Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reading Research - Help Me out!

I'm doing some research on the experience of reading for a class. I've discovered there are services on the web that allow one to design surveys and collect the answers anonymously. I will be posting a link to that survey in a couple of days and I hope all you fabulous readers will give me the 5-8 minutes it will take to respond. I'll not tell you what the exact subject is now so you are not biased, but I will post any interesting results here for those of you who are interested in what I learn.

Apropos of reading...this meme has, like that nasty upper respiratory infection, been going around. I caught it from Danielle at A Work in Progress.

1. Do you remember learning to read? How old were you? I know I learned to read before I went to school. I remember being read to - particularly "I am a bunny, my name is Nicholas, and I live in a hollow tree" and also Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. I do remember a slip of paper sitting on my mother's night table on which she had written my name and I was trying to practice it. I don't remember any 'aha' moment of connecting letters to sounds. However, I very clearly remember Suzanne in first or second grade impressing everyone by writing script when we were all still printing. Some of us were very jealous and demanded that she teach us, so a little group was set up and Suzanne taught us these lovely little curly-cues which turned out not to be script letters at all - just scribbles. Suzanne was just pretending to write script and then couldn't admit it, so she taught us all a fake alphabet. I, for one, felt terribly cheated. I still blame her for my hatred of handwriting and my horrible penmanship.

2. What do you find most challenging to read? Non fiction for which I have no context. For example, my neurophysiology textbook at the beginning of this semester. Polemics - anyone's. Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre.

3. What are your library habits? I reserve books and DVDs and pick them up when I get an email telling me they're ready. I only occasionally drop into the library to browse as I did when I was a kid. I use the library to borrow books I know I will not want to keep. I also sometimes preview books at the library but end up buying them anyway because I simply love to possess the books I've read.

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger? I used to live very close to the library and go there at least once or twice a week. I would borrow armloads of books. I remember going to the school library several times a week as well and waiting for the latest Newberry Award winner or something a friend had gotten his hands on first. I remember first encountering From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Watership Down, The Headless Cupid, and The Egypt Game from the school library. I remember going through an Agatha Christie phase when I was about 12 and taking out 7 or 8 books which my parents told me was too many. To prove them wrong, I read them all in a week, so I could return the entire stack.

5. How has blogging changed your reading life? I'm not sure that I read any more than I used to, but I read more widely, with all the great recommendations from other bloggers and visitors. I also read knowing I'm going to probably write something, which gives me a certain added attentiveness.

6. What percentage of your books do you get from new book stores, second hand book stores, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other? I do buy books from new book stores but almost never from the chain stores, although I'm happy to browse there on occasion. If I do buy from a new book store, it's from an independent store with character - a small stock that is driven by a point of view and a staff who actually read. Or it's because I'm visiting some town on a trip and I pay a visit to their local bookstore. The Waterstone's in Amsterdam regularly gets my business when I'm there, because they have a lot of stuff that is released in Britain before it is released in the U.S. I haven't done the online exchange sites. I do frequent second hand bookstores a lot. As much as I can. I love them. Any new place I visit, I track one down. I know pretty much every one in NYC and pay them a visit whenever I'm in the neighborhood. And I use online bookstores a ton, particularly Alibris, ABE and Books-a-million.

7. How often do you read a book and not review it on your blog? What are your reasons for not blogging about a book? Sometimes I'm reading something trashy just for diversion - some mystery or thriller and, even if it's good, there's nothing to say. I'll just stick it on the books read list and move on. Sometimes I'll not finish something and also have nothing to say. That's my only reason for not writing about it. I don't have any qualms writing negative things if that's the way I've reacted. Mostly I only finish books I like and then I want to write about them.

8. What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books? If they don't ban them and they don't burn them, and they don't ruin the ending for me, I don't much care what other people do with their books. They can bake one into a chocolate brownie for all I care.

9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work? Sometimes I'm running someone at the lab in an experiment and there's nothing much for me to do - I'm in a little sound-attenuated booth and some kid is pushing buttons with a bunch of electrodes on their head and I'll pull out a copy of something from my bag. But mostly I don't like reading for such short periods of time - that's not pleasurable for me and I usually have something due for a class and have an article or textbook in my bag rather than the book I'm reading for fun, which is probably waiting by my bed. Sometimes though, in periods of high stress with lots and lots of school work, (like now) I will carry a fun read around with me and take a break on my subway or bus ride.

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them? I frequently give books as gifts unless I know someone doesn't like to read. They are one of the objects I value most and I think a good gift is an expression of the giver, not just a favor to the recipient. I give books that I have read and liked. Of course I would like it to be a fit for the recipient but trying to guess the taste of someone else can make you a skittish gift buyer. The gift is in the giving, if I value it and have been thoughtful then it's a good gift, even if it's not a favorite read. Sometimes I'll give a book I have liked that I suspect the recipient would never buy for themselves. Or I might give a book I've read some reviews of and would like to read but don't have the time. Or a book that sounds fascinating but I don't like reading that genre and so would end up not reading it. Sometimes too I'll just come across a book that I know for sure a friend would like. I bought my friend Pam a book a couple of months ago that had her name all over it. In a used bookstore several years ago, I came across a volume of Abigail and John Adams' Letters and bought it for Sheila, not knowing she practically knew them by heart.

If you've read this and you have a blog, you're it - don't shirk.


Anonymous said...

These things do have a way of making the rounds, don't they? Cough, cough. So what did your parents say after you devoured all those Agatha Christie books? Ibet they no longer told you you are taking out too many books from the library!

Anonymous said...

I also find non-fiction more challenging to read. History books that are out of context and are loaded with names and dates will take me a long time to read. For fiction, I find James Joyce and Thomas Mannn very challenging.

Jodie Robson said...

When my husband had to read Sartre's Being and Nothingness we began to refer to it as Breathing and Stuffiness, which is how it's caricatured in surrealist writer Boris Vian's Froth on a Daydream. Didn't help - I read a chunk too, to be able to discuss it. Now when I pass it on the shelf all these years later, it's the Vian title I see. "Froth" is a lovely book, by the way, but not much read now, I think, and hard to track down.