Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Year of reading


I'm off to a limping start this year, trying to get through my book club's selection for this month, Edward Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel. It's not that I don't like the writing--I do--but I just can't get into the subject matter. It's about a family and the dogs they breed, and I can feel an unhappy ending brewing, and I just can't bring myself to face it. Not that I mind unhappy endings, but there's a tension building around a malevolent character that I'm not sure I can live with for the next hundred or so pages.

If I don't finish the book, I have to put five bucks into the pot, for an eventual evening out with the book groupers. Not a bad price to pay, considering the pleasure it will bring me later, and it will assuage my guilt about not finishing!

My poor new Kindle is not getting much use yet, as I have so many physical books on the pile, I can't bring myself to buy any virtual ones. I've downloaded a few classics, and have started reading George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, something that's been on my list of "to-reads" forever.

I'm enjoying the Kindle experience so far, and I'm sold on how wonderful it will be to travel with. My only criticism at the moment is that without the physical cues of bookmarks and page numbers, I have no idea how far into the book I am, and how far I have to go. It's a very strange experience for me, to have no bearings in the book. I can't keep track of what chapter I'm in--that would require using too much of my beleaguered memory. It's odd--and I feel I must be missing something here--there must be some other way of figuring out where you are. Do any of you Kindle users out there have any comments or advice on how to mark reading progress?

As I mentioned in my last post, my New Year's resolution is to try to get through more of my to-read pile before I buy any more books. I feel like that could be a reading challenge in itself: The Off The Shelf challenge, or something like that. In designing that challenge for myself, I'm going to set no time limits or book quotas, but just see how long I can read without going outside my own shelves...

21 comments:

litlove said...

I would feel very disoriented not knowing how far through a book I was - it's an intrinsic part of the experience to see the end steadily come closer! But it must be good to have something so small and packable to take on journeys. If you decide on a challenge list, do post it here, won't you? There's some vicarious pleasure in knowing what other blogging friends will be reading :-)

Sam Houston said...

I have the same problem with my Sony eReader. It gets so bad at times that I find myself bookmarking a physical copy of some classic that I'm reading on the Sony reader. It helps keep me motivated to stay with the classic and, as you say, I lose that feeling of disorientation that comes with ebooks. Of course, that doesn't work unless you have an actual copy of the ebook you're reading. :-)

Jen said...

happy new year! i'm going to add $5 to the pot as well....just can't connect. just read the puritan dilemma by edmund morgan and loved it so maybe i'm in a non-fiction phase. xo

Red lady-Bonnie said...

I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a few months ago and felt the same way. I did adore Edgar as a character but for me, the story was just too drawn out.

That's interesting about your book club...you put $5 in a pot if you don't finish the book?! Can you tell me more about your book club?
I'm in one as well and our group is floundering a bit at the moment and we need some change.

Gentle Reader said...

litlove--the Kindle is disorienting, but it's making me think about how I read. I will definitely post my reading list for 2009, although you know I'll go off the map almost immediately!

Sam--it's a good solution if you have a copy of the book--though that's one of the things I'm trying to avoid. (I'm overrun with books here, must buy or make more shelves!) I wonder if I'll figure out some other way to keep track of my reading progress on the Kindle...

Jen--Happy New Year! Have not connected with the Edgar Sawtelle book, but I see why people do :) Maybe I need to go for some non-fiction, too!

Gentle Reader said...

Red-lady Bonnie--I hate to say it, but it feels to me like Edgar Sawtelle needed a better editor. My book group is a really great group. We're a group of women who were friends or acquaintances when we started the group about five years ago. We meet in our homes, switching off every time.

We don't have a really organized method for picking books--we all bring in suggestions and then vote on what we want to read most. It's a pretty good mix of fiction and non-fiction, but leaning toward fiction. The $5 in the pot thing grew out of the occasional book that nobody finished--we needed an out! So we're saving up for a night on the town. We've gone out occasionally to see movie adaptations of books we've read, and had dinner first, which has been really successful. So everyone is looking forward to going out together to spend our guilt money!

Let me know if there's something specific you'd like to know about the group. Personally I think the reason it works is just chemistry :)

Tara said...

This book doesn't appeal to me either. I doubt I would ever read it. I love the idea of putting $5 in the pot! I'll have to tell my group about that one!

Gentle Reader said...

Tara--I love it because it assuages my guilt for not reading something, and will eventually create a party!

Yolanda said...

I loved the Edgar character but just couldn't get into the book for some reason.

Lisa said...

This book is currently on my bedside table patiently awaiting its turn. I've heard really good things about it. I'll be anxious to hear what you think if you finish it.

Bookfool said...

Oh, interesting. I think I'll avoid Edgar Sawtelle, then. I don't like that feeling at all.

I don't own a Kindle and hardly ever travel, so I probably won't own one for a while. I'm glad you mentioned that problem. I think it would drive me nuts, but the portability for traveling is definitely a plus if you ever go anywhere. Someday, I'll travel, again! :)

Gentle Reader said...

Yolanda--exactly--I love Edgar, but can't get into the book either. Partly the pacing, partly the story...oh well, I tried!

Lisa--I will probably finish it eventually, and will definitely let you know what I think!

Bookfool--I've definitely had my issues with Edgar Sawtelle--not my favorite feeling evoked by reading! I don't travel all that much either, but we do have obligatory trips to see family, and there is never enough suitcase room to bring all the books I want--this is definitely a good solution for that problem. I'd like to do more traveling (for pure pleasure) one day, too :)

mattviews said...

I would have expected an electronic reader would be equipped with a bookmark that memorizes where you left off. I feel a bit antsy to get one for its compact size so I don't have to carry a stack of books with me to Hong Kong when I visit my family.

Speaking of George Elliot, I've got Middlemarch on my chunkster list for 2009! :)

Darcie said...

I got a Kindle for Christmas and have read some samples, but haven't purchased a book yet. I have a LARGE TBR pile that I am trying to make a dent on in 2009. I have 2 books slated to purchase but they aren't out yet. I think I am going to be frustrated by not knowing where I am at also! :) It will be interesting, but I love that the books are cheaper (especially hardback) and that I can carry many books with me! I don't travel too much but I do get frustrated when I am in the car and don't have a book with me (if I have to wait). :) So hat will help with that! I will be interested to see what books you are reading on your Kindle! :)

I have also heard that some libraries will let you check out Kindle books, but the Louisville Library does not (plus are having budget issues and don't plan on adding this feature). Can you check out Kindle books from your library?

Gentle Reader said...

matt--The kindle does bookmark where you are in the book--it starts up where you left off, so you don't get lost in that way. But there are no page numbers as such, at least in the first book I'm reading, Daniel Deronda. So it's hard to know exactly where you are in the book, relative to the beginning or the end. Frustrating, but not insurmountable. I think an ereader will really be a boon to someone who travels as much as you do!

darcie--I love that books are cheaper, too. And the portability is really great. I've found myself reading on the Kindle in the carpool line waiting for my kids! I don't know if my library allows me to check out books on the Kindle, but I'm going to run over there and find out today! Good question!

thebluestockingsociety said...

Hi, I still haven't received your address so I can mail you Monique and the Mango Rains. Please email it to thebluestockingsociety AT gmail by tomorrow or I'll have to give it to someone else. Thanks.

J.S. Peyton said...

I just downloaded a reader application for my iPhone and it has a progress bar at the bottom of each page so I know how far along I am. I'm surprised to hear that the Sony Reader and the Kindle don't have something similar. It seems like something that would be pretty easy to configure. Perhaps it'll be in the next generation of readers.

Here's hoping, because I really, really covet one now.

Gentle Reader said...

bluestocking--oops, will email you right now! Sorry :)

j.s.--I'm going to go download that for my iPhone. That sounds great! And it does sound obvious, doesn't it? I keep feeling like I'm missing something in this regard on the Kindle--maybe there's a feature I'm not seeing...

Susan said...

I am very interested in seeing how far you get to read on your own shelves first! since this is the time of year when my husband stares at me (especially after all the books bought in England) and says I can't buy any for awhile...I haven't told him that I never got my Nigella Lawson cookbook for Christmas this year, and do paperbacks count? lol I am going to try to read more on my shelves, but I also know i'll be buying books! My job is to keep to a budget, which I did well last year until my birthday in May....

Gentle Reader said...

susan--I'm interested to see how far I get, too! What should help--I am confronted by the pile every time I try to navigate my bedroom. And I refuse to figure out shelf space for all these books until I at least organize what I plan to read for the next few months. Maybe if I get a little more methodical about it, I can tackle my "to read" pile. I'll let you know how it goes! As for budgeting, which I'm supposed to be doing, too--well, we'll see!

melanie said...

I'd never thought about the loss of bearings with the Kindle. I've been on a library fast for 2 months while trying to get through books I own. It's helped, but progress has been slow.