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    Books & Reading

    On Reading New Books

    February 17, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]t dawned on me recently that I’d said now a number of times something along the lines of, “I don’t usually like new fiction {and is new literature even written at all anymore?}, but I was surprised to find myself liking…” Insert name of book that made the list of exceptions.

    I think I can only say this so many times before I have to admit that I like a number of new books. I liked The Thirteenth Tale. I adored Ella Minnow Pea. Most recently, I declared my approval for The Charlatan’s Boy.

    Does anyone else see a pattern here? The new books I all remind me of something good about the old books I’ve loved. Whether it be the Brontë overtones of The Thirteenth Tale, the clever, Austenian way with words in Ella Minnow Pea, or the tinge of Lewis here and Tolkien there in The Charlatan’s Boy, I find that there is something to be said for contemporary books, after all.

    Some of them, anyway.

    And I think that perhaps that’s the point.

    The old books have already been tested. The sieve of time has sifted out the dull, the uninteresting, and the hopelessly-lost-in-their-own-period, while preserving the gems that are beautifully written and timeless.

    Surely Shakespeare had his peer playwrights, but we see that the sieve proved him while discarding most of the others.

    My issue with modern books, then, is that the sieve has yet to be applied. I approach them with a sense of wariness. Will they prove to be worth the time and energy it takes in reading them? A good book can add depth to the mind and wisdom and virtue to the soul, but how hard it is to find good ones in the midst of the cluttered shelves of New Releases.

    It dawns on me that perhaps it is simply not my calling to be a sieve.

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  • Reply Ellen February 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I knew you’d have some thoughts on the Kindle. =) I, too, prefer books with pages… and I totally see your point about the need for multiple copies of something with homeschooling. Hadn’t thought of that one… I had mainly thought of it as a personal luxury for me one of these years… and as a space saver. We don’t have a lot room for a large library here, but I always want to have easy access to good books…

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 22, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Ellen, Well of course I have thought about the Kindle..because I’m obsessive like that. 😉

    I am of hoplessly mixed opinion, so I’ll just share some of my thoughts:

    1. The Kindle appears to be wonderful for working men and is encouraging wonderful reading habits in people I know, especially men.

    2. The Kindle appears to be useful for Ambleside families because many, if not most, of the books are available for free, being out of print.

    3. It becomes quite burdensome to the pocketbook when a family discovers that a single Kindle will not suffice when multiple children are being homeschooled and they all need their books at once. I have heard these families propose owning multiple Kindles. Personally, it seems that owning a real library wins this battle hands down.

    4. Kindle is absolutely a must-have for children with disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy. They tend to have trouble turning pages, but clicking a little button is easy.

    5. Rick Saenz wrote an interesting post explaining how he uses his Kindle to create a sort of “magazine” that allows him to read articles without being distracted by email or advertizing.

    6. I wonder if there is something inherently valuable in books. Many of my childhood memories of reading are sensory in nature. I remember the feel of the pages, embossing on the covers, the smell of older copies, etc. My hunch is that there is meaning in this, and we all know the Kindle cannot replicate it.

    7. Perhaps the biggest danger in my mind is using the Kindle as a substitute for acquiring a real family library. I know not every family can do this, but in my mind, real books are more permanent. If the government decides to ban a book, Amazon can just delete it off my Kindle. But they’ll have to creep through hundreds of books to find it in my house. I am reminded that, due to a copyright issue, Amazon once deleted a book. Students lost all their notes and highlighting when that happens. I took note that the books in Kindle may not be as dependable as they appear to be.

    8. What happens when a Kindle breaks? When one of my books breaks, I can rebind it with Gorilla glue for a tiny cost. A Kindle is not so easily replaced.

    9. I’m guessing, but I assume fire is more of a threat to books than to a Kindle?? And in the event of a fire, a Kindle would be more easily replaced than a painstakingly built library like mine.

    10. The Kindle is MUCH easier on the eyes than a computer screen, and if I NEEDED to use a screen for a child regularly, I would choose the Kindle’s technology. Children’s developing eyes need to be protected, and my understanding is that the Kindle is akin to paper in its ability to strain (or not strain, as the case may be) eyes.

    For our family, it is not a good fit at this time, but I certainly don’t begrudge other families who have found it to be useful. 🙂

    Hope that helps.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 22, 2011 at 7:01 am

    GJ, Glad you liked the article! I alwasy get frustrated with commercials that act as if the “wise” thing to do is to get rid of a gas-guzzler and go buy a Prius, as if new cars dropped out of thin air and required no pollution to be made. That article reminded me of this!

  • Reply GretchenJoanna February 18, 2011 at 3:52 am

    I was so happy to read Logsdon’s article on wood stoves. Thanks for the link! (I posted it to Facebook, too.)

  • Reply Ellen February 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Do you have any thoughts on the Kindle, m’dear? =) I’ve had a couple of people try and sell me on it lately. I figured you’ve probably got a post in your head or in the archives on this…

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