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Really long books and reading socially

An overly long and self-important blog post called The Stockholm Theory of Long Novels set me to thinking about both the joy and despair of reading long works of fiction in an era of social reading. I have been re-reading (or re-re-reading) one of my favorite historical novels by one of my favorite historical novelists, Aztec by Gary Jennings. At nearly 800 pages, it is for me a long book.

Given the right book, a plethora of pages don't put me off. Besides Jennings's tomes, I love James Michener, J.R.R. Tolkien, and other writers who manage to keep this reader's interest, not just through one fat book, but often a whole string of them.  What are there five George R.R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire novels now? Hmmm, 5 X 800 ... That's a lot of pages.

I will admit that reading longer books in an age of socially sharing one's reading is more daunting. Like a lot of my friends and acquaintances who are readers, I belong to Goodreads to share what I am reading, post reviews, and see what others are reading and recommending.

As the screen shot above indicates, I have been reading Aztec since March 31st. For two and a half months! My friends must consider me to be a very, very slow reader. It's a little embarrassing.

Another feature of Goodreads is the ability to set a personal reading "challenge" each year. Shades of fifth grade?

This year I decided I would shoot for two books a month. Despite the long delay caused by Aztec, I seem to be on target for meeting my goal. But for two reasons: three of these books I've listened to on long drives as audio books and one of these books was very short.

I don't believe social pressure is consciously influencing the the books I choose to read, but perhaps it is subconsciously. Given the competitive pull of other reading possibilities - blogs, Facebook posts, digital magazines free online from the public library, and newspapers - these old fashioned things called books are receiving less and less of my attention. I spend as much or more time reading than ever, but just not books.

To what degree does "social reading" - sharing what and how much one reads - influence the choice of reading materials by our students? I do hope any reading competitions are voluntary. I hope they track only the number of pages read, not number or titles of books read. If I remember my reading research, reading a lot at or even slightly below grade level is one of the very best ways to increase one's reading ability.

Are you a social reader? Do you still tackle the big books?

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Reader Comments (4)

Doug I have a goodreads account but never go on it. Think I may have to start sharing what I'm reading. I don't think it will influence my reading choices (btw I'm reading The Circle now- very chilling and disturbing).but we shall see...

June 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDebra Gottsleben

Hi Deb,

I loved the Circle and recommend it a lot. Enjoy.

I am still trying to decide whether "social reading" is healthy. I don't mind sharing what I read and I like know what others find good, but I don't want to public knowledge of what I read drive my choice of books!


June 16, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I have a Goodreads account but for me it's mostly to jog my memory of what I've read and to find other things to read. I don't what I'm currently reading or want to read show up there for some of the reasons you mention. I like to read what I like to read when I like to read it and don't participate in book challenges.

I do like the Dare (not "challenge") that came up with. It's the TBR Double Dare where from January 1 to April 1 you should only be reading books you already own. You can buy new books during that time, if you must, but should be chipping away at things that have been sitting around (on the shelf or on the Kindle). It does help me clear a bit of that stuff away and also makes me admit that there are certain things I thought I would like but I'm probably never going to get to. This in turn, makes me a more thoughtful book purchaser since I know I'll be taking a long look at these books come the new year.

I exempt book club books form that challenge because I gotta keep up with that, but other than that I find it a good thing. And maybe the occasional Big Book is one of the reasons I don't enjoy official challenges. It's not about the numbers of books for me, it's about the enjoyment.

August 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Hi Ninja!

Thanks for the comment. I use GoodReads less as a social media and (like you) more as a means of tracking both what I have read and more importantly what I want to read. I also use it as a source of reviews.

Interesting challenge about only reading the book you already own for the first part of the year. I have quite a few I should read - having purchased them, after all!

One of my goals is to get more familiar with download books from the public library instead of buying so many. Prepping for a more austere retirement life!

Always good to hear from you.


August 30, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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