. Educate themselves. A library shows true equality: anyone can borrow/read anything they want. When my daughter was little I used to take her to the library at least three times a week. We knew the time of every story hour of every library within two miles of my house. My daughters love of reading and learning began from the time I would park her little stroller in the picture book section and we would just look, and read. She saw endless possibilities in the library, and I have to assume her early exposure led her to be the curious, intelligent young woman that she has become.

I love bookstores. Not a week goes by where I have not been inside of a bookstore, whether it me a small independently owned one, or a large chain. Bookstores are my happy place. At a bookstore I can see the world open up before my eyes.

I have borrowed books from the library because I want to keep the libraries open. I want to show the world that free libraries are an important part of our society.

I have bought a lot of books, both physical and electronic from book stores. I want to monetarily support authors and publishers and book stores of all ilk. I want to show the world that book stores are part of out society.

So what’s better? Borrowing books from a library or buying books from a store?

There are people who proudly tell you they buy their books, and their are people who proudly state that they borrow their books.

Is one superior to the other?

One does save you money. But the other does support those in the arts. How do the scales balance?

I admit that I am more likely to buy an ebook right now. I like having books in my library. I like the ability to reread a book for book club. I like that my daughter and I share books. I like having a book available the exact second that I want it. I know I’m a little spoiled with this easy access to books. But books make me happy like nothing else does. If I happen to visit a small, indie bookstore I will buy something. The other day I visited Posman books in Chelsea Market and purchased a poetry book because I thought reading a poem in a physical book each night would be a good send off to sleep. Sometimes I won’t even purchase a book though. Sometimes I’ll just buy something cute that I know they will make a bit of profit on because I want all physical book stores to survive.

But there was a time when the library was part of my weekly to do list. But that fell off the radar a bit as my life got busier. But I still support my local library with donations and I used to volunteer there when they needed help with things.

So are you a buyer or a borrower? A little of both?

Do you think it is more important to help out one as opposed to the other?

How do you feel about this issue?

Discuss

https://anchor.fm/laover50/episodes/Highlights-of-the-Week-That-Was–March-7-ervnv5

My Month in Books- February

NYC had a lot of snow this month- 8th highest total ever for a February. Here’s what I read from January 27-February 24:

TitleAuthorHow I heard about bookRating
The House in the Cerulean SeaT.J. KluneI don’t know1
The Thursday Murder ClubRichard OsmanI don’t know2
Send For MeLauren FoxJenna (Today Show)3
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoTaylor Jenkins ReidGoodreads Newsletter4
HamnetMaggie O’FarrellIRL book club (college alumnae)5
The Art of Stopping: How to be Still When You Have to Keep GoingDavid KundtzShannon Ables The Simply Luxurious Life6
The Four WindsKristin HannahJenna (Today Show)7
Tomorrow Will be BetterBetty Smithone of my besties8
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance during the BlitzErik LarsonI don’t know9
The SanitoriumSarah PearseReese’s Book Club10
Simple Organizing: 50 Ways to Clear ClutterMelissa Michaelsemail from Barnes & Noble11
Good NeighborsSarah LanganBarnes & Noble book club12
The Tea ChestHeidi ChiavaroliIRL book club (tea society)13
The Discomfort of EveningMarieke Lucas RijneveldIRL book club (college alumnae)14
This is the order that I liked the books. It does not mean that the top are the great American novel, a page turner or the feel good book of the century. It just means that some books made me feel more than others this particular month.
I am happy to say that I got BINGO this month! 25 books to get one line across! Next month there will be a new BINGO card!

Trigger

I was recently shopping for a new book. I looked at a review. In the first line of the review was a plot point of the book. No spoiler alert sign, no warning…just a plot point. Because the plot point was a “trigger”.

Thanks to dictionary.com, we know that trigger is to initiate or precipitate. Certain words or phrases bring about certain thoughts or ideas, which are harmful to the person experiencing them.

But what do we think about trigger warnings in books?

I understand the reason for them: some people have gone through traumatic experiences and do not wish to relive them. I completely understand.

However, is it fair for the rest of us to be forewarned of what is going to occur in a work of art?

Do we cater to the 10% of the population that might have a problem?

Or do we let majority rule?

Here’s my thought:

If a book contains trigger warnings, how about we put them in the back of the book. My feeling is if one is worried about the content of something, the onus should be on them to search for it. Make it standard in every book that the last page is the trigger page.

This way, no one starting out the book has any indication of what the plot points may be- they read the book and decipher clues without being told anything.

And in reviews, I think the triggers should appear at the bottom of a review in italicized type so that the reader of the review can skip it if they want.

I know that I want to go into a book without knowing anything other than the briefest plot summary. The joy and beauty in reading a book is discovering what lies on the next page. If it is something horrific, I want to be caught off guard- that is what the author intended. I think you lose the power and impact of a story or situation of you know it’s coming.

I will not read the book that was spoiled by a trigger warning. Instead of savoring the words or the story, I will constantly be on the look out for the “scene” that was described. I will not enjoy the book…

But that’s me:

What do you think about trigger warnings in books?

Do You Remember….

No- I’m not going to go into the lyrics of that Earth, Wind and Fire song. And some of you are probably smiling in recognition, and others are going “What’s Earth, Wind and Fire?” What I am going to talk about is: how much do we remember from the books that we read.

Never Not Reading proposed this question yesterday: After you’ve finished a book, have you forgotten the title character’s name? A few days ago, when we were all watching Jeopardy, there was a question; “Who was Templeton in Charlotte’s Web?” Now, I’ve read that book multiple times- I read it with my daughter when she was younger. But I couldn’t remember which character was Templeton. Rat- for those of you scratching your heads….

So how good is my memory towards what I read?

I routinely forget the authors. I will tell someone that I really liked a book, and then I will stumble for the authors name. So I guess this means I really don’t care if the author is male or female. But really, how bad is it that I can be amidst a book, and have absolutely no recollection of who wrote it?

Some of my blogger friends post the What did you finish, what are you reading, and what are you about to read. Yeah- I may have finished a book yesterday, but I find myself going into Goodreads or my nook to see what it was.

Is it an age thing?

Do I read too many books?

Outside of the title and author (like they count for anything) do you remember the contents of a book? I have book club this coming Tuesday. I finished the book about ten days ago (“The Guest Book” Sarah Blake- ha- didn’t even need to look that up) but I’m going to have to glance over it before I go to club, because honestly- not quite sure I remember the small strokes, or frankly, the big strokes…other then I thought it was average. That part I do remember: very average.

I’ve read 29 books this year. While a few stand out, it’s the books on opposite ends of the spectrum. I remember the books I loved, and I remember the books I hated. The ones in the middle- well- they’re kind of lost in my mind. I sort of, kind of remember the plot, but details…don’t even think about quizzing me.

I know when my daughter is reading something for school, she takes copious notes. Her books are filled with post it notes, and they’ve been taught the Cornell system for remembering things from books. Her school often requires the students to buy certain texts so that they can write notes in the margins and highlight. (Hence why Rebecca is floating around my house) So clearly, even when clinically reading a text, we still need reminders as to what’s important, who people are, what are the clues tossed in along the way…

So, I guess what I’m asking you today is: Do you remember the details from books? Do you think it’s important to remember things from books? What are the parameters? Are some books just more forgettable than others? And why can some people pull a quote out from thin air? Do you just memorize a few all purpose quotes?

So Bad…

I love bad reviews. I don’t mean reviews that are written poorly, I mean reviews where the author really goes crazy about why they don’t like something. Nothing amuses me more than seeing someone skewer something.

What is wrong with me?

OK- here’s the thing. I try to be a positive person, and I know that if someone really hated my work, I would be crushed. So why do I take delight in reading and liking bad reviews?

Because they are more descriptive. Simple as that.

When someone likes something, they tend to say it’s good, or it’s nice, or some other meaningless adjective. Have you ever watched “Food Network Star”? Essentially it’s a reality show where a bunch of people do weekly demos in hopes of landing their own show on FoodNetwork. The mentors (most recently Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentis) have the most trouble with contestants when they are trying to describe the food they are tasting. People always revert back to yummy and tasty. OK- while that means they like it, it doesn’t show why they like it. Those are bland words: I want exciting words. I want words that conjure images, make me feel like I’m tasting the food. Well, it’s the same thing when you are reviewing books or movies. I don’t want to hear that it’s “so good”. I want to here the details.

It’s all in the details my friends.

For some reason, when something is bad, we’re able to describe the badness better. I know I do: the few times I’ve critiqued a book, I’ve had no problem explaining why I hated it, or what didn’t make sense, or whatever. The bad things stick out. Good things don’t often stick out. I can be funny (kind of, sort of) when reviewing something I don’t like- I am much better at articulating the reasons why I don’t like something.

I notice it in my book club too. When we all like a book (which is admittedly rare) the discussion is boring: we all have the same favorite scene, we think the author did most things well, blah blah are you asleep yet blah. But when it’s 50/50, and half hate and half love- well- off we go with the discussion, the argument, the fun of discussing a book. And when we all hate a book? Well, that’s discussion gold!!

So what is it about hating something that makes it so much easier to discuss? Why do people have trouble with describing why we like something? Why do we revert back to “I don’t know why, I just do?”

So, hoping at least half of you did not like this post:

Discuss…

 

Who’s Your Hero?

I was reading a book review from Jessica the other day. She wrote an aside that she realized that she tends to read female protagonists. So  it got me thinking: do I read more male or female leads in books?

I’m going to go into my Nook (no Kindle here…) history for this calendar year and give you a quick count. Take 30 seconds to think about your own habits as  you imagine me counting.

Male- 8

Female- 12

Neither/Both- 8

So it would appear by my standards that I am really all over the place. I have no clear favorite, but really base my interest in a book based on the story itself. Hmmm. I’m actually surprised, because I thought for sure that I would have been leaning totally towards the female protagonist. When Jessica posed the question, my brain was screaming “Female Protagonist. Girl rule boys Drool. Of course I love female leads.” I made an assumption that because I identify as a woman, that my books would identify that as well.

Hmmmm

So let’s drill down on the numbers. My favorite book that I read this year was Amor Towles “A Gentleman in Moscow”. I mean, gentleman is in the title, so you know you’re getting a male protagonist. But it didn’t matter. Book was elegant and intelligent and I just loved going page to page reading about the life of this gentleman.

My second favorite book this year was “Daisy Jones and the Six”. I know- woman in the title, but no….the book looks at things from the perspective of different people. So yes- we hear from Daisy, but we also here from other people. There is neither an overriding masculine or feminine tone to this book: it’s just a fun, interesting read where the voices of multiple characters are sharp and clear.

After looking at my list, I do realize that when I just want to be entertained, I almost always go for female leads. There are times when I don’t want to think: I want to sit under a blanket with a mug of tea and read, and these times are female protagonist time. I want to relate on that level, I want a character like me, or like my friends. My binge books lean towards females. I’m going to bet that the majority of my summer list will contain female leads.

What about authors? Male or female? I’m counting…

20 female

7 male

It would appear that I do tend to gravitate towards female authors.

So maybe I like books that are written from the perspective of a woman, no matter what sex their main characters identify as? Maybe women write the types of stories that I want to read? Maybe women write better dialogue and I am a dialogue girl?

Who knows.

But now that the question is out there on the table, you know I’m going to overthink this too. You know I’m going to be looking at the books I read/choose and asking myself the male/female question. Is the sex of the author important when choosing a book? Is the sex of the main character important? Do I choose books based on either criteria?

So now I’m throwing it out to all of you: answer any or all of the questions that I too am pondering. But basically, how does the sex of the author or sex of the main characters affect your reading habits?

Discuss