Writings about reading…

I’ve seen scores of pieces on what makes good writing. Haven’t yet come across any piece on how to read. Guess it is assumed that you either know how to, or don’t. If you don’t, you are assumed to be the philistine sort to whom reading doesn’t really hold any excitement.
Reading is more of a trial-and-error hobby, it is thought. You devise the best method you’d like to read by. No guidelines as such, as there are for numismatists and philatelists. You read what you like. Nothing like a ‘must have’ on your bookshelf. And if there is, it is more or less dictated by populist literature [Dan Brown, JKR, love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve gotta have read them]. There are always those classics everyone swears by [Robinson Crusoe, Marcus Aurelius], but they aren’t really necessary to establish your credentials as a reading enthusiast.
What I’m focusing on here is the most effective method to read a given work. No, I don’t claim to be an expert. Nor have I tried and tested all the methods I am listing here.
How I generally read is, what I feel a philistine method. The first reading is always a haphazard one, finishing the book at one go. I just Have to get to the bottom of the mystery as soon as I can, no matter how shallow it is. The details are not given any attention. But then, I read a book not less than six times, enough to get the whole picture. Why, it took me three readings of The Chamber of Secrets to internalise what Dobby actually looked like. Nuances in writing come to my attention much later. On my [what seemed like] eighteenth reading of The Moor’s Last Sigh, I got the joke about the ‘Cathjew Nut’. [Never paid any attention to it… was too busy trying to figure out what happens next.]
Marginalia comes much later, and only when I own the book.
This way, I always find something new when I read any novel. But then, I discover that I’m not really able to hold fluent discussions about any book I’ve read recently, coz, well, I haven’t internalised the spirit of the book enough to be passionate over it. Leads me to serious doubts about whether my method of reading can sustain me through the mountain of unread books I hope to get through in my lifetime. [Not an improbable dream… Shashi Tharoor challenged himself when he was ten, to finish 365 books before the next New Year… and he reached the deadline well before Christmas!]
So should I slow down? Begin my marginalia on first reading? Dwell on each scene? Appreciate the build-up to the climax on first read? In other words, control my Neanderthal instincts in the hobby I’m most passionate about?
I did try this with Midnight’s Children, coz I had limited time in my hands when I was reading it. It did work, to a certain extent. But then, I have a nagging suspicion that a first read of Rushdie’s work barely scratches the surface, it is so very obvious that Salim’s life mirrors India’s, and Aadam’s, that of post-emergency India. Yeah, I did skip the numerous citations of news headlines, but in effect, I felt I had missed little. Rushdie’s wordplay isn’t all that deep [or so it seems to me, I haven’t read it more than twice] and is pretty obvious to the discerning reader.
But then, I still haven’t figured out Parvati’s and Shiva’s part in the scheme of things, or what Picture Singh alludes to. Maybe it’ll just take me time…
Someone I know goes back and forth over the same few pages, absorbing the essence of the book she’s reading. And it takes her quite a while to read a book like Nancy Drew and The Mystery of the 99 steps. But no second reads.
Someone else spends an hour a day, or so [very disciplined guy] reading the novel. And it takes him not less than a week reading something like The Da Vinci Code.
There are others who read, but rarely. And take each book as a mini-project and research all about it: trivia, expert reviews, guides, author interviews… you get the picture. Found quite a few such enthusiasts of the HP series and Dan Brown’s pseudo-controversy fiction.
Now I’ve already crossed five hundred words, and I know I wouldn’t like to read a blog that’s longer… so, winding up, all I’d say is, for all the hullabaloo I made about guidelines to good reading… I discover their utter unnecessity, for reading isn’t philately… no specific rules. Reading is like the wanderlust journeys I sometimes undertake, no destination in mind, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. I don’t consider reading as a vehicle to a ‘higher goal’, it is the long drive I enjoy more than the joy of reaching the Promised Land.

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
This entry was posted in Reading, Strawberry Fields Forever, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Writings about reading…

  1. karthik says:

    Hee..firstly, even I get spammed like how you have.. Secondly, I myself face this same situation, say while reading a mystery book, or a thriller, I don’t care to stop at the subtle aspects, and just keep going at lightening speed to know the end of the story…And then, since its a thriller, I don’t feel like reading it again..I feel I’ve wasted many books due to this, as I fail to learn any new words, or any specific way of communication..(The worst being Da Vinci Code, I finished it in 1 go in 3 odd hours..and now, I don’t remember half the things.!)

  2. Shashi Iyer says:

    hmmm… do’s and dont’s with reading. novel. haven’t ever thought about how i read. i just go back to some lines when i think i haven’t got “the essence”

    p.s. boring post 😦

  3. Shashi Iyer says:

    there you’ve got your dose of advertisements too 😉

  4. Tuhina says:

    ok priya i’ll read the post a few more times to get the full picture and then comment…chee i didn’t realise i commented just now

  5. NOTY TONY says:

    omg!!!jus hpnd to read tuhina’s scrap on srav’s page thts how i stumbled on to this blog..wel it feels kinda dumb to say tht im blogger myself!!i mean u got so much concrete stuff written crisply…its too good…keep rockin gals gud luck..

  6. AJ says:

    Whoa.. Nice Article.. And I’ll have to read it a couple more times before I can fully understand it.

    Nice post 🙂

    Ps. Btw, you should delete the comment spam 😉

  7. Hmmm…I guess I come into the category who read rarely but give their souls to the book.

    My latest one’s V.S Naipaul…the mimic men…any reviews?

    Oh and how do you guys manage to get time for reading in engineering?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who can’t get time for reading, engineering or otherwise, is a waste of protoplasm and space.

  9. Priya says:

    rite said, anon.
    engineering is a four-year holiday, as some people say.
    if you could read thru cbse XII, you definitely can read during engineering. and it isnt a life-or-death situation anymore that you’ll have to give up all other pursuits other than cramming, and maybe a techfest on the side.

  10. Anonymous says:

    And to lisen to good music…

    “get ou of my face son, you are using up my oxygen”

    move over you shitty kyunki-saas-bhi-kabhi-bahu-thi-loving maniac.

  11. karthik says:

    Whoa..! Nice try engineering is a 4 year holiday..Well..You don’t feel like reading novels when you end up getting royally screwed in acads, and you’re filled with people around you who mug 24*7..

  12. Priya says:

    what was that all about?
    engg isnt half as taxing as medicine. being surrounded by mugpots…. just a question of doing your own thing, peer pressure notwithstanding.
    i guess it is all about time management. it is easier for ppl like me to choose to read, coz i like nothing better than reading, it is top on my priority list.
    easy for me to say all this, i do get your point, though.

  13. any gyaan on how to read blogs?!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    There seem to be two anonymous people here. One’s me and the other’s he.

  15. rohitramgiri says:

    yeah it’s true
    you don’t stop at subtle aspects

    well every other best-seller is labelled a “page-turner” pun intended! so the reader is not to blame!!

  16. Priya says:

    why dont you sign off as ‘me’, so that we all know itz you?

  17. Anonymous says:

    There any reason why I can’t sign off as “he”?

  18. NOTY TONY says:

    hehe this is gettin interestin now!!

  19. Whoa!! Quite a maze of comments, eh? Well, rush-through-reading was never fun for me. I mean, yeah, I’d get the essence of it, but to soak it all up, revel in it…. well that just doesn’t happen.
    P.S. Although it was rather easy on the pocket when (in the good ol’ days) books were charged on a per- day basis.

  20. Anonymous says:

    now i want to sign off as he…too. I mean…look i know i am me, so why say me when i can be he???

    Try the “Motorcycle Diaries”, Friend of mine got it. Brilliant book.

  21. Anonymous says:

    But if you sign off as he, how’ll anybody know if its me?

  22. Priya says:

    why dont you both sign off as ‘we’?

  23. karthik says:

    Haa haa.. what a twist in comments..No wonder 23 of ’em.!!

  24. AJ says:

    Ultimate quirk ^^

    You should try to use an RSS agregator to read your blogs.. All in one nice simple interface/site 😉

  25. Anonymous says:

    But I don’t want to sign off as we! I’m me, and he’s he, so he can’t be me! So why should I be we?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Make it three

  27. Kini says:

    Analyzing art… any genre of art is, IMHO the single most ridiculous oxymoron in existence.

    I do however agree that some styles require some time and thought, to be appreciated by the audience as the artist would want the piece to be appreciated.

    Take cubism or surrealism for example. The colours, the vibrance and the not so “mundane” themes are what one notices first. But when one moves “deeper” one notices many things, shifts in perspective, philosophical connotations, refernces to thought in general… the works.

    The same holds for literature, the first thing that strikes someone, other than the story itself of course is the style in which the author chooses to tell it. Ms.Roy chooses to move through her work by making you live the scene by describing every minute detail. An author like Maugham would indulge in an impressionism of sorts and go through a rapid cross section of the scene.

    The point i’m trying to make on this rather long winded comment is that art is meant to be experienced, felt, let loose and allowed to move your emotions. Imagine how you’d felt on a sunday afternoon when it was drizzling outside and your favourite song played, of its own accord on that lovely laptop of yours. Now… try analyzing its every detail. The why, the how of such things only end up killing the essence?

    But then again, this is but the rambling opinion of a man who does not want to get back to his books.


  28. Anonymous says:

    Kini noy, there ain’t nothing wrong with reading a book in the mannrer described, it only makes for the enjoyment for many more pieces of art at one go.

  29. nandini says:

    Hi… Great that wa sa great insight into ways of reading… I go with the one similar to yours myself… In Jane Austen for instance… the books seem to gain greater depth with each reading, and you can relly appreciate her writing then… I usually read a book first, and then buy it…if I like it ;D

  30. Anonymous says:

    see…the first one can be she, i’ll be he and then the other one can be pee…or be…or c or c++

    but i am he…


  31. Anonymous says:

    Why c++? Why not java?

  32. Anonymous says:

    because java is OOP.


  33. Tuhina says:

    sorry, both are OOP

  34. aaaah. as for me, i usually read a book in one ‘sitting’. depends on the genre actually. if its a paperback novel(hmmm say sidney sheldon) then i aint gonna waste days reading it.
    well if its like a salman rushdie/abdul kalam/stephen hawking book, then i need to give my undivided attention to that book. similar treatment meted out to classics. an old book with yellowing pages, read it all over again for the mere pleasure.like appreciating an ageless piece of art!

    and controversial and much hyped books give me the shivers. but once i read them to claim ‘i have read it too’,i love to do a post mortem.

  35. karthik says:

    Whenz a new post comin up..?

  36. Anonymous says:

    c++ is oop, but for your kind info c++ still allows procedural good old c type coding.
    unlike java which allows absolutely nothing but objects. i suggest you check up on that.


  37. Anonymous says:

    A nice article…and one can take away a lof tips..Next time I read a book, I am sure will start looking at how exactly am I reading.

  38. Anonymous says:

    That way you’ll get absolutely no reading done.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Totally agree.

    – It–>

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