Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Does the Reading Environment Matter?

My husband and brother-in-law are enjoying a morning walk with the dog, and I thought I would use this free time to drop in and say hello. We are meeting my husband's parents for breakfast a little later. I am not sure how much reading I will be able to fit in today, but my plan is to cram it into every spare corner that I can.

I am not much of an entertainer. I prefer to go places to see people rather than have them come to me. One thing I do not mind when company comes to visit is how they take instantly to the big bookcases overflowing with books in my living room. My husband and I are both lucky in that we came from families of readers, and so our parents, whenever they are in town, can't help but peruse our shelves, sometimes gently touching spines, reading title names aloud with a sense of wonder in their voices. The last time my own father was in town, he and I had been discussing what he was reading these days and I went to my shelves, pulled several books down and handed them to him, suggesting he might like those. I may not trust everyone with my books, but I do trust my family (other than a particular relative whose gender and exact relation will remain undisclosed in case he or she happens to stumble on my blog).

I am still working my way through The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It is one of those books which I find best to read in the quiet and when I have long chunks of time to settle into, which, of course, is not on a weekend with company visiting, or during work breaks while at the office. I considered starting on another book to keep me occupied this weekend, something less demanding of my complete attention and time, but I still cannot settle on one. I keep wanting to get back to The Woman in White. It's got that grip on me that so often books do, and it won't let go.

Are you like me in that certain books call for a specific reading environment while others can be read just about anywhere at anytime? Perhaps that is why so many of you juggle multiple books at once (something that is not so easy for me because once I get caught in the gaze of a book, I only have eyes for that one book). Or does it not matter for you, regardless of what you are reading? Or perhaps you always have to have your reading environment a certain way or else you cannot focus?

Events to look forward to this week: Diana Spechler will be stopping by for an interview on Monday and my review of her book, Who By Fire, will be posted on Tuesday. I may or may not be posting another movie review. It depends on if I can think of anything to say beyond "I liked it."

Week in Review:
Guest Appearance by Jan Brogan
Review of Teaser by Jan Brogan
Movie Reviews of The Reader and Valkyrie
A Page in the Life of Anna from Diary of an Eccentric (new monthly feature)
Bookish Chatter

My husband, brother-in-law, and dog are back. Time to think about breakfast. Thank you for stopping by, and have a great week. Happy reading!


  1. Sometimes I can read more than one book at a time it just really depends if they all need a LOT of attention. I just finished Edgar Sawtelle and now I'm starting Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Pride and Prejudice...sounds crazy huh?

    I really look forward to your interview with Diana Spechler, Who By Fire, is certainly a book that I want to read this year!!

    Have fun with the family and enjoy your Sunday!!

  2. You are fortunate to have so many readers in your family. I have learned thru trial and error to only jungle two books at a time. Too many unfinished books if I try more than that. Have a great week!

  3. My mom is an avid reader. She has been making her way through my TBR shelf, finishing them within a day or two. She's an animal! I told her SHE needed to start a blog.

    There are certain books that require more attention, peace and quiet than others. I just finished Wuthering Heights, and because of the type of prose that it is written in, I needed total concentration. These types of books are also better served when read in longer sittings. I listen to audio just about anywhere, that too requires some concentration, so I can't push the multi-tasking too much!

    Hope you are able to squeeze in some time for Wilkie. I will look forward to that review!

  4. I totally agree that some books require a certain environment to read. You just have to concentrate more on some.

  5. I'm definitely a one-book girl. I don't like to juggle multiple books because I always prefer one over the other. On the other hand, some books definitely need full concentration, so when I start one of those, I might have to go with another for short, potentially interrupted reading sessions.

  6. I generally only read one book at a time. I just started The Women in White yesterday, and I think I'm going to need lots of peace and quiet to read it. I'm glad to hear you are enjoying it so far!

  7. I'm with you in that I'd definitely prefer to go visiting than be visited. Hosting company often seems like so much work between coming up with meals and things to do etc. and so on that all the work of making sure people are enjoying themselves at my place ruins the time for me.

    I agree that some books require different environments in which to read them. For example, Twilight I probably could have read with the TV on, the dog barking, and maybe some sort of natural disaster taking place, but if I've got a classic or some sort of non-fiction tome going, I have to have a little peace and quiet.

    Oh and is the "No two persons ever read the same book" quote in your header new? If not, I never noticed...and I love it! It's so true! =D

  8. I envy people like you who come from a family of readers. My parents were not readers, but I loved books ever since I was little.

    Have fun with your family. I do not enjoy entertaining either; always anxious when having company.

    I have (2) Favorite places to read: a special chair near a window or in bed. I always have 2 books going: an audio for the car, and a regular print book for the home.

    Have a great day!

  9. I always check out the bookshelves where ever I am. That can occasionally be tricky.

    That's what happened to me reading The Maltese Falcon a week or so ago. I could not get into it, until I was at a restaurant reading it at lunch. Evidently I needed a nice dark corner secluded booth with a desk lamp for atmosphere. I practically finished the whole book then and there.

  10. I'm determined to read something by Wilkie Collins this year!

    Hope you have a great time with your family and looking forward to Diana's interview. I really enjoyed Who By Fire so I can't wait to read what's she up to next with her writing.

  11. I love the new look of your blog!

    Yes, I have certain places I can read and sometimes it also depends on the book. I can definitely understand how The Woman in White requires your undivided attention. It would for me too. Also, sometimes the background noise or pitch of who is talking can really distract me. Thank Goddess for ipods and the iTouch.

    I need to sign up for the Chunkster Challenge..I just saw on your blog. I think half of my books are 450+ pages..LOL
    Have a great week. looks awesome!

    Bookworm's Dinner

  12. I used to read a number of books at a time, but these days I can't manage it any more. I try to have only two books on the go - one ordinary book (either ebook or paper book) and one audiobook. Any more than that and I get confused.

  13. I'm the youngest of 3 in a boisterous family so by necessity I learned to read (and sleep) in pretty much any environment.

  14. I used to be able to read any time any where but now I need to have a little quiet but other than that the reading environment doesn't really matter.

    Did I tell you I started out reviewing only movies at Yahoo Movies? I decided I wanted to be able to post pictures and clips with them so I started blogging (and then moved on to adding book reviews). At first I was only writing a few sentences, pretty much that I liked it but then added to it to include what I thought of the parts that Yahoo makes you rate (story, acting, direction, visuals, and overall). If you do plan on doing movie reviews, don't worry about starting out small, we're here to hear what you think about it anyways!

  15. My audiobooks are the one style that I really have to have in the car. I don't do well listening to them anywhere else. I always get sidetracked or interrupted everywhere else. In the car, I concentrate on driving and the story. It's lovely.

  16. This is such a complex question. I am glad you asked it. This is something I have been thinking about but in a slightly different context. I have been thinking about the reason WHY you read a book affecting your enjoyment and understanding of it. Say, if you read a book for school you will LOVE it. For a required reading book it is fabulous, but if you read it on your own you may have been bored or disappointed. This also connects with opportunities to discuss and learn more about the book, story, author, history, ect.

    Then there is of course the matter of environment. There are definitely books that are bath books. They aren't too heavy (textually) or you will quickly be drowning in the bathwater fast asleep. They can't be too heavy (physically) or THEY will quickly be drowning in the bathwater.

    If I am not liking a book I tend to carry it around with me, I am more focused with finishing it than enjoying it and read a paragraph or two any chance I get.

    I keep a book here at the computer with me to read when I might be waiting for something, an email, a chat response, pure boredom.

    I read lighter books when the kids are here, heavier books when the kids are gone.

    Audiobooks in the car, while playing computer games, and reading.

    While I do read WAY TOO MANY BOOKS at a time (as you know) I am usually only actively reading 1-2 books and really enjoying them and focusing on getting to the end. The rest I am just meandering through, either just not enjoy the current few chapters, or generally disliking the book, or just enjoying reading it slow.

    As you can see, this could have easily could have been a blog post and likely should have been. But I will be quiet now.

  17. Oh, I love to be the hostess, but currently I live in a much too small apartment to entertain - I choose the ocean view over the space... :)

    Btw, I loved your interview with Eccentric's Anna!!!

  18. I read all of my books in bed as that's the only time I have to myself these days!

  19. I always read in bed at night. That's the only reading time I seem to get lately.

    I can only read one print book at a time and then I listen to an audio book in the car. Even those two books at once is difficult for me, but I'm getting used to it.

  20. I can read anywhere, but I prefer to read while I am snuggled in bed. Sometimes I read a few books at a time, but I never get into them as much as when I concentrate on one book. I love mysteries - one at a time.

  21. I think some books do need a certain environment, for me at least. For classics or other books that require a bit more concentration, I find I need quiet.
    I also usually only read one at a time, the only problem comes if I'm reading a big hardback because those don't leave the house simply because they're too big and heavy to lug around on public transport. I don't commute much anymore though so if I'm in the middle of a hardback, then I'll grab a magazine for the short trip instead.

  22. Mrs Dalloway was a book I needed absolute quiet to read.

    I'll read something light at the doc's or while the girl has swimming lessons.

    Btw, I left you an award on my blog.

  23. Staci - Thank you, Staci! I will sometimes mix a fiction book with a nonfiction one, but it's not something I do too often.

    Kristy - I once tried three books at once, and that didn't work out so well.

    Sandy - You're mom is indeed an avid reader! I hope you are able to convince her to try her hand at blogging. ;-)

    Kathy - Exactly. It is definitely easier to concentrate on certain types of books more than others.

    Meghan - That's how I am too most of the time. You've just reminded me that a short story book might be perfect for this instance, with me and Wilkie Collins. :-)

    Laura - I bet you finish it before I do at the rate I'm going! Haha! I hope you enjoy it.

    Megan (Leafing Through Life) - Yes, that's it exactly! It becomes more stressful than fun.

    I felt that way about Twilight too--it's definitely one of those books that can be read in just about any environment.

    The quote is new. I thought I'd go for something different and that one stood out for me. I am glad you like it!

  24. Diane - I am glad you were able to develop a love for books despite your family's lack of interest in them. We all come to them in different ways, don't we? And thank you! We had a nice visit with our family.

    My drive to work isn't all that long and I worry it wouldn't be enough for an audio book. It would take me years to listen to one book. :-)

    I hope you have a great week!

    Carrie K - If you ever visit me, you are welcome to peruse my bookshelves. :-) I enjoyed your story about reading The Maltese Falcon. Isn't that funny how it works like that sometimes?

    Iliana - I hope you are able to fit in Wilkie Collins. Do you know what you woul be reading if you do?

    Thank you! We had a nice visit with the family. I hope you enjoy Diana's interview! She's a great woman with a wonderful sense of humor.

    Wisteria - Thank you! I was in the mood for something different. I find that to be true for me too in that the level of noise or the type of noise can be distracting, depending on what it is. I am less tolerant now than I was in my younger years.

    I hope you do join the Chunkster Challenge! It's worth it just to choose one of those hilarious options. :-) I hope you have a great week too.

    Kerry - I can see how it might get confusing, juggling too many books at one time. I imagine reading/listening to them in different formats makes it easier.

    Irish - That would do it! LOL I used to be better able to read under any circumstances, but not so much anymore. I like to blame in on age, but I suppose it has more to do with the type of environment I've adapted to living in.

    Jen - Thank you for sharing your movie review writing start up story! You've given me some food for thought--and ideas on what to consider when reviewing a movie). I also appreciate your confidence in me. :-)

  25. Vickie - I think I would do best with audios while exercising, but I haven't the means to do that right now. Someday someone in my immediate family will get me an iPod. I'm sure of it! LOL

    Megan (Posey Sessions) - Thank you for your great reply, Megan! You bring up a very interesting question about the why behind our enjoyment of a particular book and what might contribute to that.

    Your point about only actively reading 1 to 2 books at a time even while others have been started and are just waiting their turn again, makes a lot of sense for me. I think that's why I have trouble in part with reading more than one or two books at once. I don't like to have so many unfinished "projects" about. It works well for many people, obviously, but it tends to be a stressor for me because I'm constantly thinking about how I need to finish them all.

    And don't worry about the length of your comment--I don't mind at all! And I hope you'll never be quiet. Except maybe when you are sleeping. :-)

    Bookoholic - The next time I have company over, you can act as my hostess. ;-) I would definitely have chosen the ocean view over space too!

    Michelle - The bed is a great place to read! It's one of my favorite spots. I just have to make sure I'm not so tired that I end up falling asleep. LOL

    Yvonne - Sometimes that's the only time I can fit in reading too. I am glad you are finding it easier to balance an audio and print book at the same time.

    Violetlady - I tend to be able to read anywhere too, but I definitely can get more out of what I'm reading in certain evironments more than others.

    Nat - Yes, that seems to be true for me. Many of the classics require a more quiet environment for me too. My Wilkie Collins book is a big hardback and so it's not so easy to lug around. It doesn't fit in my purse, which can at least hold a regular sized hardback. :-( It means less reading time while I'm out and about.

    Chris - I have Mrs. Dalloway in my TBR collection. I can see why that would be a read-in-quiet book.

    Thank you for the award. That is so kind of you!

  26. I find that I have particularly good memories of books I read somewhere fun, even if the book itself was kind of mediocre.

    I read The Nanny Diaries, for instance, on a cruise ship, sitting alone in the restaurant, looking over the wake, and glanced up to see a dozen dolphins leaping in the water. Even though the book itself was kind of so-so, I always think about that moment when I see the book.

  27. I read several books at a time-they are like tv shows for me. I go in installments unless I really get hooked in. I can pretty much tune people or the tv out when I read but preferably I like being on my couch with just the tv and the dog for reading.

  28. I very rarely read more than one book at a time. I am reading two now but only because one of the books is nonfiction and will take me awhile to read. I need to be able to dip into it occasionally with breaks in between.

  29. I wish the change of physical locale does not affect my reading mood but it does. I'm deeply rooted in my routine, so traveling imposes challenges to dislodge my routine. I always look for a bright reading spot in a quiet atmosphere. When I'm home to visit my family in Hong Kong, such a place almost doesn't exist except for my own home!

  30. I currently have several books going at once, which is highly unusual for me. Some environmental factors and time constraints are exactly why I'm doing this right now. Good question you posted!

  31. Man--did I fall off the blogging earth? I LOVE your new template and especially the header. Love love love.

    I'm so glad to hear that WIW has its claws in you. It's our next book club pick and I can't wait to get to it, even if I know it'll probably take some work. Can't wait to hear what you think.

  32. Janssen - That's an interesting observation! I'll have to try and pay more attention to see if that holds true for me too. :-) Of course, I'm not sure any of the places I read could be considered fun--ordinary, yes. LOL

    That is a great memory to have, reading while watching dolphins leaping in the water.

    Dar - I've started preferring TV shows on DVD so I can watch them straight through (not all at once), and I watch less and less live shows these days. It's beginning to match my reading habits more. :-)

    Samantha - That's usually when I double dip too, Samantha. I may do that for The Woman in White, however. I need to take a book to training with me tomorrow and The Woman in White is a little too big for my purse.

    Matt - That's really interesting, Matt. I admit that I do not read a lot when I travel because I am just so taken in by all that's going on around me, even when I am staying with relatives in a familiar place.

    Terri - Hopefully it is working well for you!

    Trish - Thank you! I've only had the new template up for just over a week now, and so you aren't that behind. :-)

    I look forward to reading what you think of TWIW either!

  33. Hi Wendy, for me a quiet environment is definitely better than noisy ones although I can still read in those places. I can also handle, say two books at a time, provided they're different. For example, if both stories are fantasy, then chances of me getting confused is very high.

  34. Alice - I find that to be true the older I get. :-)


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