Music and Reading

Clave de sol

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asked about music—”What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!).”

I missed writing about it on Thursday because I posted a review of The Paris Wife, and I didn’t want to post twice that day, but I’ve been thinking about it since then and decided I still want to write about it, even if I’m late to the party.

Music is really important to me—as important as books are. I love music, all kinds. I have been a musician, but it is true that I haven’t picked up an instrument in years. Picking up instruments usually wasn’t too hard for me, but I never became a master at any of them. The two I played most were flute and guitar, but I tried out French horn, clarinet, and violin.

This topic is kind of timely for me. I have always been a music fan, and I will not say I am always on the cutting edge. I have pretty much always “discovered” artists long after their bands have broken up, or at least long after they started making music. So I cannot claim to have any sort of pulse on the modern music industry. However, I did recently go through a dry spell, listening to the same stuff I had listened to forever, it seems. I hadn’t listened to anything new, and I had decided that it was my age—I’ll be 40 in September—and that after a certain point, pretty much everyone just stops seeking out new music. I never thought I would do it, but I did. I was even listening more to podcasts or books than music when I drove. Then I watched [amazon_link id=”B002RVZV9K” target=”_blank” ]It Might Get Loud[/amazon_link], mainly because I am huge fan of Led Zeppelin and U2. But the movie opens like this:

Which made me a fan of Jack White. I have been discovering his catalogue, which has prompted me to listen to other artists like him. Pandora Radio is great for discovering new artists. Through my Jack White Pandora station, I’ve discovered the Black Keys, Patrick Sweany, and many others. I rediscovered Leo Kottke; my guitar teacher used to play his song “Vaseline Machine Gun” and would teach it to you if you would sit with him and watch, but I had trouble learning music that way—I needed either tablature or sheet music.

My point in bringing all of this up is that I might have answered the prompt differently a few months ago, but I’m listening to music again after not doing it as much for quite a while, and I’m listening to it while I read (sometimes). The answer to what I listen to is that it depends. Sometimes I just let Pandora take care of it for me. Other times, I listen to whatever is in my iTunes. Lately, that mostly means Jack White, but I do get in moods for other things, such as St. Vincent or T. Rex or Led Zeppelin, or the Black Crowes.

Another impetus for all the new music in my life was Jennifer Donnelly’s book [amazon_link id=”0385737637″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] (review). Andi, one of the protagonists, is a music omnivore. She loves everything. All the music references prompted me to check out some of Andi’s favorite music. And Donnelly was kind enough to share Andi’s playlist on her website.

When I study, which I haven’t had to do since I graduated from VA Tech (master’s in Instructional Technology last December), I listen to classical music, like Mozart. I actually downloaded this album (iTunes link) for the purpose of studying. It may have been psychosomatic, but it seemed to work.

I’m always listening to a lot of music as I write, which is really something I’ve always done, but the soundtrack has changed a bit. It’s a lot of fun to feel like I at least have an idea about modern music, which isn’t something I’ve felt for a while.

Some things never change, though. I still don’t care much for pop music (such as Lady Gaga, although she’s a shrewd marketer, and I do admire that about her). I think music was constantly going in my teenage years, and it’s fun to feel that I am in some way recapturing that. I missed it.

photo credit: wakalani

Booking Through Thursday: Interactive?

Numerique - papier - un texte est un texte

I detect a bias in the way this week’s Booking Through Thursday question was asked:

With the advent (and growing popularity) of ebooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.

How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

I know that there is a dedicated group of readers who seem to be anti-ebook and are worried about the direction reading is going in. I am not among their membership. I think ebooks are great. I think the possibilities for books are opening up. Who knows what ways we might be able to interact with them? I have an app on my iPhone that is a version of “The Three Little Pigs” (iTunes link) illustrated and read by a six-year-old boy in Texas. I also have another app based on “The Velveteen Rabbit,” (iTunes link) one of my favorite stories as a child because oh! I wanted my toys to become real. The app allows me to watch a video based on the book, read the book, listen to Meryl Streep read it, or read and record myself. I have a Sherlock Holmes Vook (video book—iTunes link) on my iPhone that allows me to view videos that contain insights into Sherlock Holmes and Victorian London. My [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link] has a feature that allows me to see what passages other readers like enough to highlight. I can share my own notes and highlights with others and access them online later with a secure link. It sure beats thumbing through a book trying to find that passage again. I love being able to move my cursor to look up words I don’t know in the dictionary.

If you haven’t guessed the answer to my question, I’m excited about the possibilities that ebooks and devices like the iPad and Kindle offer readers. Who says that reading has to fit some narrow definition or be confined by some idea that a book isn’t supposed to be a certain way? If you don’t want to interact with your book, you have the option not to—paper books have not gone anywhere and won’t go anywhere soon. I for one think that now is an exciting time to be a reader (and a writer—ebooks are opening up the closed world of publishing to indie writers like me).

I am starting to see a trend among readers who want to stop any sort of change. The most disturbing aspect of this trend to me is that these types of readers seem to believe that they are somehow more authentic readers or love books more because they don’t like ebooks. That’s snobbery. Why be so judgmental? So it’s not for you. Don’t do it. You can avoid ebooks if you want. But to insinuate that interactive features that are now available with the advent of ebooks detract from reading and are not what reading is ABOUT is a fairly antiquated opinion to hold. It rather reminds me of folks who insist graphic novels aren’t real books or that one should not read books like romance novels, mysteries, or chick lit. Bottom line? People should be able to read what they want, however they want, and other folks should have better things to do than stick their noses in the air about it.  Put your nose back in your paperback where it belongs. I guess I am getting a little tired of these snobs telling me I shouldn’t read ebooks.

The subtitle of the photo I chose for this post is “un texte est un texte.” Translated into English, that means “a text is a text.” Exactly so.

Edited to add:

I forgot to mention ebooks on the iPad and Kindle and just about every other reader I can think of allow readers to change the font size, which opens up reading to people who couldn’t. So there is also that.

photo credit: Remi Mathis

Booking Through Thursday: Reviews

Witch Trials Book Display in Salem, MA

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question asks, “Do you read book reviews? Whose do you trust? Do they affect your reading habits? Your buying habits?”

I do read book reviews, but not necessarily in newspapers (although sometimes I do). My main source for good reviews is Goodreads. I do read Amazon reviews, but I find Goodreads reviewers are more critical, and if I am at all on the fence about a book, I check out Goodreads before I buy it. There is no one particular reviewer I follow more than others, but I do find some reviewers seem to like the same books I do. If several reviews note some fairly serious issues with a book, I am likely not to bother with it, so the reviews do affect my reading and buying habits. I can be a notorious fence sitter. I sometimes think about whether I will like something or not for a long time. Sometimes I just know I will. What’s funny about those items I think on for a long time is that they often wind up being my favorites. Still, I think that mulling over reading selections and purchases is hardly a bad idea.

What about you?

Booking Through Thursday: Rut

Truck TracksThis week’s Booking Through Thursday asks “Do you ever feel like you’re in a reading rut? That you don’t read enough variety? That you need to branch out, spread your literary wings and explore other genres, flavors, styles?”

Maybe folks who read my blog would say I am in a reading rut because I tend to read a lot of similar things back to back, and I do tend to focus on certain settings and time periods. However, I think it’s only a rut as long as the reader feels trapped in a certain narrow area. I just don’t. I read different things when I want to, and I read similar things when I want to. Life is short, and we should spend it reading books we love. Why force yourself into trying something for the sake of trying it if you’re happy with what you’re reading? That’s not to say one shouldn’t branch out and read different things. I think the point is to be open to books, but also not to feel as though we have to branch out or pull ourselves out of a rut if the only reason we’re doing it is change things up. Unless you want to change things up, of course. I just don’t like the sort of artificial constraints that forcing myself to try different books puts on me. I want to feel free to read whatever I like, whenever I like.
photo credit: jasonr611

Booking Through Thursday: Age-Inappropriate

VitruvianThis week’s Booking Through Thursday question asks, “In contrast to last week’s question—What do you think of censoring books BECAUSE of their intended age? Say, books too ‘old’ for your kids to read?”

I am the parent of three children, aged 17, 10, and 8. I think some books are beyond their reading level. I can’t think of anything I would tell my 17-year-old daughter she couldn’t read. She has a good head on her shoulders. She is smart enough to know that book characters don’t necessarily make good choices. I imagine she has been exposed to just about whatever she might read in other media, such as online images and video, movies, TV, and the like. Plus, she’s just a bit younger than 18, after which point I don’t know how to tell her what to read when she is a legal adult, responsible for her actions. On the other hand, there are some things I wouldn’t let my 10-year-old read if she wanted to—mostly adult books with themes and content that I would rather she not see until she’s older. I try not to shield her too much from reality, but she is also a child, and I want her to stay a child for little longer. My son is the one I have to watch. He can find and read just about anything he wants, so I do try to make sure it’s appropriate for his age, although if I am honest, I think he has seen things (particularly videos online) that are not appropriate for age (not talking about pornography—just cartoon violence like on South Park). In terms of reading, it’s not about level, it’s more about content.

However, when the younger ones become teenagers, when they reach middle school, I hope they will turn to books to explore difficult subjects, such as abuse, racism, death, hunger, and the like. I think books are a good, safe way to live in someone else’s shoes. I would rather they read about rape or eating disorders from Laurie Halse Anderson than experience it themselves. I would rather them read about racism in [amazon_link id=”B003VYBQPK” target=”_blank” ]Huckleberry Finn[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”0061743526″ target=”_blank” ]To Kill a Mockingbird[/amazon_link] than perpetrate stereotypes or hatred themselves.

photo credit: Mr.Enjoy

Booking Through Thursday: Not in Theaters

Congo Refugee

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question asks “And–the reverse of last week’s question. Name one book that you hope never, ever, ever gets made into a movie (no matter how good that movie might be).”

[amazon_image id=”0061577073″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignright”]The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (P.S.)[/amazon_image]Isn’t that the cutest little boy? The photographer says he is a Congo refugee. Which brings me to the answer to this question. I do not see how Barbara Kingsolver’s novel [amazon_link id=”0061577073″ target=”_blank” ]The Poisonwood Bible[/amazon_link] could be done justice by any film, no matter how good the film might be (or how long). I’m convinced the many layers in this novel couldn’t be reproduced on film.

The multiple narrators would be a challenge, especially the trick of reproducing the voice of each of narrator. The natural disasters might be doable with modern special effects, but there is a magic to that book that would be lost if we did not take the time to pore over the words. No film could capture the life and color in the book. I can’t think of a modern novel that approaches the artistry of this book. I remember reading it and thinking I had read a classic along the lines of [amazon_link id=”0142437174″ target=”_blank” ]The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link]. The book also attempts to examine America’s own culpability in some of the tragedies in Africa in a symbolic way that would be impossible to capture on film. You can read my review.

What book do you think could never be a movie?

photo credit: babasteve

Thursday Next

Booking Through Thursday: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Thursday Next

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “If you could see one book turned into the perfect movie–one that would capture everything you love, the characters, the look, the feel, the story—what book would you choose?”

I had to think about this one for a while. A lot of the books I love have been made into movies of varying degrees of quality. But wouldn’t a Thursday Next movie be awesome? Of course, the entire franchise would need to be filmed (like Harry Potter, and speaking of which, did you see the awesome trailer?).

  • [amazon_link id=”0142001805″ target=”_blank” ]The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”0142004030″ target=”_blank” ]Lost in a Good Book[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”0143034359″ target=”_blank” ]The Well of Lost Plots[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”014303541X” target=”_blank” ]Something Rotten[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”B001IDZJIQ” target=”_blank” ]Thursday Next: First Among Sequels[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”0670022527″ target=”_blank” ]One of Our Thursdays Is Missing[/amazon_link]

The way I envision it, the movies would be able to pull off every single special effect. Casting is difficult when you’re talking about such a mega-series, but here are some thoughts:

Lola Vavoom can’t really play Thursday since she’s a fictional character, but how about Natalie Dormer?

Natalie Dormer

She is from Reading, UK, which is where Jasper Fforde’s Nursery Crime novels are set. You might remember her as Anne Boleyn from [amazon_link id=”B0042RJWTC” target=”_blank” ]The Tudors[/amazon_link], so you know she can play feisty. For her daddy, Colonel Next, my choice would be Michael Palin. Can’t you just hear him saying, “Hello, Sweet Pea!”

Michael Palin

His old buddy John Cleese could play Uncle Mycroft.

John Cleese

Acheron Hades should be Eddie Izzard sans makeup.

Eddie Izzard

And Miss Havisham must be Helen Mirren.

Helen Mirren

Thursday’s husband, Landen Parke-Laine should be David Tennant.

David Tennant

Eddie Steeples could be Spike Stoker.

Eddie Steeples

As for the rest of the characters in the large cast, I’m not sure. I know I would love to see Jasper Fforde’s alternate timeline world come to life. If you’ve read the books, what do you think of my casting choices? Who would you pick? Who could play the parts I didn’t cast?

Read my reviews of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books:

I haven’t read One of Our Thursdays is Missing yet.

Oh, and I just realized the Booking Through Thursday meme title is really punny for this post.

Booking Through Thursday: Cover

The Great Gatsby

Now this week’s Booking Through Thursday question is something that has intrigued me as both a reader and a writer for a long time: “CAN you judge a book by its cover?”

Covers are important, whatever the old adage says. Yes, there have been times I have picked up a book with a plain or nondescript cover and been utterly transported, but think about all the time and energy put into creating attractive book covers. I have been enticed by a book cover more than once. By way of demonstration, consider F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby. This novel’s cover is iconic. It is a painting by Francis Cugat entitled Celestial Eyes. Fitzerald was taking some time getting his final draft to famed Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, and he had already seen the cover art for the book. He sent this famous message to Perkins: “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.” No, it’s not the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. There is a passage near the end of chapter four when Nick says, “Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs and so I drew up the girl beside me, tightening my arms.” It’s an arresting image. The art deco font, colors, and image tell you a great deal about the book itself.

A great cover will often prompt a reader to pick up a book and take it home. If covers were not important, no one would spend money on graphic designers, and covers would just come in monochrome shades with no artwork or fancy fonts. Is the cover a guarantee that the book will be great? Obviously not, but a cover promises certain things: 1) the kind of book you’re going to get; 2) what the book is about; and 3)  your first impression of a book—much like dressing for an interview (and credit to my husband for this connection).

What kind of book do you think you’re going to get with a cover like this?

The Devil Wears PradaMy guess is chick lit. Chick lit covers often have the sort of funky art, bold colors, and fun fonts this book has.

Tell me what you expect this book will be about by examining the cover:

The Thirteenth Tale

Did you say book was about books? You’d be on the right track. This book is a love letter to books and reading (my review).

What’s your first impression of this book?

Dracula, My Love

I love the line of the woman’s neck covered with that simple band. The cover is a bit of a tease, a bit of a seduction, just like you’d expect a vampire novel to be (my review).

I know I’ve picked up books that had attractive covers and not liked the book that much (read my review):

Blackbird House

Other times, I have been awed by a gorgeous cover only to discover the contents were as good as the cover promised they would be (read my review):

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Book covers can be so iconic that they influence other covers:


Wuthering Heights

They can also be the source of a great deal of speculation about highly anticipated books. I recall poring over the cover images released prior to the last few Harry Potter books, trying to determine what would happen in the book.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

But ultimately, I haven’t really answered the question. Can you indeed judge a book by its cover? Yes. Is it the only means of judging a book? No, but they can help put a book in a reader’s hand. The rest is up to the writer (and the reader).

Booking Through Thursday: Personality

No Substitute

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt discusses yet another reason for folks to fear the rise of the e-book:

I was reading the other day a quote from JFK Jr who said on the death of his mother, that she died surrounded by family, friends, and her books. Apparently, Jackie’s books were very much a part of HER, her personality, her sense of self.

Up until recently, people could browse your bookshelves and learn a lot about you–what your interests are, your range of topics, favorite authors, how much you read (or at least buy books).

More and more, though, this is changing. People aren’t buying books so much as borrowing them from the library. Or reading them on their e-readers or computers. There’s nothing PHYSICAL on the shelves to tell strangers in your home, for better or worse, who you ARE.

Do you think this is a good thing? Bad? Discuss!

I think what we have on our walls will suffice to show our personalities, don’t you? Listen, I’ve made my feelings clear about e-books. I do not think they spell doom and gloom for civilization. In fact, I think they’re awesome. They haven’t stopped me from reading paper books, but I have found that I read more books because of my Kindle than I did before I had it. That can’t be a bad thing. I don’t think more library or e-books are good or bad. They’re just different. The convenience might make people read more, and I just don’t understand the whole anti-e-reader deal. I don’t have to browse books on people’s shelves to have a sense of who they are. It’s one factor among many, and perhaps not even all that telling.

photo credit: accent on eclectic

Booking Through Thursday: Visual

Shakespeare and Company bookshop

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks

So … the books that you own (however many there may be) … do you display them proudly right there in plain sight for all the world to see? (At least the world that comes into your living room.)

Or do you keep them tucked away in your office or bedroom or library or closet or someplace less “public?”

I don’t really have company over, but even if I did, I wouldn’t hide my books. I think you can tell a lot about people by their books, and I admit to trying to checking out peoples’ books when I’m at their houses. Of course, I try to be sneaky, but I’m curious.

My classroom at school is crowded with books, too. It’s fun to see students looking for a book or to see parents scanning to see what their children will read that year. I say show it all off.

photo credit: gadl