Thursday, April 23, 2009

Confessions of a flagrant skimmer:

I have to say that I absolutely loved reading all your comments on the book meme last post. Why is it that talking about books is almost as much fun as actually reading them? Perhaps that will remain one of the great mysteries of life.

Anyway, Asea and Erin -- being the savvy and astute persons they are -- both noticed there was no question seven. I have not a shred of an idea as to where number seven went, but it is gone, well and truly. In its place, Asea asked the following question:

Does your physical environment influence the type of book you'll get in the mood for? For example, if I'm backpacking by myself in the forest, I will tend toward analytical philosophy. If I am on a bus, I want a page-turner. If I am sitting in bed in my pajamas, a deeply thoughtful novel.

To that question, I offer a resounding yes. I'm not brave enough to go backpacking by myself in the forest, but if I'm taking a trip to a place far removed from my regular world, I take deeply thoughtful books when I know I will have the mind-space for their ideas to really sink in. Bus-riding definitely requires a page-turner, as you said. And -- dare I confess it? -- toilet breaks require books that can be read and picked up in two-minute intervals. Erm.

She also asked:

Do you ever skim books or parts of books? I do. I feel guilty EVERY time, too. But sometimes the author is describing a house or something for three or four pages and I just don't care. Or a character is giving a 13-page speech to tell us exactly what the point of the book was. Urgh. Sometimes I must skim.

Again, I say YES. I love words, but I love words used concisely. I want every word to advance the story, not slow up the pace and try to distract me in non-essentials. This shameful act of skimming may occur in books that otherwise deserve to be read more respectfully. Then again, there are some books that also don't deserve the benefit of a devoted word-for-word reading. My friend Anastasia the other day used the term 'skim-worthy' and I think that's awesome. Some books require skimming and not too much attention.

(Then again, sometimes I skim because I just want to see what happens, and I don't want to have to go through five or fifteen or fifty pages to find out. This is undisciplined and I always feel like I am doing the author -- who likely laboured, sweating and in agony, over the very words I am skimming -- a cruel disservice.)

Therefore, I don't recommend skimming wholesale, but I am guilty of it myself.

How about you?