Discussion: Reading the Wrong Way


Is there a wrong way to read? 

A few weeks ago, I bristled at a conversation I saw play out on Twitter. I’m about to quote the authors (and disagree with them), but this isn’t really an issue about the exact names attached. Here’s the exchange:

twitter-convo

I am this person. 

At least, I am a person who loves suspense in a story. I seldom reread (except for select favorites) and I don’t watch a lot of movie adaptations.

I think (maybe I’m wrong) that I’m not a bad reader–a person who ignores nuance and demands my truth. But the possibility–maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m a bad reader–has lingered in my mind. So let’s explore.

How I Read

I read breathlessly, devouring books in single sittings, in ridiculous numbers. I immerse completely and at one time. I avoid summaries, excerpts, book trailers, hype (when I can, topic for another post). I’m obsessed with the experience of diving into a brand new universe with no prep. It precludes my analytical brain, my tendency to predict, to be bored. I do not skim, but I also do not take my time. I do not agonize over meaning or nuance. I turn pages rapidly, pursuing the thread of plot or character development (often as/more important than plot!) to the end. Hard stop.

Does that make me a bad reader?

Demanding truth

Do I demand my own truth from books? I am white. I’m middle class. I’m straight (am I supposed to say cisgendered too/instead? I don’t even know). My version of truth is pretty common.

Except.

I’m also from a very conservative Christian family. And my religion and values are not represented (not well) in most literature.

So I’ve read lots of books that do not speak to my truth. Some of them I like. Some of them I don’t. I don’t think I demand my truth from a story, but how would I know?

Conclusion (Not)

I think I’m a good reader. I think it’s a personal preference that I read quickly, obsessively, with a lot of emphasis on newness, on suspense.

But now I don’t know. Am I ignoring depth that I should hunt for? Should my books be dogeared, marked through the margins with notes from extended rereads? Does not doing that make me a shallow person?

I try not to use this blog for a diary (this type of self-analysis and dithering is very diary-like!), but I’m throwing this one out because I hope other readers have struggled with feeling like bad readers and can give advice! And maybe some of you are going through this with me. Let me know in the comments!

An additional comment on Shannon Hale & Mette Ivie Harrison: I’ve read several books by both of these remarkable authors. I have incredible respect for their attention to tough topics and representation in the book world. This post is in no way an attack on them, just an issue brought to the fore through their conversation. 

Writing Advice from Read Up Greenville


As a career writer and aspiring fiction author, I really enjoy the writing advice that successful authors offer at conferences. It’s equal parts discouraging reality (12 years to publish??) and encouraging normality (they’re real humans like me!).

I don’t want to recreate all of the keynotes/panels, but I jotted down a few interesting points.

Jay Asher

It takes years for the ideas to come together. Several authors have mentioned this concept–basically, the idea for a story starts many, many years before they’re finally able to write it. In some ways, that gives me hope, but Continue reading

Abrupt Horror


Everything affects everything.

Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why

I have a pretty good life. Not many bad things have happened to me. But recently I’ve had some breath-stopping, heart-pounding, stomach-turning moments.

“The baby has a heart defect.”

“They’ve found his body.”

“Something horrible has happened.”

Freeze. Feel the paralysis that abrupt horror creates. 

Most of these moments haven’t even been directly related to me. It wasn’t my baby. It wasn’t my family.

And in some ways, that makes these situations stranger for me. I’m hurt, I’m gutted, I’m crying, but there is nothing I can do. My coworker asks if I’m having a bad day, to which I incoherently reply, “No. Well, kinda. Yes, I guess so.” There’s no way to explain the small anchor on my heart, the tragedy that isn’t close enough to warrant stopping life long enough for grieving.

One of the boys I grew up with committed suicide.

He was the last person I would have expected. (everyone says these things) He was one of the happiest, kindest people I knew. (that light is gone and I can’t believe it) There was no warning, no signs. (there are almost always signs)

But I wouldn’t have known if there had been.

I went to college. He stayed home. We exchanged some Facebook messages, but to be honest, I probably haven’t talked to him in 2-3 years.

And now…well, now that feels like a mistake. Like something I could have done differently if I had bothered to care more.

A few days after he died, I reread 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s seminal YA work on suicide. I read it first many, many years ago. I haven’t read it since because I was afraid it wouldn’t seem as powerful. I was afraid I would be disappointed. Then I heard Jay speak and with the timing, it seemed like a good read.

It was. It didn’t give me any answers (there aren’t any). But it reminded me–again–how important it is to care about the people around us. To go out of our way to show them that we care. To tell them that they matter.

A few days later, I read “Letter to an Ex, on the Occasion of his Suicide.” [Note: strong language, read with discretion.] It was as heart-breaking as I should have expected. Masha made sense of what I couldn’t:

The more time goes on, the more I think being a grown-up means accepting that you might have done your best, but still it wasn’t enough to prevent harm. It wasn’t enough. And for this I bear responsibility.

I want you to:

  • Read 13 Reasons Why
  • Act like you care about the people in your life
  • Care more
  • Breathe. Cry. Write. Fight.
  • Don’t ever forget.

 

If you came to my blog looking for standard book reviews, you can find them further down in the feed. This isn’t a typical book post, I know. But I think this is the soul of reading. Reading is often how we process, heal, make sense of our desperately painful world. I’m trying to be more intentional about showing that reality. Thanks for reading. 

ReadUp Greenville 2016 Recap


Today, a YA & MG book festival launched in my city. I have many, many feels about this, but let me try to convey them in some semblance of coherence.

The Significance

group of authors at read up bookfest

Some of the authors. (Photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

The previous (and first) book festival I attended was 5-6 hours away. I got a hotel room and drove all by myself to meet authors and attend panels. Growing up, I didn’t know that festivals like this existed. I never imagined that I would meet an author, much less many of them. I never imagined that they would give me writing advice and geek out over my Doctor Who t-shirts. So now, to have this festival in my city? That is a dream I didn’t even know to dream for so long.

The Line-up

jay asher author speaking

Jay Asher, the opening keynote presentation (photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

Read Up featured 27 authors. I was familiar with about half of them. Major draws for me: Continue reading

Headphones & Anxiety


Should we think of headphones, then, as just another emblem of catastrophic social decline, a tool that edges us even deeper into narcissism, solipsism, vast unsociability?


The New Yorker recently published a piece about the ubiquity of headphones (and earbuds, although they don’t make that distinction). Amanda Petrusich steers the article to the changes in the music industry based on this rise, but her early concern (in the quote at top) caught my attention.

Are headphones just a tool for unsociability? Continue reading

Lyse Links: Instagram, Hamilton, running, and mental illness


What have you read this week?

 

May Reading Recap


book-2869_1920Guys, May was a REALLY GOOD reading month. But before I get into all the excitement, let me review my goals for this year.

  • 150 books total.
  • 50,000 pages.
  • 40 non-fiction.
  • 10 classics.
  • 10 books translated into English (excluding those on my “classics” list).
  • 15 books outside my comfort zone.
  • 22 books off my TBR list.

My reading so far this year has been a bit slim (grad school and all that), so I hit May reading hard. Really hard. Continue reading