Books

After a plethora of relatively quick and easy reads, I picked up two books in a row that have been slow reads (well, one’s an audiobook, so one read and one listen). The books in question are “Silently and Very Fast,” by Catherynne M. Valente, and “Walden,” by Henry Thoreau.

Silently and Very Fast” is interesting, but I found it very, very hard to get into. It starts off chaotic and confusing, which I suspect was on purpose, given the book’s premise. Because the ideas were seemingly non-linear and random, I had a really hard time keeping up and kept finding myself re-reading paragraphs. Progress was very slow and I started getting annoyed, so I decided to add another book to my list for days when I just wasn’t in the mood to read chaos. That’s when I picked up “Walden”. I’d just listened to Thoreau’s “Self-reliance“, which I found interesting, and I remembered being told that “Walden” was a “must-read” in the environmentalist world, so I figured I’d give it a try. It’s interesting, but not as interesting as I’d hoped. I feel like I would have gotten more out of the Coles notes version, because I keep drifting of to the world of distractions when I listen to it (I’m typically pretty good at staying focused when listening to audiobooks).

I can’t stand slow reads, but I do want to finish both these books. “Silently and Very Fast” became less and less chaotic after a few chapters and I finally started to really get into it, but the frustration of the first chunk of the book is lingering, so I decided to take a short break from it. “Walden” is just going to have to wait for the next time I’m in the mood or on a long bus trip.

Instead, I’ve picked up the audiobook version of Ray Bradbury’s “The Concrete Mixer“, which I haven’t quite finished because I keep forgetting that I need to listen to the last bit. I’ve also read a few previews on my Kobo (typically one chapter of the book), all of which I now want to read next, and I finally got around to starting on of my many unread ebooks from Upper Rubber Boots. The ebook I’m reading is “Signs Over the Pacific and Other Stories” by R.J. Astruc. I’m absolutely loving them. The stories are all interconnected and very much in line with what I’d expect from William Gibson (maybe less techie, but the future world is just as interesting).

I’ve peppered all this reading with weeding, which is the library-folk term for sorting through and purging books from a collection. It’s been an exhausting and guilt-riddled chore.

I love books and I grew up in a family that believed in keeping lots of books around. One might go so far as to say we had too many, as dad had hundreds (thousands?) crammed into several tall bookshelves lining one side of the hall that went from one end of the house to the other. The thing is, I rarely reread books. I’d almost go so far as to say “never”, except I’d reread Ray Bradbury or Douglas Adams in a heartbeat if I didn’t have so many books on my “to read” list (in fact, I think I’ve watched, read or listened to just about every iteration of “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“, including the original radio production, and I’d happily read, watch, listen to them all again). Because of this, I’m trying to be a lot more careful about what physical books I buy. I don’t need (or want) to clutter my apartment with a million books that I’m never going to reread, but I do like having books around.

Having successfully purged (really purged!) my craft books a few weeks ago, I decided to do the same with all my other books. It was really hard. Some of the books are ones that I remember finding in my parent’s giant collection, so they have sentimental value from my childhood. Some are by beloved authors, so I feel like I’m betraying the very people who taught me to love reading. But, they have to go. And, in a twist that I didn’t expect, I’m getting rid of half of my Margaret Atwood books.

Margaret Atwood is one of the reasons I read. I’ve always loved books, but as I got older and “had” to start reading “real” books (books without pictures), I started losing interest. In retrospect, I think that it was a combination of losing all the gorgeous art, not finding the kinds of books that I really liked, and being a slow reader that nearly did me in. Back in my day, YA literature wasn’t as big as it is nowadays, graphic novels were still considered low-key drivel, and so many of the books with female leads were stupid romances or period pieces. I wasn’t really that interested in history and I got tired of reading books about heroines who still had to be saved by someone else in the end or who nearly lost the battle because of their misguided infatuation with a boy.

Then I started reading books that suited me a bit better. Like “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I had to read the book and watch the movie for a school project. It was one of the scariest books I’d ever read because the society they lived in was a young feminist’s nightmare. But, it utterly blew my mind and I loved it. So, I read more Margaret Atwood. And, at some point I randomly read Ray Bradbury, including “The Martian Chronicles,” and fell in love with his style of writing and his immense imagination. Suddenly, I loved reading. I was still a slow reader and I didn’t read much (mostly because I had so much reading to do for school), but I was a reader.

It’s weird getting rid of some of Atwood’s books. Heck, it’s weird that I’m getting rid of half my whole collection, but it has to be done and I don’t need those books to remember how much I love the authors. Of course, I’m keeping a few favourites from my Atwood collection and almost all of my Bradbury collection. From now on, I’ll try to stick with the “one in, one out” rule … except that it will be a cold day in hell before “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “The Martian Chronicles” can be torn out of my hands.

And, of course, I’m still going to buy a million ebooks and borrow even more from the library. One little ereader will not clutter up my apartment :)

Do you have books you refuse to get rid of?

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