Friday Sep 26, 2008

Banned Books Week 2008

Banned Books Week 2008 is September 27th to October 4th this year. BBW was started by the American Library Association in 1982 in response to increasing challenges against books at libraries, schools and bookstores.

Free access to books is a critical part of keeping our society free, open and pluralistic.

Tuesday Sep 16, 2008

Abridgement Too Far

I've been trying for a couple of months to get an AudioBook version of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and have only found one edition on CD, an abridged version. I yesterday discovered that this is the only commercial AudioBook version and no unabridged version exists. Bummer! I won't buy, read or listen to abridged books. I do understand that audio books were originally abridged to make them more affordable. This is no longer a problem as MP3 compatible CD players are now very common.

As much as I hate abridged books it is especially galling is that the publisher would choose to abridge a 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The book won for what it is--either read that or don't bother.

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

Not reading as much...or am I?

I'm on vacation this week and I've taken the opportunity to do some extra reading. I've finally finished reading If on a winters night a traveller which was recommended to me by Barton George in response to my last post about reading.

Reading my old post about reading, "Not Feeling Well Read", I find that over the last year I haven't kept up the same reading pace. For quite a while I couldn't figure out why I wasn't plowing through books at my accustomed rate. I've since determined the cause of the reduction--I'm actually reading more than ever. I've simply changed my reading habits. I'm a reddit addict. (Confession is the first step, right?) Completely and totally unredeemable. (Well at least I'm honest.) When I seem to get distracted talking on the phone my sister has been known to ask "Are you looking at mathpr0n again?" and indeed I was reading an excellent statistics article on false precision at the time.

reddit supplies me an almost endless stream of interesting, insightful, thoughtful and entertaining articles from a huge variety of sources. But what matters more is the depth. I'm reading high quality long pieces from Harpers, The Economist, The Lancet and many others as well as articles from dozens of science and technology journals. Oh and The Onion too.

After spending 2-3 hours an evening engrossed in my web-based autodidacticism I'm just too tired to read a novel! The good news is that I'm still reading and that reddit and other social media sites enable one to become much better (or at least more widely) read.

Wednesday Jun 13, 2007

Not Feeling Well Read

I know that I read many more books per year than the average. I've been a very active reader for over 30 years. In an average year I read about 18-20 technical books, 15-20 science fiction or fantasy novels, a couple of general fiction novels, a couple of biographies, at least one book of poetry, half a dozen or more anthologies, two or three books of essays, a couple of books of popular non-fiction, a couple of cookbooks and a couple of dozen magazine issues.

I also try to read at a couple of classic works every year. This year I read three different editions of Gilgamesh. Over the last five years I've re-read the Illiad and Odyssey as well as the Aeneid, Beowulf and others. In my teens I read Dostoevsky (some of it with the help of CBC "Between-the-Covers"), Jonathan Swift, Poe, Dickens, Mark Twain, Shakespeare and more.

For five years I spent time reading the complete Thousand and One Nights (Mathers/Mardrus translation) as well as other classic Arabic and Persian literature in translation. I've recently acquired a beautiful seventeen volume Richard Francis Burton edition of Thousand and One Nights but I think I'll save reading that for a few years.

I've been planning to embark on reading of the four greats novels of classic Chinese literature starting with The Water Margin and on into Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I learned during the period that I was reading Thousand and One Nights that being careful in picking translations and editions of these types of works is very important. It's not just a matter of picking up a copy of each and starting reading. If I had stopped at one edition for Gilgamesh I don't believe I would have understood the work as well. I found the same to be true for my readings of Beowulf and Homer. In addition to the five novels I will probably also read at least a couple of books on Chinese mythology, classical Chinese history and culture.

Ok, so I read quite a bit. Why did I start by saying that I don't feel well read? For all the reading I do, I feel like there is more that I am missing or avoiding than there is that I am reading. I've read only a very limited amount of 19th and 20th century English literature. I'm not really reading anything in modern mainstream English literature and I've read almost nothing of modern foreign literature in translation. I was rather distressed this morning when I learned that the Man Booker Prize had been awarded to an author I'd never heard of. I've also only read two titles on the "Oprah's Book Club" list. Obviously my reading has a pattern and that pattern has large gaps in it.

I'm quite certain that the answer is not for me to start reading exclusively the New York Times Bestseller list. I'm tempted to just keep reading whatever fancies me, but I doubt the feeling that I'm missing something will just go away...

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