Saturday, 8 August 2009

Reading, Reading, Reading

Big books are wonderful, but they have the disadvantage of taking a long time to finish, leaving my loyal blog readers starved of my attention for too long (no, even I don't believe that really). I'm currently about 300 pages into my latest choice; which would be good going were it not for the fact that I've still got about twice that to get through. August is going to be a lean month on the books read front...

Anyway, while I'm plodding along with my book, I thought I'd post a short ramble about reading and, especially, reading and the internet. You see, most people would assume that the evil computer, like its horrible cousin the television, has a negative impact on your reading (and if I were fifteen years old and blasting mutant armies to death eighteen hours a day, that might well be true); however, I've found that the internet has actually encouraged me to read more, provided me with more information on books and authors and helped me to be able to locate (and afford!) more books than previously.

After joining Facebook (my second favourite waste of time), I quickly got into various reading groups, and, after filtering for Twilight addicts and strange people offering various sexual services, I found a community of normal people who actually really liked reading - and did it a lot. Over the past couple of years, although I had been reading, I think that my reading time had gradually been eroded because of my studies (Master of TESOL by distance), my work (ESL Teacher, then co-ordinator and now Learning Adviser) and my young daughter (Emily). Connecting with fellow readers encouraged me to look at how I was spending my time and to think of how I could fit my reading into my schedule.

These groups have also helped me to broaden my literary horizons and to branch out into areas I was previously unaware of, or not interested in. From discussions, I was able to judge what kind of novels people were interested in and trust the recommendations of those whose interests coincided with mine. Authors whom I have discovered in this way include Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton and Jack Kerouac, writers whose works I may never have glanced at were it not for the trust developed in the people who recommended them.

Of course, it's not all about connecting with other people. Another way in which the internet has been useful is in providing me with information about authors, novels and criticism. Wikipedia has become a good friend, allowing me to check on authors and find out what they wrote, and when, and helping me to find interesting information on the background and content of novels. Whether wanting a quick overview of the Indian partition while reading 'Midnight's Children' or discovering that the author of 'The Classical World' was a Hollywood extra, I have been able to get access to facts which have enhanced my reading experience.

For that experience, of course, I still need the books, and while I have not yet succumbed to the e-book craze (and until they invent something which actually looks exactly like a book, and smells like one too, I probably won't), once again, the internet has made this a lot easier. Books in Australia are expensive, and there are no really cheap internet book providers - Amazon charges the earth for deliveries - , so I was very happy to hear about a site called 'The Book Depository', which delivers books, with a particular focus on hard-to-find works, worldwide for free. Brilliant! Yes, I know I should be supporting my local bookshop etc. etc., but the reality is that if Angus & Robertson only stocks vampire novels and expects me to pay $27.00 for the very few decent titles they have in stock, it's no surprise if I instead decide to take my pick from the best of world literature for a fraction of the cost and the comfort and convenience of home delivery. Even if it costs me my soul :)

So there you have it. The internet is good for readers (and I haven't even mentioned blogging!). Have fun with your computers, and don't forget to join some literary chat groups. The only thing to avoid is spending so much time discussing books with your newfound virtual friends that you forget to actually read any...