Posts Tagged ‘BTT’

Book Clubbing

June 12, 2008

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

I am a part of a unique book club that is actually a book/wine club. We discuss first the wine, then the book. I’ve talked about the book club here and here. We only pick our books one month out because evidently we aren’t nearly as organized as a bunch of the other book clubs out there. Basically people just come with suggestions of things they want to read or have recently read and would like to discuss. One time I even went through my wishlist of books and tagged some of them ‘bc rec‘ (book club recommendation) so I would buy something I already wanted anyway, instead of getting something completely different. Our book club founder Kelly usually at least starts off our discussion, but (again) we aren’t one of those organized book clubs. We don’t have a list of questions or anything, we just start talking; normally that could be a problem, but not after tasting 6 different bottles of wine!

I am generally able to go into my book club books with an open mind so that my level of appreciation doesn’t differ one way or the other depending on whether or not a book is for book club. I’ve even read (and loved) some books I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, like “The Glass Castle” and “Middlesex“. I will admit, though, that there were a couple of times that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to book club and I was glad, because I had no intention of reading the chosen book. The only thing that changes about a book for book club, is that it will be finished by a certain time. It will not be put off to read ARCs or for theme reads, because it will be complete by the time book club night rolls around again.

BTT – Reading Trends

June 5, 2008

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My reading tastes have changed a fair amount, although I don’t always realize it as it tends to happen gradually.  One major change is that I have cut out those ultra-prolific writers who churn out the same story over and over with slight variations.  In high school I was a huge fan of both John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark.  I read everything that both of them wrote.  Now, though, I’m not sure you could induce me to return.  There are so many fantastic authors telling fantastic stories that are not simply variations on the same theme.

Having this blog has also helped me even out my reading.  For a couple of years there I was reading almost exclusively historical fiction, primarily set in England and largely dealing with the Tudors.  Lots of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory.  I didn’t want my blog to be pigeon-holed as just an historical fiction blog, though, so I’ve re-broadened my horizons a bit.  Lots more memoirs than before, I’m finally getting into short stories.  Plus, I have been trying to read more books realistically set around the world for my Read Around the World challenge to myself.  This, in addition with LibraryThing recommendations, has made me a more well-rounded reader.

BTT – Reading Fundamentals

May 29, 2008

BTT LogoWhat is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

Although these are not all things that I like to read, they are all reading. Personally, I stick to novels and non-fiction physical books, as well as whatever audio books I can get for free on Librivox. That doesn’t mean, however, that things like graphic novels are not reading. Heck it says ‘novel’ right in the name! I certainly would not want to argue that “Persepolis” is not really reading.

If you had asked me this question 4 years ago, I might have come up with a different answer. “Comic books?” I might have sneered at you, “comic books aren’t really reading.” That changed when I taught 2nd grade in a high-crime, low-income area on the South Side of Chicago. Most of my kids were non-readers. As in they were barely able to read. Motivating them was often difficult as well. Many of their parents were too busy trying to feed and clothe their families to read on their own or with their children. Many of the parents were probably illiterate, or had very low levels of literacy, because they were failed by the same neighborhood school when they were growing up. TV was the babysitter, and kids tended to be more worried about navigating their way safely around their neighborhood than about reading and math. They needed to learn how to survive in their environment, who had time for school?

In this environment, I was desperate to get my kids to learn, and even more desperate to get them to love learning, reading in particular. The name of the game was finding ANYTHING that interested and engaged them. We had “DEAR” (Drop Everything And Read) time in the mornings, during which many of the kids would simply stare blankly at their books as I made my way around the room to try to read with all 25 of them. When some of my boys brought in comic books that enthralled them and kept them reading intently all through “DEAR” time, and even sneaking peaks during the day, do you think I counted that as reading?

Of course I did! With pleasure! If they are engaged enough to push themselves through comic books that sometimes were slightly too difficult, that meant that they were honing their reading skills. Once they had greater command of language, they were more likely to want to pick up other books in the library that before had been too difficult. They were also finally able to read the instructions on worksheets for other subjects, thus boosting their overall achievement.

If there are words, it is reading. Anything you can read, even cereal boxes, can be a stepping stone. I hope that comic books become the gateway drug of choice leading millions of children to a life-long book addiction.

Note: BTTer’s, check out my big giveaway to celebrate my upcoming 100th post!

BTT – Books vs. Movies

May 22, 2008

Post 84:

BTTBooks and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

I’m going to avoid the snarky comments about the ‘difference’ between a book and a movie.  I was tempted, but it has already been done. To me, the biggest differences between a book and a movie come from the way the medium influences how the story is told.

Both mediums have their strengths.  In a movie, obviously, visualizations are huge.  A writer can describe a beautiful vista or a wind-swept plain, but if the reader doesn’t have a visual frame of reference to begin with, or isn’t one to visualize landscapes in a book, a movie can better evoke the splendor or power of the scene.  There can also be much said by the look on an actor’s face, by lighting, or through music that can set the mood or provide forshadowing in a way that is not fully available in books.

Books, however, can provide far more depth to a story than a feature-length film ever could.  In film and on TV flashbacks are often cheesy, books can tell a backstory in a much more artful way.  Similarly, books are generally far superior at sharing a character’s internal thought process or motivation.  As others have said, a book also has the advantage of more time to tell its story.  Unless a movie is truly epic, people don’t generally want to sit through it for 3+ hours, which limits how much story can be told.  Obviously an over-long book can be daunting as well (particularly if it is sub-par), but it has the advantage that the whole thing need not be finished at once.

Most readers I talk to tell me that they always like the book better than the movie.  This has not quite been my experience.  For me, it often depends on which medium I come into contact with first.  For instance, I saw Jurassic Park in the theaters when it came out.  I was young enough at that point that I’d never even heard of Michael Crichton.  A year or so later I read the book, and really was not terribly impressed.  I preferred the way the story was told through the movie.  On the other hand are the Harry Potter movies.  With those, I read the books first and it took me quite a while to enjoy the movies.  I finally got to the point where I liked them for what they were and made my peace with what they had left out from the books.  I still, however, prefer the books and all of the extra details they are able to impart to the reader.

If you would like to check out some new books, see the details for my contest.  You can win any book I have reviewed since the inception of this blog.

BTT – Manuals Ad Nauseum

May 15, 2008

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

Do you ever read manuals?

How-to books?

Self-help guides?

Anything at all?

Let me just begin by saying, I’m not very good at instructions.  Written instructions occasionally fare better than oral instructions, because I have a tendency not to listen to people unless I am actually engaged in a face-to-face conversation – or unless I’m really interested in what they have to say, which isn’t usually the case with instructions.  If the instructions are concise and to the point, they have a fair chance of being read, otherwise, they will be skimmed at best.  This explains my lack of interest in writing/grammar manuals, as well as in the types of manuals described in today’s prompt.  If I bring home a new gadget of some kind, I am far more likely to just play with it for a bit and try to make it work (or ask Brian to do so and then explain it to me) than to read through the manual.  I will only consult the documentation for specific features that I have not figured out, not for the whole thing.

Self-help books?  No way.  I can’t even stand the ‘inspirational’ books genre any longer, let alone self-help.  Part of the problem is that I don’t like the way they are written, the other part of the problem is that I’m not likely to take any of their advice anyway.

I will, occasionally, consult how-to books or cookbooks.  Even then, though, I will read about only the specific thing I want to know, unless it is a cookbook with some interesting things to say about food and eating healthily.

I’m starting to wonder if BTT isn’t really my thing.  I have been fairly bored by the three prompts I’ve attempted so far.  I’m sure it is terribly hard to come up with prompts every week, but if next week is also about manuals, I’m done.

Booking Through Thursday (BTT) – Manual Labor

May 8, 2008


Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

Once upon a time, in high school and college, I had some MLA writing guides and other similar such things that were required for class. I definitely managed to leave them all somewhere and not bring them on with me, because I have them no longer. As far as English dictionaries, (Merriam Webster online) is all that I need. What other dictionary has fun word games you can play?

My bookshelves are not totally devoid of manuals and how-tos, however. I believe that Brian and I have, between the two of us, three English-foreign language dictionaries for three different languages (French, Spanish, and German…no, neither of us actually speaks Spanish). We also have, if I’m not mistaken, workbooks for learning both French and German. In addition, I have a couple of books from my teaching days about teaching kids to write, plus a whole bunch about teaching literacy. Do those count?

Booking Through Thursday (BTT) – Mayday

May 1, 2008


Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??

And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….

I’m sure that EVERYONE has said this, but I find it fairly unbelievable that I would be without a book (or two, or three) or my Ipod (loaded with audiobooks), both of which I keep in my giant purse at all times. I don’t EVER just carry my wallet, why would I want to just have something in my hands (wouldn’t fit in any of my pants) when I can carry it more out of the way instead?

So in this case, I will assume that I am going be waiting then going on a flight for a period of time longer than the amount of time it will take me to finish my book. Audiobooks are great when I’m cooking, driving, working out, etc, but I could absolutely not just sit still on a plane and listen to one. I would get far too bored and not pay attention, so I would have to do SOMETHING.

Along with books and my Ipod, in my purse at ALL TIMES is my book wishlist. I would take the wishlist into whatever book store was at the airport and see if, by some miracle, any of the books were in there. If I couldn’t get 2 or 3, I would make sure to also grab some magazines (Time, Newsweek, Discover, or Vanity Fair would be the first I’d look for) and books of sudoku and crosswords, possibly two sudoku books. I can’t look at and listen to words at the same time, so the crosswords would have to be done with quiet or music, but I could listen to my audiobooks while I kept my eyes and hands busy with sudoku.