Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

What books, zines or other pulp are you reading? What aren't you reading? What should everyone else read?
kurt_w
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Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby kurt_w » Fri Jun 26, 2015 9:41 pm

OK, so I've always been a voracious reader, always loved reading. But somehow lately I keep finding it hard to actually care about a book enough to make it all the way through. Not sure if it's a (bad) change in me, or if I just keep picking up the wrong books.

At the moment I'm boring myself with China Mieville's Kraken. Currently halfway through, and it's turning out to be a bit of a slog. It seems like a great idea for a short story that got inflated into some kind of bloated shapelessness in the process of turning it into a full-length novel.

Before that I read a couple of novels by a guy who used to be my absolute favorite writer (Kim Stanley Robinson). I've been following him since his two first books, decades ago (Icehenge, and Wild Shore). But lately I keep finding his books almost unreadable. 2312 felt like awful, dull, pointless crap. Shaman was so bad I gave up after just a chapter or two, then forced myself to get through it when Ms kurt gave me a copy for my birthday ... I guess she hadn't seen me start on it the first time.

After the thread about books set in Madison, I made it through The Long Earth by Pratchett & Baxter ... It was not bad, but in retrospect I think that part of what kept me going was the anticipation of more scenes set in Madison. So on a business trip last week I took along the sequel (The Long War) ... and without the Madison interest, I really had trouble caring about or even remembering what was happening. I got about 1/3 of the way into the book and couldn't remember who various characters were or why they should matter. Ultimately, I ended up spending most of the plane flight doing the Sudoku puzzles in the back of the in-flight magazine. Bleh.

Anyway, this is all a bit disturbing. I need to find a book that will actually give me a reason to get through it. Otherwise, I'll start worrying that the problem is me, not the books.

Prof. Wagstaff
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Re: Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:01 pm

Two suggestions:
1) Read some old favorites again.
2) Switch to non-fiction for a while.

I'm not much of a fiction reader these days, so perhaps take my suggestions with a grain of salt. I was an English major (my second time) in college and boy did that suck all the joy out of fiction for me. I've never stopped being an avid reader, I just switched to non-fiction, and I keep my interest in that by alternating stuff I know I'll enjoy -- history of science, in particular, more recently lots of music history -- with books that simply strike my fancy at Half Price or garage sales on topics I know little, if anything, about. (I've found some wonderful pleasures this way on topics as wide-ranging as fraudulent wines and lobster fishermen to books about the history of artificial illumination and the Atlantic ocean.) When I want fiction, I mostly just watch movies or read my old comics (and I can honestly say, I generally prefer film as a storytelling device to prose anyway.) I'd also suggest perhaps looking specifically for funny books. If a novel can make me laugh out while I read it, I'm unlikely to want to put it down. I tore through all of Chris Elliot's books in only a few days last year because I didn't want to stop laughing.

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Re: Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby snoqueen » Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:24 pm

Nonfiction here too. I only get through one or two books of fiction a year, if that.

I like books that tell how to do things. Then I imagine myself doing them and have a fine feeling of accomplishment.

kurt_w
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Re: Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby kurt_w » Sat Jun 27, 2015 11:47 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Two suggestions:
1) Read some old favorites again.
2) Switch to non-fiction for a while.

Those are both good suggestions. I do re-read books fairly often.

And after thinking about it some more, I realized that there have been other recent books I liked enough that I had trouble putting them down:

Lev Grossman, Codex and his new triolgy
Max Barry, Lexicon
Daphne Kalotay, Sight Reading
Lee Goodman, Indefensible
Andy Weir, The Martian (thanks to whichever foron recommended that)

I also reasonably enjoyed reading several collections of short stories in translation, by Finnish writer/artist Tove Jansson.

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Re: Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby nutria » Mon Jun 29, 2015 10:00 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Two suggestions:
1) Read some old favorites again.
2) Switch to non-fiction for a while.


Fantastic suggestions. In keeping with the second, I have maybe a left field suggestion for Kurt, given our similar education backgrounds. One thing I find myself doing maybe once a year is picking up one of my undergrad textbooks, and reading that. With the benefits of having foundational knowledge and not having to worry about slogging through proofs or homework, I find myself catching a lot more interesting insights that would go completely over my head than when I first read through them. (A'course, I left the academic/teaching game almost a decade ago, so YMMV.)

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Re: Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby kurt_w » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:50 am

That's an off-the-wall suggestion but not as strange as it sounds. I actually did spend a few days this past year looking through my daughter's school textbooks. It was oddly interesting. You're right about the way that I keep seeing stuff in a slightly new light.

I am looking forward to the kids going away to camp. At that point, I'm hoping that I'll have some time to read uninterrupted, rather than squeezing in a few pages here and there between responsibilities. Come to think of it, that might be a big part of the problem I was trying to describe at the top of this thread.

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Re: Help, I'm losing my ability to read books

Postby rabble » Mon Jun 29, 2015 2:47 pm

If you're looking for something new and wouldn't mind getting hooked on another series, try Storm Front by Jim Butcher. It's not a white power book. He wrote it before Stormfront got famous.


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