February 19, 2012

"Once we get through the next couple of years of mania... people will... say, 'ok the book is not dying.'"

Says Peter Meyers, author of Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience:
Is the print book diminishing in its presence? Of course, but the function of the book itself as a break and a refuge and a chance to spend immersive time with an author telling a story, I think is incredibly valuable.
A story. So that's the thing with these people who cling to books. They want a story. A refuge and a chance to spend immersive time with an author telling a story. Why it's a mommy/daddy bedtime thing, isn't it?

I read for many hours a day, usually most of the day. Paper books and ebooks and, of course, the web. (Talk about immersive! Remember when people "surfed" the web? How quaint that sounds to me now. It's deep immersion.) Anyway, I read all the time, and it's a very active process of gathering information and ideas, generating my own thoughts and expressions, putting things together and forming new questions. I don't feel that I'm taking a break from anything and seeking refuge, spending time with a storyteller.

What's your reading like? Is it a break and a refuge and a chance to spend immersive time with an author telling a story?

(By the way, if you do feel impelled to buy some books, please use my Amazon portal.)

24 comments:

ricpic said...

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. I do it. I take refuge in a book. Which you can't do reading a screen. Well, I can't. Another imperfection. So sue me.

Chip Ahoy said...

I am glad that you ask this important question.

My latest book I bought for a dollar. I intended to examine it carefully and determine where the previous owner had the most fun. A child no doubt. Those tabs are paper and they don't last forever. I get a kick out repairing them. Sometimes I can improve on the original.

If you would see their faces when I give people my extra pop-up books, the brand new ones, then your condescending attitude toward them might change a bit.

Yes, they are intended for children but they are so much more.

The first woman is a Christian and I have two copies of this pop-up Genesis. A very good book but not my favorite pop-up. Too many words. But the woman loved all those words. And it's a very good book besides. Loaded with lots of nice little touches but most of them are word-oriented touches. She loves the book more than I do.

The second woman was equally excited to have this Gods And Heros. I felt guilty for having two copies of this as well. I pre-ordered it when I read about it being developed. My sister saw it a year later and thought it would be perfect for me and she was right, Egypt + pop-up, she couldn't go wrong. I didn't have the heart to tell her I already owned it. This one has little supplemental pop-ups where the previous book has supplemental biblical words. Both women affirmed the books were excellent gifts and now I feel better for not having two of each of them.

ndspinelli said...

This is how the fall of the Alt Reich began.

phx said...

I read all the time, and it's a very active process of gathering information and ideas, generating my own thoughts and expressions, putting things together and forming new questions. I don't feel that I'm taking a break from anything and seeking refuge, spending time with a storyteller. - Althouse

Those are all great things to read for. But reading stories can also be other than "taking a break...and seeking refuge". There is a certain magic that can happen through the telling of stories.

CyndiF said...

Both. I read non-fiction and literature to gain knowledge and (one hopes) wisdom. I read science fiction and fantasy for entertainment and relaxation. It's my TV.

I have always liked Umberto Eco's justification of reading fiction:

"This is the consoling function of narrative--the reason people tell stories and have told stories from the beginning of time. And it has always been the paramount function of myth: to find a shape, a form, in the turmoil of human experience."

Strick said...

Your comments reminds me of an old test question once used as an example of testing bias. It showed a man chopping wood and a man reading and asked which was working? One child said the man reading was; her father was a professor who chopped his own wood for exercise on weekends.

Was that little girl you, Ann?

I sympathize with your view of reading, but there is a whole world of people whose only exposure to books is as an escape from what the do in their everyday life.

Carnifex said...

We're all bitter clingers now. I used to give books for presents but not many of my friends read I'm ashamed to say.

edutcher said...

You can be immersed in non-fiction, but I can remember being absolutely drawn into "War and Peace" and Byron's poetry during my commuting days.

(public transportation, of course)

Ann Althouse said...

"Was that little girl you, Ann?"

Not sure I get the question. I am a professor and I have to read a lot for work, but the line where work ends and pleasure beings is simply nonexistent. That's why I don't relate to all this break/refuge talk.

Mainly, the refuge in a story image sounds babyish to me. I think people who are into "losing" themselves in stories are trying to find their way back into mommy's lap.

Charlie Martin said...

All of the above. Sometimes I read technical books for information. Sometimes I read books like 1491 because I'm interested in the topic and become immersed. Sometimes I read fiction and take a break with a storyteller.

Sometimes I read blogs to see what other people think, wrong as it is.

phx said...

Can reading or telling stories help us away from over-relying on either/or judgmental thinking?

You betcha.

Earth Girl said...

Ann,
you have never been immersed in a story as an adult? Not with a book? Or a film? Or even a friend telling a story? It is a rich and wonderful experience, not just for children

Robert Burnham said...

Reading pixels = work.
Reading ink-on-paper = recreation.

Zach said...

I also spend a large portion of my day reading, but I find there's a very big difference between short form reading (papers, newspaper articles, anything on the web) and long form reading (novels or book-length nonfiction).

Short form articles are necessarily arranged for impact. All of the details are selected to reinforce the author's agenda. Long form reading includes enough details that you can do your own thinking. The details are still selected to reinforce the author's point, but the need to scale things up to 400-500 pages limits the effectiveness with which that can be done.

William said...

The past is a foreign country. Tolstoy and Dickens are time machines.

tim maguire said...

My pleasure reading is a break and a refuge and all that stuff. And I prefer paper books to e-books. To my mind, the only advantage of the e-book is portability, especially onntripos when you might want to ttake multiple books.

P.S. (and this will be a permanent P.S. until you change the word verification or I stop frequenting this blog) The new word verification sucks. It's a problem. Really.

ALP said...

I have several strands of thought going through my mind at any given time. A good story will find me focused on a single strand - having a break from the "Carnival of Mind Weasels" is one of the pleasures of reading fiction. The idea that it has to do with a return to mommy does not resonate with me at all - more like a form of active meditation.

Kit said...

Good storytelling is an art and I admire those with that gift (I could say more, but think I'll practice my 'restraint of tongue and pen'.) I'll go recreate now, thanks.

wildswan said...

It's pretty easy to get even the most video-immersed under-thirty to read "retro books" - books popular in the Sixties like Alan Watts' The Way of Zen, William Barrett' Irrational Man, etc. They see how these formed the cliches of their own day. It's their "distant mirror".

BESr said...

It's hard to respect someone who's gotta call other's actions 'babyish' to feel better about herself.

wyo sis said...

If refuge in a story is pathological it, at least, has the virtue of being relatively benign to society in contrast to most things people use as a refuge.

cokaygne said...

i read a lot. books, almost exclusively history; ebboks, mostly history and science; a couple of blogs, you, mcardle, reynolds; selected news articles on line; hard copy of 3 weekly newspapers in my county and one daily newspaper in a nearby city. Just about all my reading is nonfiction and i love history best.

i get my fiction from netflix, mostly british police detectives and a couple of spy things. i like video or film or whatever it is called for telling stories because a team is working to create a slice of life in sight and sound and filling it with unreasonable human passion leading to tragedy followed by almost passionless detective work sorting it all out.

Carol said...

Yeah I like reading too. In fact I really have to wonder why any site would think we should look at a video to get info, when it's so much more quickly and conveniently read.

Unless of course it's to laugh or gasp at some stupid shit someone did on camera. But that's meta.

Andrea said...

Yup, when I read a good book I am "immersed" in it too, which I guess makes me a big baby who wants to sit in mommy's lap, even though I never (to my memory) sat in her lap while she read to me, because 1) I started to read so early that I can't remember not knowing how, and 2) she was usually reading, immersed in her own story, as were my parents. I grew up in a house where 3/4 of the residents were readers (my sister was the exception).

I did experience "story time" -- that is, someone else reading a story to me, and a bunch of other kids, at school, but it proved to be a frustrating experience, as they didn't read it at a pace I liked (they were too slow), and there were time limits and they couldn't read the whole story so I never found out how the damn thing ended! Also, there were a bunch of other kids who wouldn't shut up and the teacher kept having to stop and quiet them down.