Reading as an Experience

When I approach a new book, I often know very little about it.

Many have been on my TBR for years–recommendations from acquaintances long forgotten–“Oh, you should read this!” Any one who finds out how much I read has a book for me, so it goes on The List. Bestsellers often end up on there, popular books making the rounds on Tumblr, and of course, the Boxall 1001. The List is over 3,000 titles long.

I will usually read a brief description of an ARC before I request it, but even then, it’s a month or two before I actually read it, since I prefer to wait until just before release to do the review. I have a general idea of most of the popular classic novels, but just an outline or topic. Only in the rare occasion that I really love the author and have been anxiously waiting a release, or it’s a book with a huge publicity push will I actually have a strong knowledge base before beginning.

Why do I do so little research about the books I read? Two simple reasons.

  1. I read almost a book a day. At that volume, it would be impossible for me to read pre-reviews on every single book. Nope, can’t do it.
  2. The biggest reason, though, is that I’d much rather go into a book blind. That way, every twist and turn is new, every character I meet is unexpected. It’s the same reason I often don’t watch every movie trailer anymore. I want to experience the book fresh. Sometimes with ARCs I hardly even pay attention to who the author is. I take notes with my reactions, mark down quotes, etc. With difficult books, I will often Wiki it, to make sure I am understanding what is happening–though I don’t usually do that until later in the story, or afterwards, unless I am really confused.

Reading for me is an immersive experience, and I try to get as much out of it as possible. It is enjoyable, but it is no longer just a hobby. I learn a great deal from the books I read, and so I have expanded the breadth of what I am taking in.

I’ve discussed this multiple times here before–how much I read, what I read, how I do it. I won’t get into that now. But learning is important to me, and I get really excited about it.

 

However, I’ve had a few conversations about reading as an experience this week. Not everyone reads the same way I do. And you know what, THAT IS OK!

I had one conversation where we geeked out about the toxic relationships in Wuthering Heights and analyzed the perception of that novel as a romance vs what the book really is. We talked about how we think all classics are well-written because the language is so much different than modern day English, but in reality, the authors fought with each other about their writing style as much as we do now.

But you know what also makes me really excited? Talking to someone who struggled with reading for years, hating it because they had trouble with dyslexia or any other reading disorder. But then someone gave them Harry Potter (or Twilight or Percy Jackson or INSERT BOOK HERE) and it opened up words for them. And it may take them a month to read one book but now they can do it and we can geek out together about our favorite stories. And it has nothing to do with the great masters of writing or the state of the world. It’s just words on a page that fit together to make a story that we all can share.

 

My point is this–read what you like. For years I read Nora Roberts and Rachel Gibson smut. I read every JD Robb In Death book in order for like 4-5 years. Maybe longer. That’s no longer my thing, but if it’s yours GREAT! If you’re an adult who loves YA, thumbs up. If you’re a kid who likes adult fiction, YES! Comics, newspapers, magazines, shampoo bottles? Done.

I’m kind of joking about the shampoo bottles, but I can’t say I haven’t done it when there’s nothing else in the bathroom.

Paperbacks, hard covers, ereaders, audiobooks. All valid sources. Guys, let’s stop arguing about what people like to read, and get excited about everyone who loves it as much as we do. Bookworms have gotten made fun of since the beginning of time. Let’s not beat up on each other too.

I firmly believe that reading is a process. It starts with that first book we fall in love with, and we just keep going. Every next book drags us a little further down the line. Maybe one day we step out from our normal genre into something new. Maybe next time it’s a bit more advanced than what we are used to. That process can be fast, or it may take a long time and be really gradual–and it may change hardly at all. My grandfather read Westerns his entire life…until the last year or two when he started reading Amish Christian fiction. So don’t let me or anyone else pressure you to step outside your comfort zone, but I do encourage it, when you’re ready.

There is a whole world of books out there! And you know I have a full List of recommendations for you!

Happy reading everyone!

Agnes Grey

Most book lovers have heard of the Bronte sisters. And it’s pretty hard to be a romance loving biblophile without reading at least Jane Eyre OR Wuthering Heights…if not both. Charlotte and Emily are famous names in reading culture. Their tropes are everywhere, from the dark and brooding Heathcliffe-like teen boys in YA EVERYTHING, to the plain Janes of this world who go unnoticed but have so much to offer.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that there was a third Bronte sister, Anne. I’ll admit, she’s missing from my shelf too, as I look up at my two beautiful Barnes and Noble Leatherbound copies of the two books above.

But this weekend, I sat down with Agnes Grey, and I fell just as much in love with Anne Bronte as I did with the more recognizable sisters, and I wonder why she is not just as famous.

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At it’s base, Agnes Grey the basic 1800s story of a young girl from a family on the outskirts of society, who decides to become a governess, and falls in love with one of the men she meets along the way. Pretty typical baseline for that period.

However, there are some things I want to point out that interested in the characters and the story:

1. Mrs. Grey could have been rich. She came from a wealthy family, but fell in love with a poor man, and even though her father disowned her, she married him anyway.

2. Agnes was the youngest child, and doted on. When her family needed money, she decided she was going to become a governess to help earn it, even though her mother and sister told her they would handle the situation and she should stay home and be idle. She was determined to help.

3. I’m not sure if they had a diagnosis for “sociopath” in the 1800s, but the first children certainly showed signs of it. The older boy, Tom, liked to trap sparrows and pull their heads and wings off for sport, because “he was not a bird and so he couldn’t feel what they felt”. His father even encouraged this behavior. His sister was much the same way. It was very alarming. I was very glad that the book was not staged around that house for long.

4. I loved Mr. Weston. He was just so sweet and friendly, really quite adorable in how he just wanted to spend time talking with her, without being a bumbling fool like some guys can be in these novels.

 

I could go on, but it’s just a sweet, simple novel. Nothing overly complicated or twisted or dark. I was expecting something a little more gothic, because of her sisters’ writing styles, but this is really nothing like that. The romance is almost set up more like a Jane Austen novel, but with much less drama. It made for a very nice Sunday afternoon.

 

Fulfills Boxall  #88

 

 

Mauprat

Why are so many of our famous love stories such toxic ones? I guess we all just love drama. “Ordinary loves” are boring.

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Mauprat is one of those super dramatic love stories. If you want to call it a love story. It fits into that brooding, toxic, anti-hero theme similar to Wuthering Heights.

The story begins with basically a “pack” of psychopathic male family members who capture a young woman with sinister intentions. Their nephew Bernard saves Edmee on the condition that she promise to marry him, which she recants as soon as she is safe at home. Because, she says, who wants to marry a wild man?

He has fallen instantly in love with her, as men do, so he agrees to become educated. She keeps in on the hook for years, even though she is engaged to someone else. Sometimes she claims to be in love with Bernard, sometimes this other guy, sometimes she says she will never marry at all. The whole thing is ridiculous. Bernard even goes to fight in the American Revolution for awhile, but still comes back under the pretense that Edmee loves him.

I won’t tell you what happens in the second half of the book, but the drama only increases, and just…UGH! Enough already! Still, I had to read the whole thing, to find out what happens.

Of course I did.

I’m really not surprised, after reading Elizabeth Berg’s historical fiction bio, that this is George Sand’s version of a love story. Sand’s romantic life was such a roller coaster, so perhaps this sort of up and down all over the place DOES seem romantic.

The mike drop quote of the book is this:  “We were two exceptional characters; our loves had to be heroic; the beaten track would have led both of us to ruin.”

Pretty intense, right? In my opinion, the couple did come pretty close to ruin, in the end, and not so close to heroism. Either way, I’m surprised this drama isn’t more popular in the world of classic fiction. If you are a fan of Bronte, you’ll like this one too.

This Gives Me Feels

I know I know. This post is supposed to be about books that make you cry, like The Fault in our Stars. But when have I ever done a post correctly?

Or, even read a book “correctly”…

It always infuriates me when people use that quote, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” Generally, it’s used in a mushy, lovestruck way. You see it on pretty, flowery Pinterest posters all the time.

Taken out of context, sure it sounds lovely.

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But, contrary to everyone’s believe, Wuthering Heights is NOT a lovely book. It’s NOT a romance novel from long ago. Quite the opposite really.

Catherine and Heathcliff were terrible people. They lived to tear everyone in their world apart. The feels I feel for this book? Anger, obviously. Hatred, yes. Despair, certainly.

And yet, I want to read it again. Because that’s the point of literature. To make you feel something so strongly, that even if it’s a horrible feeling…you must feel it again, just to understand it. You must have it make sense.

And Wuthering Heights does not make sense to me yet.

Treesofreverie’s April Read-A-Thon: Reading Challenges

The other thing that the end of April means is that it is the end of the readathon for Treesofreverie! I think I did quite well. Here are the books I read:

Wuthering Heights

A Wrinkle in Time

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Scorch Trials

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

In addition to the books we were reading, there were challenges we were given to complete. Here are the ones I finished.

This is the official list of challenges for anyone who is looking to push themselves during the April Read-A-Thon:

  • Finish an entire book in ONE day
  • Read a book by an author you haven’t read before
  • Read a book about books
  • Read outside
  • Read out loud
  • Finish a book in a series you’ve not yet completed
  • Read a graphic novel or manga
  • Read a book with an LGBTQ+ character
  • Read a Classic
  • Read a book in the Fantasy genre
  • Read a book in the Contemporary genre
  • Read a book from a genre you don’t usually read
  • Read a poetry book
  • Read a collection of short stories
  • Read a book by an indie or self published author
  • Recommend a book to a friend or a fellow book blogger based on what they’re currently reading
  • Share some of your favourite quotes from the books you read during the Read-A-Thon
  • Write a book review for one of the books you read during the Read-A-Thon
  • Take pictures of your reading progress
  • Show off your books by taking more pictures
  • Start a TBR Jar
  • Start a reading journal
  • Organise a book swap with friends

This was a great readathon project! And, what’s really great is I just found out about a new challenge being held in May by Tee the Quoter. This is not a readathon, but a Favorites challenge. Every day I’ll be posting a favorite “thing” about what I’m reading. Here’s the list!

Now, some of these might just be pictures and will be posted to my Instagram and Tumblr accounts, so make sure you’re following those. Some may be reviews that I post here. Either way, I’m excited to have some prompts for different books to write about!

Wuthering Heights

Wow. I never expected to have quite the range of emotions as I did with this book. Classic literature always throws me–the language is challenging because it is so formal. I usually have to read a novel a few times before I actually really understand what is going on. And I think Wuthering Heights is no exception to that rule. However, I will say one thing about my first read through. This book made me REALLY angry.

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Now maybe it didn’t help that this has been a terrible week for me. I was already angry when I sat down to read it. Maybe?

No, I don’t think so. I went into this expecting this big love story. Heathcliff and Catherine. Right? That’s what I’ve always heard about. I was completely ready for a Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet type of story.

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE. Not what I got at all. Holy crap. This is not a romantic story people. This is the tragic story of a toxic, parasitic relationship between a manically depressed woman and a controlling, egotistical maniac. Neither one can let go of the other and they not only leave a path of destruction wider than an F5 tornado in THEIR world, but pretty much ruin the next generation too.

Not even kidding, I’m breaking out in hives while writing this review. I think that I need more wine. Next book please!

 

 

 

Ok…just kidding…kind of. Before I move on, I will tell you that the writing was superb, and obviously the characters were really well developed. I mean, look at the reaction it got from me. Just because my emotional reaction was negative doesn’t mean I hated the book. I will definitely read this again. It just wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Now I know it’s more of a tragedy, not a romance. I’ll read it with a different perspective next time, and I’ll learn something else from it!

Treesofreverie’s April Read-A-Thon: Questionnaire

01. What do you plan on reading for the Read-A-Thon? Why did you choose these books? I’m starting with Wuthering Heights, and Wrinkle in Time. I have been wanting to read WH forever, and I need to read WIT for a book club next week. Then I’ll move on to other classics from there.

02. Where will you be sharing your bookish updates for Treesofreverie’s April Read-A-Thon? I will be sharing them here on my blog, ilayreading.wordpress.com.

03. Are you currently taking part in any other reading challenges for 2014? I finished my Goodreads challenge WAY early for the year. Oops. So now I’m just pushing myself to read as much as possible and as thoroughly as possible. We’ll see what other challenges come up.

04. Do you have any reading goals? What are you hoping to achieve? My main goal for the year is just to learn as much as possible. I’m journaling more and reading harder books than I ever have. I’m also reading classics that I never have read.

05. Are you from a family of readers? Most of my family reads, but I definitely read more than anyone else.

06. Do many of your friends read? Some do, but I also have a lot of movie buffs for friends, including my husband.

07. What or who inspired your reading as a child? I think I was born reading. But I remember sitting on my Nana’s lap with a book. And there were always books in the house.

08. Are there any books you wish you got to read when you were younger? I wish we would have read more classics in school. There are so many books I feel I should have read already.

09. What are your favourite genres? Novels and Memoirs. I recently got into dystopian fiction.

10. What are your favourite books? Pride & Prejudice, Secret Garden, and Thorn Birds.

11. Do you like to re-read your favourite books? Those three I have reread a million times, it seems. But other than that I don’t usually reread anything. There are too many new books to read!

12. Who are your favourite authors? Jane Austen and Ann Patchett

13. What would you do if you got to meet your favourite author? Probably clam up and just listen.

14. What defines a great book for you? I want to be able to disappear in the story. If I don’t know what is going on around me…it’s probably a good one.

15. What draws you to pick up a book you’ve never seen or heard of before? Honestly…the cover. Can’t help it. If it draws my eye, I’m going to pick it up.

16. Do you judge a book by its cover? See #15. I love the touch and feel of a good book. And the titles too.

17. Once you’ve finished reading a book do you like to keep it or give it away? Keep it! I want to have a huge library someday.

18. Do you prefer paperbacks or hardcover? Hardcover.

19. How many books do you own? How many of these books have you read? I had to sell a lot of my books a few years ago for money. Sigh…so now my collection is starting over. I only have about a hundred or so. I’ve read most of them.

20. Do you like to borrow or lend out books to others? I’m hesitant to do so, I rarely get them back.

21. Do you like to recommend books? Which books do you recommend most often? I am always pleased when someone actually reads something I have suggested. However, it’s sometimes hard for me to recommend books because I have such eclectic tastes.

22. Where do you buy your books? I like Half-Price, but I really prefer new books. Usually Barnes & Noble. I love their new Classics Collection.

23. What would your ultimate dream bookstore be like? Cozy and warm. Maybe a fireplace with couches. And beer/wine in the back.

24. Which genres would you like to read more of? Um. Everything!

25. Do you read books by indie or self-published authors? Not usually. Mostly just because I have such a long list of published authors to read, I don’t stray from the list often.

26. Do you read books by authors residing in your own country?  I read from everywhere.

27. Do you have a TBR Jar? I am not sure what this is.

28. Do you like to keep a record of your reading – in a reading journal, collecting quotes, writing down thoughts, etc.? I keep a daily journal, and it is filled with quotes and thoughts about the books I read.

29. If you dislike a book, do you finish reading it? It depends on the book. If I just can’t connect with it in the first 25-50 pages, I usually set it aside, but if it is a classic or something I feel is an important work, I try to finish it.

30. Do you own an eReader? I have a Kindle Paperwhite.

31. What are your thoughts on eBooks? I love ebooks for the convenience. I read them on my Paperwhite, my phone, and even my computer sometimes. I can get them for free using Overdrive, and because I read faster than I can afford to buy new books, this is a good way for me to feed my addiction. It is also convenient—books are heavy and I can carry my Kindle easier than I can carry 3 books in a suitcase when I travel. But, my Kindle will never replace my love for paperbound books. It doesn’t smell like a real book, or look like a library full of hardbacks.

32. Do you listen to audio books? Sometimes.
33. What are your thoughts on audio books? I have to be doing something to listen to an audiobook. I play one when I’m walking or doing chores. I usually save the books that I’ve tried to read and failed—like Red Badge of Courage (because of the strong accents in written word) or Anna Karenina (because of the astronomical length).

34. Do you have a book blog? I do! Ilayreading.wordpress.com I’m going to be posting my readathon updates here.

35. Who are your favourite book bloggers? I’m new to the book blogging community, but I like TreesofReverie, aliteraryescape, freakofliterature, and athousandbookstoread.

36. Do you write book reviews? Yep. See 34.

37. Do you use any book-orientated social media sites such as Goodreads? I LOVE Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/hmills96

38. Have you discovered any of your favourite books or authors through social media sites? I am always looking at other people’s recommendations and my To Read list is always growing. I’ll never read them all!

39. Have you ever attended a book signing or an author event? No.

40. Have you ever won a book giveaway? Nope.