In the Midst

I still haven’t managed to make much headway on reading for the year–which I am most solidly blaming on the Architectural Registration Exam, which has consumed my mind to the extent that last week I could not remember the words for either “ladle” or “spatula,” a fact that amuses my brother to no end. Nevertheless, I have somehow discovered myself currently reading (or not, as the case may be) not one but four books. Or at the very least, strongly tempted by them every time I glance up from my study. I’m taking the first test tomorrow–and from what I’ve read about it, I will either discover that I’ve completely studied the wrong things, or I will wonder why I studied so much, no middle ground. After that I will give myself free reign to enjoy my reading again. At least for a few days!

I’m still enjoying Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, which is amusing me greatly. I think this is one of those rare children’s books that I’m actually appreciating more as an adult than I would have when I was younger–I’m finding a lot of humor in it that I don’t think I would have noticed when I was 10. Either that or I’m just in a mood to be easily amused. I took the day off from study today (if I don’t know it already, I won’t tomorrow) and went to see Rango which I found to be laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe even hysterical. Of course, this may just be another example like Rebecca, as I somehow doubt that the average movie-going 10-year old would have recognized “Ride of the Valkyries” by name.

Reading Lolita in Tehran has been pushed a bit to the wayside, and will likely turn out the loser in my current bookish madness. I find it a book to work through slowly, and it requires more mental power than I currently have available. I still intend to finish this, it might just take a while.

And now I much confess. My lack of reading left me open to temptation. I was unable to hold strong for the TBR Dare, and the other two books I’m currently starting are both from the library. Technically I haven’t done anything more with Conversation in the Cathedral (Mario Vargas Llosa) than lug it around. I’m currently pretending it isn’t really 600 pages, that the paper is just really thick. (Actually the paper is on the thick side–thus the lugging.) I’m hoping to start it Sunday. I did start How to Read a Book (Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren) already, although I’m still in the preface. I’ve debated reading this in the past. I often feel that my reading is superficial, and I’ve definitely read my share of superficial books. Not that there is anything wrong with reading simply to be entertained or to “escape.” However, after reading The Divine Comedy last summer, I was reminded about how powerful literature can really be. I want to continue to have that experience of touching something great, but if I only take in the surface of what I’m reading, I will miss out on the best part of the great books. Part of me says that the way to get better at reading is simply to read more. The other part suggests that maybe I need to learn how to better and where to better focus my attention while reading. I’m not sure what How to Read a Book is going to tell me just yet. Maybe I’ll return to my initial instinct that the real solution is to read, read, read; maybe I will learn something new and applicable.


In the meantime, I will continue to attempt to ignore the latest snowfall outside and concentrate on these hardy little blooms instead. It only took a few days of warm sun this week for the crocus to pop open, and as soon as the snow melts they’ll be back. Spring can’t come soon enough!


8 thoughts on “In the Midst

  1. Oh nooo .. too bad about the TBR Dare. I find it not as difficult as I thought. Ultimately because I’d only acquired 6 books in the past 3 months. Very hard to resist when I’m at the thrift shop but I promised myself to come out with not more than a couple of books for myself each time (excluding the ones for the children).

    I’d love to know how you fare with Conversation in the Cathedral. I should be reading it but because of the TBR Dare I dare not pick up a copy yet. I’ll be very behind.

    Winter is really getting on my nerves now too. I am so very much looking forward to flip flops and shorts.

    1. I know, I only had a few more weeks on the dare. But the library books were soooo tempting–my lack of reading made me weak! At least I haven’t actually purchased any, so my TBR pile hasn’t gotten any deeper. (Errr–I guess I did get one book as a gift. So one book deeper!)

      I’m looking forward to Conversation in the Cathedral. I haven’t yet read a Latin American author I haven’t liked, so my hopes are high. Just hopefully not too high!

  2. It’s a tough call — whether to read fast or to read well. I’m battling the same questions. (Just added Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to my TBR! And also, I’m curious about Reading Lolita in Tehran.)

    I’m not sure what the TBR Dare is — but I find it difficult to stick to a reading plan, especially a long one. I like to be spontaneous. My sponataneity is slowing down my progress though, and I confess I wonder if I shouldn’t be tougher on myself, and go back to my 2011 schedule…

    1. In the preface to How to Read a Book, Adler advocates reading at the right speed for the right book. I believe this is discussed in much further detail within the body of the book, but even without having read past the preface, I think I can begin to understand what he is getting at. It sounds so simple, but at the same time, how often do we really do that, do we really adjust our pace to match the book and enhance our reading? It is so easy, for me at least, to rush through books too quickly–although for some, I think speed is appropriate. However, I know from personal experience that the best books are so much more wonderful when savored at the right pace. I’m willing to sacrifice maybe not reading quite as many books, if I can gain more from what I am reading.

      Reading Lolita in Tehran is part memoir, part literary discussion of the books which Azar Nafisi studied with her students. I like the literary discussion, but it takes longer to read than the plain memoir parts–I feel like I have to slow down to fully take in what Nafisi is saying. It might also help if I had already read all of the books they are discussing!

      The TBR Dare was a challenge by CB James of the blog Ready When You Are, C.B. to only read books already on your own shelves starting Jan. 1, 2011. We could pick our own length of time for the challenge, through April 1, which of course I did. It seemed reasonable at the time, as I own a bunch of books I actually want to read, and knew I wouldn’t have a lot of reading time. I liked that it wasn’t actually a schedule, as I don’t do well with those either. I just didn’t realize how easy it would be to succumb to the temptation of the library, though!

  3. Good luck on your Architectural Registration Exam. I hope you pass with flying colors. 🙂

    I can relate to what you’re going through. I have to take finals this week, and finish my undergrad thesis at the same time. So, my reading has been a little slow. I still haven’t finished Much Ado About Nothing, and it’s really short.

    1. Thanks! I hope I pass too; I really hate studying. Good luck with all your finals and your thesis. I remember finals weeks–never fun. I can’t imagine even trying to read amidst that madness!

  4. It’s funny how you said you enjoy Rebeca of Sunnybrook Farm more as an adult. I find that’s so true of so many children’s books. It took me to be an adult to fully appreciate them. I loved The Wind In The Willows so much when I read it last year, but I couldn’t get past page 10 when I was little. I should pick up Rebecca again, since I got stuck on page 10 there, too.

    1. I think it’s easier as an adult to see the depth in children’s books: as children we are just looking for the story. There are some stories I think that I appreciate more for having read them as a child–I fell in love with them then–even as I find new reasons to love them now.

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