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Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend Assignment #213- Book Boosters

The Weekend Assignment is posted each Friday at Outpost Mâvarin; a roundup of responses goes up the following Thursday, so if you'd like to join in, you've still got some time. Karen says: Don't worry if you don't get your entry in by the end of the weekend. It's called the Weekend Assignment because John Scalzi originally designed it to give folks something to write on weekends, but times have changed since then. Now the meme is launched on Thursday nights / Friday mornings, just a little later than Scalzi used to post it, and you have a whole week to respond. Still, I for one am grateful if you don't all wait until the last minute!

Karen changed her mind about the last Weekend Assignment when she realized it was National Poetry Month, but this was the original one. I had already started on it when the new one went up, so went ahead and finished it, and it turns out that I bought myself a little time this weekend.

Weekend Assignment #213: While it may be difficult to choose your favorite book of all time, there's probably a certain genre or category of books you prefer over other kinds. Do you love a mystery, or would you rather read about dragons? Are you thirsty for a good vampire tale, or is science fiction more your style? Do you mostly stick with the classics, or look for the latest spy novel? Are you a biography buff? Do a lot of your books have the word "Dummies" in the title? Do you like to read about real-world politics, science, history or sports, or would you rather escape the real world with a good romance? Tell us! And while you're at it, tell us your second favorite category of books.

Extra Credit: Do you ever loan out books to friends or family?

I'm going to use this assignment as my opportunity to address this question - "Why do we read?" Of course, I'll only be speaking for myself here, but I'm certainly interested in knowing your answers if you'd like to share them. In her original post asking the question (linked above), Care gave several reasons that also apply to me and that I really can't put any better myself:
"Fun, escape, education, to create a connection to another who has also read whatever, travel without leaving my chair, gain knowledge, to catch up (not miss out!), to participate, to share experiences, to experience something without REALLY having to go through it!, to find out IF I might want to experience something?, to understand, to appreciate my world, to make sense of things, to discover…"
One of the things that Dewey mentioned in her response to this query (also linked above) was, “(B)ooks give me a way to figure out how people tick, to try to understand the complicated dance of human interaction…I try to learn how and why and when and where we do what we do…Granted, real, live people would probably be a more effective path to understanding other humans than fictional characters…” It’s much the same for me, and I really do think it’s a pretty effective way to gain insight into human behavior and psychology. An author/narrator will let you directly into a character’s inner life. Most people you encounter outside of books aren’t usually that open - and you might not want them to be. Boundaries are trickier to negotiate in real-life interactions.

I read because I can't imagine my life without it, nor do I want to try. I was a relatively early reader, but I'm not sure of exactly when I started - I started reading on my own somwhere between ages four and five, because I know I'd been at it for awhile by the time I started kindergarten. As a young reader, the stories I read fueled my imagination, and the characters often became part of stories of my own. (I just realized that I may have been a very early practicioner of fan fiction.) I was interested in reading biography, history, and science as well as fiction, but fiction was often just as educational; it exposed me to different places and cultures, and as I mentioned previously, it helped me gain insight into human nature.

Things haven't changed all that much, when I think about it, but I always have trouble answering questions about what kind of books I like to read, since my preferences generally don't trend toward particular genres, at least in fiction. In non-fiction, I still like biography and its cousin memoir, as well as popular science and history ("popular" as opposed to "academic," that is - books intended for laypeople). But as far as fiction's concerned, most of my library is contemporary fiction with a few literary pretensions. There are quite a few books in there that have won one prize or another, but that's certainly not a requirement to get on my bookshelf. While much of what I read may contain influences and elements from genre fiction - especially mystery and suspense, but sometimes fantasy/science fiction and occasionally a little romance as well - it's usually not of a specific genre itself.

I like fiction with well-developed, relatable characters and an engaging plot. The plot doesn't necessarily have to drive the story, but it's nice if something actually happens, and I do appreciate seeing the characters grow over the course of the novel. Humor's nice, but not essential unless the book is (intentionally) satire. I'm not sure there's a name for this, but I think the common element among most of my favorite books is that they center on relationships - not necessarily romantic ones (although sometimes they are), but those among families and between friends as well, which seems to be consistent with the appeal of character.

If anyone I know is interested in any of my books, I'm usually more than happy to pass them on once I'm done with them - give them away, that is, rather than lend them. It's the BookCrossing effect, I suppose, even if I don't officially do much of that anymore. I'll donate my used books to the public library if I don't think I'll read them again someday - and with so many books that I haven't read yet lying around my house, I don't do much re-reading at this stage of my life. If I truly don't want to part with my copy of a book that I think someone else might enjoy, I've been known to buy it for them. Sometimes a book I thought I gave away does come back to me, though, and that's fine - the library will always take it.

So now it's your turn. Are your reading preferences easier to classify than mine are? What categories do you like best? Do you lend or give away your books? And the biggest question of all - why do you read?

11 comments:

  1. You know my choice of books, but "why do I read" is a good question? I don't know. I read to learn. That is why I read astronomy and science articles and blogs. I think the reading I do for pleasure I do just to get away. Be somewhere else, or someone else for a short time. Does that make sense?

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  2. Mike - I don't usually have to do much work-related reading, and I think that may actually help keep reading a pleasurable activity for me. And the idea of reading as a getaway totally makes sense to me - it's one of my reasons too.

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  3. I think I need to digest your answer a bit (preferably when I'm not half-asleep) before I can respond coherently to it, but for now let me latch on to the idea of the importance of character. For me that's the most important consideration in fiction, a well-drawn character who is likeable and who is affected by the events if the plot. Thanks for your patience in the delay of this topic!

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  4. Karen - Sorry, I got a little long-winded :-). The "why do I read" discussion was going to be a separate post. When you changed last week's assignment to the poetry topic, I went ahead with this one anyway since it fits in with my blog generally, and decided that I could combine it all into one post.

    I'll look forward to more of your thoughts on this!

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  5. The quote you used as well as your own thoughts sum up my own reasons for reading very nicely, Florinda.

    Just today one of my coworkers, a new supervisor, asked me if I liked to read, and I replied that I did. He then asked me what I liked to read, any particular type of book. I told him honestly that I like to read just about anything. He then proceeded to tell me that he wished he was a reader, that his daughter was, but that he just couldn't get into books. He said books are a great way to escape. I couldn't help but add that reading was also a good way to learn and explore that which is outside of our narrow world view. I think it was too much of an answer for him. :-) There's nothing wrong with reading to escape--I do that kind of reading too--but I don't like reading being narrowed down to just that.

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  6. Everything you mentioned describes how I feel about reading too. I don't read a lot of NF, although I often think I should read more, but my favourite kind of fiction is when I learn something in the process. It could simply be a historical setting, or a cultural practice. Anything really that makes me ever so slightly more aware of other people and places.

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  7. Literary Feline - That probably was too much of an answer for someone who is "not a reader," Wendy. :-) I know such people exist, obviously, but to me they're like the people who don't like chocolate - I just don't understand them.

    And really, why would you want to narrow down what you read, when there's so much out there?

    Tanabata - I think that fiction is a great way to learn and expand our horizons in a general way, but if we're after specific knowledge, then we need nonfiction.

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  8. Good question! I read because I'm compelled to read. I can't iterate why I'm compelled. All I know is that I just have to.

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  9. Kiva - Same here. I just can't imagine not reading.

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  10. Thanks for the shout out! It's fun when a quick off the top of my head post catches like wildfire.

    I'm like you that I like a variety of reading material and find it difficult to pick just one genre. Now that I read bookblogs, I'm reading a whole lot of stuff I never thought I would!

    I do find it amazing when I run into someone who also loves to read and I have never heard of what/who they are reading - so I try and appreciate my own efforts to mix it up.

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  11. Care - It's a fun and thought-provoking question; thanks for putting it out there!

    I know what you mean about book blogs exposing you to a lot of reading you wouldn't have tried before; I've had the same experience, and it's great.

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Now it's YOUR turn - speak your piece, please! Or just let me know you were here; I always like that. But you'll have to leave a name - I've disallowed anonymous comments due to some recent spam problems. Thanks!