Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Thoughts: Private Act of Reading

This weekend there was an article in the New York Times about how reading seems to have changed from being "among the last remaining private activities" to a "relentlessly social pursuit" in the age of Facebook and blogs.

I have to admit, I never found reading to be an inherently private activity - not in th sense the article means, anyway. The article quotes Rebecca Stead, author of this year's Newberry-winning When You Reach Me: “For me, as a kid, a book was a very private world,” she said. “I didn’t like talking about books with other people very much because it almost felt like I didn’t want other people to be in that world with me.”

For me, reading was and still is a solitary activity - but the idea of wanting to keep a wonderful, beautiful book to myself is totally foreign. One book, Empress of the World, changed my life in an incredibly private way - yet I excitedly told every single person I knew about it for years. Admittedly, I didn't always discuss why I was so touched by the book - though I'm sure some people figured it out pretty quickly - but I wanted to share it with people and eventually discuss it.

I find it interesting that Laura Miller, a staff writer at Salon and an author herself, speculates that it is the more casual reader who is drawn to the more social aspects of reading, while it is the truly bookish who are more private about their books. I fail to see how it is casual readers who are pouring over the minutiae of Harry Potter or Twilight. Some of these fans may not be the heaviest readers, by which I mean that they may read little outside of these blockbuster series, but clearly they have hunkered down with these massive books and applied some serious brainpower to them.

I know that most of my followers here are fellow bloggers, which the NYT hypothesizes means you're all like me and think this notion of reading as "private" is bunk, but I'd still like to know what your experiences are!


Real Estate said...

Hi, I was wondering how one can approach you to send you children's books to review. I'm the founder of www.storytimeforme.com and we currently have 50 children's books and growing. They are interactive and animated as well, I think you will enjoy. I would be honored to give you free access to all the stories for your review. Please email me at andrew@storytimeforme.com if possible, thanks so much.

Michelle The Artist said...

I never found reading to be private either. I was always the one to shove a book at someone and say, 'you have to read this, it was sooooo good.' I've been waiting for a friend to read an entire series just so we can discuss the ending!

Sandra said...

Honestly? Reading for pleasure is a way of getting away from it all, therefore a private activity perhaps. But who in history did not recommend to friends and family very good books that they'd read. My book blog is based on "good reading recommendations", it's on my header. Because I read a great deal, people constantly ask me what's good. Why would I not share what I know with them? With rare exceptions, people who read love to talk about reading-it's part of the experience.

Booksnyc said...

Thanks for pointing out this interesting article.

The act of reading a book is certainly solitary but I agree that sharing great books and what I thought of them is part of the pleasure of being a reader.

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