NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

To Read Deep or Read Wide?

In Beowulf on the Beach, one of Jack Murnighan's "Tips on Reading Classics--and Good Books in General" reads as follows:

"Don't have literary one-night stands. Go back again and again; the really good ones get better and better. Instead of there being a lot of books out there that you barely know, pick a few and love them well" (p. 360)

I think that is a great tip. I think it's a fantastic plan. And I know for a fact I am going to do exactly the opposite. I love the idea of being somewhat of an "expert" on certain books that I adore. I love even more the idea of having the experience of reading as many different books as I can possibly get to in my limited lifetime. It's a little like asking, "Do I want to go to Italy every time I vacation so it becomes like a second home? Or do I want to travel the world?"

I'm only speaking for myself here. I can't recommend my ambition to anyone else because I am relatively psychotic when it comes to reading. It's my addiction and my therapist. It fires me up when I'm feeling despondent and it calms me when life is crazy. I love the feeling of discovery when a book deeply moves me, and I love finding that one great moment in a book I nearly gave up on. I love finding new favorite authors and searching out more of their work. I love reading complete bibliographies. I love sitting snugly in my home reading about places I'll never go, people I'll never meet, living dangerous lives vicariously -- or even quaint happy ones! I'm a book list junkie and my head spins with all the titles I want to take home when I randomly explore a bookstore or library.

There are books I want to go back and revisit, and I will someday. But my overarching plan is to travel the world through time and space and let you know what I find. How about you?


Ashley said...

I think that I'm similar to you. There are just so many books I want to read. I have three rows on my shelf of books to read and a notebook full of books I want to order or read eventually.

That said, I do re-read books. For example, right now I'm re-reading all my V.C. Andrews and Janet Evanovich books. The last time I read them was about 5 years ago though, so it takes me a while to come back to a book.

Serena said...

I love to re-read certain books like Jane Austen or Wuthering Heights...Shakespeare...but there are others that I will read once and that's it.

Jeane said...

I like to read widely- but most books get read once and then I'm looking for something new. The ones that really make an impression on me, that I love- those I do love to revisit, and I do feel like I get something new out of them every time. I haven't reread anything in quite a long while, though.

zetor said...

Reading is very therapeutic for me . You commented on 'The Reluctant Queen' , thankyou , have you read 'My self , my enemy' the story of Henrietta Maria, that was wonderful. btw how is Peter?

JoAnn said...

Love the title of this post! My reaction is exactly the same as yours...I guess I just want it all - lol! I haven't done much rereading the last several years, although I do plan a reread of P&P later this summer. There are just so many book out there waiting to be read.

Belle said...

I do like to re-read books - now that I have this towering TBR I've been noticing my tendency to pick out books from other areas of my bookshelves for a re-read. I keep thinking to myself, yes, but what about that stack and that stack and that pile ... but I keep doing it anyway!

I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 16, and then I read it again every year for the next ten years (until I had kids). And I did discover more to the book each time.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I'm like you--there is a stack of books I'd like to read again (one day), but as they say when you're in grad school--Masters is all about the breadth and PhD is all about the depth. I didn't get as far as the depth and don't feel bad about it--I'm still working on the breadth.

Great way to put it--Travel the world!

Marg said...

I don't really do rereads all that often. I think about doing them, and I have a mental list a mile long of books that I would like to reread, but in the meantime there are all these really good books out there that I haven't discovered yet!

BooksPlease said...

I think I'll re-read more books than I actually do and I would dearly love to be an "expert" on an author. But I'm like you too, I want it all - to see new places and read new (to me) books.

Rebecca Reid said...

I like both approaches. Because there is limited time, I will probably read the classics only once in my life, so I'm going to read it right the first time (i.e., do background reading and studying) but I also will read as widely as I can. I probably won't be rereading certain books again.

Then again, I absolutely love rereading favorites. So I'm sure there are some I will revisit time and again.

Anonymous said...

What's the point? Yes, you could easily read and re-read a number of books but where would be the adventure.

Part of the reason why I love reading is not the only the act of reading itself, but the whole build-up; finding a book, browsing, buying, feeling the cover between my fingers, the texture of the paper, even the smell. It's the experience of something new, and I think if you only stick to a couple of books you will miss out.

I'd rather be well-read than only well-read in one book.

However, I have read a couple of books more than once...heh.

Lezlie said...

Ashley ~ I have a mental list of rereads. It's not very long, but there are a few I'd like to see if they're as good the second time around. Maybe I put it off because I'm afraid they won't be and it will ruin my happy memory of them. Hmmm. . .

Serena ~ Most books I would only read once, but there are those rare ones that seem to beg a person to come back.

Jeane ~ I can think of three books off the top of my head that I've reread -- Syndey Sheldon's "The Naked Face", Anne Rice's "Interview With The Vampire", and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". Like you, I'm ready to move on to the next adventure as soon as I close a cover.

Zetor ~ I have not read "Myself, My Enemy" yet, but it looks really great! I don't think it's rereleased yet here in the U.S., but I've recently started ordering from Book Depository. That could become dangerous! :-) Peter is doing really well, thanks for asking! He says he's feeling better than he has in months.

JoAnn ~ Thanks! I initially thought the same thing -- I want to do both! But if I have to pick, "read wide" wins, hands down.

Belle ~ I admire that ability to read a book over and over and get the same amount of enjoyment from it. I think I'm afraid what I remember as my favorite books wouldn't hold up to that kind of scrutiny. :-)

Trish ~ I had never heard that about Masters v. PhD. I like it! My friends always say, "As you go farther in school, you learn more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing." :-)

Marg ~ Exactly! Every trip to the library is like exploring new territory. I wish I was a little fussier. :-)

BooksPlease ~ Being and "expert" on an author is another cool idea. How would you decide which one or ones? Or would it just happen as your reading continues in its natural flow? More stuff to ponder . . . :-)

Rebecca ~ I love reading your indepth reviews. It takes a lot of discipline to do what you do, and I'm glad you share it!

Damnedconjuror ~ I totally agree. I have another post forming in my brain along those lines which I'll be sharing soon. This question of Wide v. Deep opened up some interesting doors! And brought out some new commenters. Yay!


Matt said...

BI cannot remember since when books have become a part of my life. Books can be therapeutic when I'm too conscious of being lonely (not alone). Books can also be entertaining, like arm-chair travels that take me thousands of miles away to unknown territories. What keeps me going as a reader is the type of fiction that breathes layers of meanings in their narratives.

Lezlie said...

Matt ~ I enjoy my fluff reading as much as the next person, but the kind of books you're talking about are the ones that really make me think, "Yeah, this is why I do this." It's almost surreal the way your mind continues to live in and process certain books long after you finish them. It's a great feeling.


Sandra said...

Interesting essay. You expressed several sentiments about reading that are mine too. I want to read as many books as I can. But he's right too-for some books, and those would be different for each of us. Happy traveling.

Lezlie said...

Sandra ~ They *would* be different books for each of us, and he makes that point also. He essentially says a great book is a book you love, regardless of what anyone else might say about it. I can't argue with that! :-)


Ladytink_534 said...

I've noticed that! Well, I don't tend to re-read books very often but those that I have like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and Little Women do seem to improve each time I read it. For the most part though I like to "travel the world(s)". I just occasionally feel like stopping off somewhere I've been before.

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ I really liked Alice In Wonderland. I've even eyed up the annotated version for a potential re-read. Have you seen the pics yet of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter for the movie?