When the words beckon

Analysis of the art of reading

Blogger, Tom Johnson, of the I’d Rather be Writing blog recently experimented with reducing his smartphone usage and filled that time with reading. He shares some interesting views in this latest post. I made notes that ended up becoming observations worth sharing.

  1. “Queuing up books” – Been there, still doing it. My eBook library has books for seven lifetimes. Every time I read a good review or hear a recommendation, I grab a copy. The reasonable pricing of eBooks makes piling on the reading list relatively easy. However, looking at the ever-expanding reading list can be stressful. Often, I have this urge to give it all up and just wade through that enormous shelf.

2. “The problem is that my interests evolve from book to book.” This, I believe, is not the problem but the “power” of reading books. It opens new thought vistas and encourages questions. Someone asked me the other day what kind of books I read and my response was “anything that holds my attention.” My taste has increasingly shifted from fiction to nonfiction but I can also devour Calvin & Hobbes or Garfield, cover-to-cover, any time of the day. Reading variety changes the mood and widens our knowledge.

3. “….I decided it wasn’t worth slogging through.” It took me some mental reconditioning to accept that some books are not worth the effort, and some are good in just bits and pieces. I still find it a difficult decision but I have started rationalizing skip-reading and not making it a battle to finish a book that I don’t want to. Tom talks more about this in the section, “Can I skip ahead when bored?”

4. “Buy print versions of audiobooks I enjoyed?” – It’s a personal choice but audible formats don’t hold my attention. Audible versions keep me hooked to my smartphone, which is counterintuitive to the act of reading. I also miss making notes and highlights. I love physical books and buy many on impulse, however, I usually end up with the Kindle version for convenience.

5. “For me, part of the reading experience involves interacting with the book through these annotations. Writing in a book destroys it for resale, but I consider that part of the cost of reading.” – I try to keep my books clean and find a local library to donate or share it with a friend. However, the desire to annotate is as real as Tom describes and this makes eBooks an appropriate choice for me.

6. “I dislike Kindle entirely. Reading from screens is the worst.” This is a universally debatable notion since the birth of the eReader. The eInk technology and the disconnect from any other app or truly workable web access, differentiate a Kindle from a typical screen. I love my Kindle Paperwhite because it powers a more immersive reading experience and is more portable with anytime-anywhere reading. Tom also talks about “How to remember words I look up?” For me, the Kindle highlights and dictionary lookup work well to create a mental map. I can easily search and refresh my memory.

7. “Is reading expensive?” – This is subjective and depends on the format as well as a source of books, for example, libraries, free or discounted eBooks, or used book stores. However, any hobby or pastime involves a monetary angle.

8. “I do think writing reviews would be a good skill to develop, though.” – As a regular book reviewer, I agree with this. It has helped me in developing critical analysis and vocabulary, paraphrasing, and writing in engaging ways. It enables me to pay back to the community of writers, especially self-published, by spreading the word about their work. Book reviews are a beautiful thing to do – for the self and the authors.

9. “Reading is a natural precursor, even a requirement, to writing.” – Always! The more you read the better you write and that’s true for self-review or edits in one’s own writing. The work evolves with each iteration.

10. “What value do non-technical books have on a technical career?” I am glad that Tom raises this question about how book reading as a hobby can help in our technical writing profiles. Well, content strategy, paraphrasing, minimalism, understanding audiences, and trends, are all skills that grow as we expand intellectually. As Tom says, “Perhaps reading helps prime and tune my intellectual engine, which then makes me more capable in performing other tasks (even in writing documentation).”

I enjoyed reading Tom’s article and crystallized my views on the wonderful hobby of reading. Tom’s article has many more points to ponder, for example, is reading passive or are book clubs worth the time. You may find your takeaways or rediscover the lost art of reading. At the end of it, don’t forget to grab a book.

Wanted: The Perfect e-Reader

The ideal e-reader will combine features of all. A consumer seeking a holistic experience will not mind the cost tag. The technology is out there. We just need someone to put it all together. Are the #techies listening?

The Kindle brand name is so deeply imprinted in the minds of book aficionados that we rarely seek options. However, various Kindle e-readers models have the limitation of being tied to the Amazon ecosystem and not supporting all file formats. The Kindle platform doesn’t support EPUB books, which is one of the usual formats for e-books.

Features lacking in Kindles occur on other e-readers. Yet there is no single device that can cover it all. I see this as a sizeable gap in the market of e-readers. As a regular reader, I have used a tablet that allows multiple reading apps, however; it comes with all the trappings of a mobile phone and harsh lighting. An e-reader is a significant device for a pleasant reading experience, in various lighting scenarios, and most importantly, distraction-free engagement.

This article by Hooked to Books brings forth some alternatives to Kindles. NOOK Glowlight Plus drew my attention as it allows Android apps to be installed to read different formats. The Onyx BOOX Max3 is an interesting device with a stylus experience. A stylus-based writing pad can change the whole reading landscape by allowing for handwritten notes. Audiobooks, read-aloud features, and voice-controls should be a part of the e-reader package.

The ideal e-reader will combine features of all. A consumer seeking a holistic experience will not mind the cost tag. The technology is out there. We just need someone to put it all together. Are the techies listening? Here is an article that I read later that talks about additional features for the perfect Kindle.

Dear readers, have you found the perfect e-reader? Do share in the comments.

Books, Paper, and Pens

Books were bought with care and cherished; not hoarded into digital spaces because someone recommended the next best-seller. Reading was not competition; it was relaxation.

Rumi

I have a Rumi Pocketbook in my desk, since more than two decades, and once upon a time it gave me much succour. That was before the age of the madness of devices. It moved around with me one house to another, packed in boxes. Then, it lay quietly in a drawer, waiting, holding words of wisdom in it’s bosom, until my 11-year old son retrieved it and asked if it was age-appropriate for him to read! My heart overflowed with joy!

It is important to have books in the house – hardcovers, paperbacks; diaries, 📒 notebooks and stationery – little treasures, waiting to be discovered. Let your children unearth the bounty, find solace and refuge in the power of the written word. My son writes in his little Harry Potter themed journal or blogs only after jotting down ideas in a notebook. He loves glitter pens and gel pens, and no batch of bookmarks🔖 or post-it notes are ever enough. We share our love for stationery and to his credit I have introduced him to the indulgence. I blogged about this earlier also.

Continue reading “Books, Paper, and Pens”

Book Review: Plastic Jesus and Other Stories

Beautifully written stories, capturing the essence of myriad people and their worlds, each ending with a twist, oft with a message.

Book: Plastic Jesus and Other Stories

Author: Judith Ets-Hokin

Genre: Short Stories, Fiction

Review Copy: Reedsy.com

We are all made up of stories. A keen observer of life, Judith Ets-Hokin picks up some interesting ones and brings them to us in a collection with an intriguing name—Plastic Jesus and Other Stories. A medley of 13 stories with an array of themes, Plastic Jesus is a good weekend read.

The stories are of varied length, The Hunt, being the longest, and encompass myriad emotions and terrains. The writing is fluid and deep, with intricately depicted scenes, intense characters, and ebb and flow of emotions showcasing linguistic penchant.

The author breathes life into inanimate objects and nature, but mostly exhibits insights into human emotions. Love, loneliness, grief, loss, fate, ambition, smugness, doubt, independence, self-sabotage, virtue, vice, urbanization—the shifting sands of the stories keep you engaged, as you turn the pages of this slim book.

A story may be open-ended or conclusive, but resist the temptation to hasten to the end; capture the essence of the tapestry of words. I enjoyed a guessing game while navigating the pages, as each character and their space is sensitively worked upon. The first story is my favorite with its element of suspense. In a couple of stories, I felt the ending was predictable and similar.

The joy of the ride is in the beautiful writing; in the delicate balance of saying more in fewer words. Humans are oft in conflict with themselves or with others as they fight for the rights of people and animals. Stories that leave you wondering, fill you with suspense, or grief, or make you wonder—all tightly packed with crisp and meticulous writing.

The storyteller in Judith Ets-Hokin invokes thoughts and weaves in magic, figuratively and literally. She moves around in different walks of life, manifold worlds, myriad people, thus creating stories rich and fulfilling. Special applause for the artistic book cover. Grab your copy for stories—long and short—and enjoy a perfect reading weekend.

Book Review: The Emperor who Vanished

The book has good font size, smooth language, and dives into anecdotes and information from history, art, and architecture. A great memory refresher for adults with a few new facts and a wonderful book to make the children interested in our rich history, monuments, and the wonders of ancient times! I recommend this book for 10 years and above readers and even as a bedtime read for younger children.

Now, that I am building my 11-year old son’s library, I am getting to read some great children’s/young adult fiction, and rediscovering forgotten facts. Kavitha Mandana’s The Emperor who Vanished is a book that introduces Indian history, art, and architecture in an interesting manner. This book is relevant for children in middle school because this is the time they are discovering more about India’s rich heritage and culture in their school curriculum.

The book has good font size, smooth language, and dives into anecdotes and information from history, art, and architecture. A great memory refresher for adults with a few additional facts and a wonderful book to make the children interested in our rich history, monuments, and the wonders of ancient times! I recommend this book for 10 years and above readers and even as a bedtime read for younger children.

Rating – 4/5. A star less because my son did not enjoy the fictional bit about the two students embarking on a school project. I also felt the language was not taut in those sections. The characters were not flushed out and the attempt to create a funny and engaging storyline was not exactly accomplished. Even without focussing on the story of Apu and Nina, the book is worth a read.

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