Friday, July 21, 2006

The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life: How to get more books in your life and more life from your books

Steve Leveen is the co-founder of Levenger, a catalog founded on offering "tools for serious readers," and the author of this How To book about reading. I found his voice oddly off-putting, rather brisk and energetic, like a motivational speaker; not at all what I'm looking for when I read about reading. So I quickly skimmed the book for useful information. The following paragraphs are my notes.

There is a chapter on how to find books you want to read. Resources include the Reader's Advisory librarian, who helps you find what you want to read, even if it's a novel you once read but you can't remember the title or the author, just that it was a spy thriller set in the 1930s in Budapest.

There are also books of suggestions. Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason, by Nancy Pearl, is a treasure trove of suggestions, as is its sequel, which I believe is called Book Lust 2 .

Good Reading: A Helpful Guide for Serious Readers was compiled by a committee; the committee chair, Professor Atwood H. Townsend advises: "Never force yourself to read a book that you do not enjoy. There are so many good books in the world that it is foolish to waste time on one that does not give you pleasure and profit."

There is also The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman, whose impressive credentials included editor of Encyclopedia Brittanica, judge for Book-of-the-Month Club, and book review editor for The New Yorker.

There is a chapter on how to read, which favorite part for me is the mention of the learning technique known as SQ3R: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review, by Francis Robinson. I'm pretty sure someone taught me this in school once, but obviously it didn't stick. There are also mentions of Edmund Bordeaux Szekely's Sorbonne Method and Walter Pauk's Cornell System.

There is a chapter on audiobooks, of which Mr. Leveen is an enthusiastic proponent. He mentions four surprising things that were discovered about audiobooks in the early years of their development:
1--They do not merely occupy your mind, but calm it. This would help me in traffic, for sure.
2--Authors are usually not the best narrators. Actors tend to be better.
3--Music is a distraction in audiobooks, unlike TV, radio and movies.
4--One narrator is best, even for different characters and lots of dialogue.
Audiobooks are best compared to the ancient art of storytelling.

He also discusses the pros and cons of audiobooks:
Pros--Easier to track & enjoy dialogue and dialects, easier to deal with foreign words and names, can reinforce experience if listening and reading at the same time, some people prefer listening.
Cons--Some people prefer reading to listening, takes longer.

There's a chapter on book clubs. Not really my thing, but a reference to Nancy Pearl's "One Book, One Community" program intrigues me, since I am such a fan of her Book Lust volumes.

And that's pretty much it.


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