Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reading Habits

At book club last week, during which we discussed The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (review forthcoming), a member mentioned a woman she knew that so completely engrossed herself in her reading material that she'd have an atlas & the decade-ago equivalent of Wikipedia at hand at all times. If she wasn't quite sure where something was, she'd look it up. If the novel mentioned a city, she'd find it in an atlas and then research its history. If it mentioned a an obscure scientist or artist with whom she was not familiar, she would immediately familiarize herself. You get the picture.

A book like Kavalier and Clay, which spans a few decades, would probably take her several months to read that way.  To me, it seemed like a completely overwhelming and, well, hyperimmersive way to read a book. How does she get through anything? Is reading a novel such a chore that she rarely bothers, or is it a great joy for her to use novels as her guides to learning about people and places and history?

I will occasionally stop to research something if I've always meant to learn more about it, or look things up on a map if I have absolutely no general idea of where a place is in relation to other places, but never have I gone to the above extreme. It must be a completely different reading experience. But would it also take something away from the flow of the story, from the general pleasure of reading itself? I tend to think it probably would, at least for me. I also like to trust that the author is giving me enough information to follow and enjoy and fall into the story without having to stop, look something up, start again, stop again, etc. If the author is any good, that is.

Anyone else read like the woman above, or even anything close to it?

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