Read All About It

One of my friends asked me a question the other day, that got me thinking.  We’d been talking movies, which led to books, which led to me mentioning a couple of books I’d read lately.  And then he said, “When do you get time to read all this stuff?”

And I kind of stopped and wondered.  Because I really do read a lot.  I’ve read exactly 70 books so far this year.  My best year was 2008 where I read 138 books.  In the past five years, from 2005 to the end of 2010, I read 705 books.

Wow.  I never added that up before.

How do I know how many I read?  Well, I’d heard a few years of someone who said they read two books a week.  I figured I might be around that range (I’m actually averaging something more like 2.7 books/week right now), but I figured, short of stacking the books and counting them up at the end of the year, I could track them.

So, geek that I am, I built an Excel spreadsheet to track them…then I got more geeky.  I tracked how many were fiction versus non-fiction.  Then I started tracking how many of them are comics, audiobooks or regular print books.  I figure I now have to add in an “eBook” category, seeing as how that’s getting bigger for me this year.  Turns out I read about 3/4 fiction versus 1/4 non-fic, and about 50% of what I read is “traditional” print books, about a third is audiobooks and the rest is comics.

Which leads to another question…when do I have time to enter all this crap in a spreadsheet, but that’s for another blog…

Anyway, who cares, right?

Well, yeah, but hey, it’s my blog, so I can basically talk about anything…

So, in that spirit, one last number.   I guess the biggest number for me is, I read about 45,000 pages a year.  That’s pretty crazy.

But then again, I come from a family with a lot of addictive tendencies.  I guess I’m glad my addiction runs more to opiating my brain through reading than opiating my brain through pills and alcohol.  Fair trade, as far as I’m concerned.

So how to I accomplish this?  I think the secret is the audiobooks, myself.  That’s the biggest surprise for me, as I really thought I’d hate them.  I was always one of those kids that didn’t like to be read to.  I can read it, dammit, give it to me to read! So it was with some trepidation that I started my first audiobook in August of 2005.   HARRY POTTER & THE SORCERER’S STONE.  And, even more, this was a book I didn’t think I’d get into, because I’d tried reading it to my kids not that long before and we all seemed bored by it.  I’d previously read THE WIZARD OF OZ to my daughter and we both fell in love with the  book.  Not so much with Harry Potter.

So I stuck the disk in the car player one morning as I started up the car for the 45 minute drive into work.  I figured I’d give it ten minutes, then yank it if it wasn’t grabbing me.

It seemed to only take a few minutes to get to work that morning.  I was hooked by the story, hooked by Stephen Fry’s excellent reading…I was hooked by the whole concept.  All day, I kept wondering why it had taken me so long to do this.

I blew through the first book pretty quickly.  Getting a solid 90 minutes to 2 hours every day can really pound you through some stories.  I finished the second book within a couple of weeks.  Same with the third.  I’d gone through three books in a month.  But the books were bigger, so the audiobooks were longer and longer.  Still the 4th book, GOBLET OF FIRE still only took slightly under three weeks.  ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, just over three weeks.  Same with HALF-BLOOD PRINCE…and then…well, then I had to wait for J.K. Rowling to catch up with me.  But in the span of about 12 weeks or so, I’d gotten through six books…three of which were Stephen Kingian doorstops!

I moved on to the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, which were just okay, then the SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, which I really enjoyed up until the really crappy non-ending 13th book.  Then it was the HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY books, which I’d previously read in high school and loved even more the second time around.  In fact, I did a bunch of series after that.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of driving back and forth to work, as well as some traveling for work, a couple of trips to Florida, etc.  I’ve gone through almost 140 audiobooks.  I’ve found some readers that I love, such as the aforementioned Stephen Fry, as well as Tim Curry, for simply enjoyable reading and others like Bill Bryson (reading his own stuff) who comes across like that favourite funny uncle.  There’s others that should never be allowed to read aloud again, most notably Scott Sigler (who, interestingly, made his name with audio works).  You can literally hear his mouth drying up and the smack of lips at times.  Then there’s Scott Brick, a guy I really didn’t like when I heard him read the Dune series, but either he’s grown as a reader, or the subject matter makes a difference, but I can’t imagine anyone else reading Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt series.  He’s brilliant.

Then there’s the unexpected one.  Granted, much of it was the subject matter, but Winona Ryder reading THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK left me in tears.  Yes, in my car, on the 401, driving 130 km/h.  In tears.  Unforgettable.

I’ve got this debate with my daughter.  She says that listening to an audiobook isn’t “reading”.  Okay, I agree, it’s not reading, it’s listening.  But either way, I’m experiencing the work.  And Stephen King makes a good point when he talks about listening to an audiobook versus reading, when he says that, with someone reading, it unmasks any flaws in the writing.  It brings them to light.  If someone overuses certain words or phrases, it’s going to be very apparent in a reading.  On the other hand, if the writer is very good, the musicality of their writing will shine through as well.  I fell in love with Andre Dubus III and David Wroblewski’s writing in this way.  I rediscovered Stephen R. Donaldson and Harlan Ellison and Dennis Lehane this way.  And I’ve learned to absolutely delight in Shakespeare, who’s works were beaten to a bloody pulp by my high school teachers, who forced us to read and not experience the works and rob them of much of their power.  Shame on every one of you for that.

My point is, I think we have to consider listening to audiobooks as a legitimate form of experiencing the work.

So, heard any good books lately?

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4 thoughts on “Read All About It

  1. Hey Tobin! I thought I read a lot until I read this post! You might find another avid reader’s blog, “Book Addiction” interesting (http://heatherlo.wordpress.com). I think Heather might just read even more books than you, and she writes reviews for a great number of them! Enjoy the site; I highly recommend it.

  2. I found that some books are more suited for listening to than others. If you listen to some stuffy British woman read a novel with a really odd style, you just might fall asleep at the wheel. Just sayin’, maybe avoid Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf in audiobook form.

    I do agree that Stephen Fry is an exceptional reader though. I think university robbed me of most of my enjoyment of Shakespeare; I still like Hamlet, but that’s only because we didn’t study it in the class I took. The idea of experiencing a play through the audio is excellent, and might be a cheaper way to enliven my life than going to Stratford and shelling out $90 to see Twelfth Night.

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